In the wake of nationwide protests against police brutality toward Black Americans, many people are seeking out ways on how they can actively support the Black community during this time of injustice. From protestor bailout funds to fundraisers for families of victims, there are numerous ways to get involved and take action.
Also needing your support are Black-owned fashion businesses, many of which have already been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike some of the larger European houses, many Black-owned brands are independently run and don’t have the resources to navigate such tumultuous times.
Some users have taken this moment to place a call-to-action for the industry to put their money where their mouth is. Aurora James, designer and founder of ethical footwear label Brother Vellies, recently started a pledge urging retailers like Net-a-Porter, Saks Fifth Avenue and Target to commit to buying 15% of their products from Black-owned businesses.
“So many of your businesses are built on Black spending power,” she wrote. “So many of your stores are set up in Black communities. So many of your sponsored posts are seen on Black feeds. This is the least you can do for us. We represent 15% of the population and we need to represent 15% of your shelf space.”
And this week, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) announced a series of programs aimed at placing Black students, designers and professionals in all sectors of the industry. The organization will also implement a diversity and inclusion training program for its members, of which only a small percentage are people of color.
Meanwhile, others are launching financial initiatives to give directly back to the Black fashion community. Resonance, a New York-based manufacturing company that works with Pyer Moss and The Kit, is setting up a new fund to enable Black creators to launch their own fashion brands.
“Why are we doing this? Because we give a shit,” Lawrence Lenihan, Resonance’s chairman and co-founder, said on Instagram. “Fashion has taken far more from the African American community than it has given back. Change starts with successful brands.”
Indeed, being more mindful of where our dollars are going is a small but helpful way to show solidarity with Black communities at a time where they need support more than ever. Alyssa Coscarelli, a writer and fashion influencer, recently compiled a lengthy list of Black-owned businesses and is encouraging others to submit their recommendations, as well.
“Remember, support isn’t only monetary — throwing these brands a follow TODAY will not only benefit them but also help to #brownupyourfeed / make your #feedlesswhite,” she wrote.
Below, we’ve rounded up a non-definitive list of Black-owned fashion brands you should know about and support now, tomorrow and always.
WHERE TO SHOP: HanifaFounder Anifa Mvuemba created Hanifa for women who want to experiment with bold looks that accentuate their body type — a “Woman Without Limits,” as the label’s website suggests. The brand is known for its versatility, serving women sizes 0-20 and placing the spotlight on women of color with curvy figures. Ruffles, pleats and puffy sleeves are among the staples of the feminine looks designed by Mvuemba. – Logan Potter
WHERE TO SHOP: Pyer Moss, SSENSEDesigner Kerby Jean-Raymond describes his brand Pyer Moss as an “art project” or “a timely social experiment,” giving a platform to Black voices and communities through his inclusive, activist-tinged fashion shows and social commentary. – M.A.
WHERE TO SHOP: Telfar and FarfetchTelfar Clemens’s ready-to-wear brand launched in 2005 as a 100% unisex label. The designer, who was born in Queens, New York to Liberian parents, is perhaps best known for their ubiquitous tote bag that’s been worn by everyone from Upper East Side housewives to Bushwick artists and creatives. – M.A.
WHERE TO SHOP: Daily Paper and FarfetchAmsterdam-based label Daily Paper is one of the hottest streetwear brands in Europe. Founded by a trio of friends of Somali, Ghanaian and Moroccan descent, the designs are inspired by an eclectic array of cultures and diverse perspectives with a youthful, artistic lens. – M.A.
WHERE TO SHOP: Net-a-Porter and McMullenBaton Rouge-born designer Christopher John Rogers quickly developed a high profile after graduating from SCAD, dressing the likes of Tracee Ellis Ross and Rihanna, and winning the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2019. His jewel-toned dresses in crisp, satin fabrics and bulbous shapes have made him one of the biggest draws of New York Fashion Week. – M.A.
WHERE TO SHOP: Cushnie and FORWARD by Elyse WalkerCarly Cushnie’s minimalist take on feminine frocks has made her a go-to designer for women like Michelle Obama and Elaine Welteroth. The brand is known for being a jack-of-all-trades — Cushnie is also in the bridal industry with the same, straightforward aesthetic as the brand’s ready-to-wear collection of clean lines and bold colors for any occasion. – L.P.
WHERE TO SHOP: LaQuan Smith and FORWARD by Elyse WalkerBeyoncé, Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian were early supporters of Queens, N.Y-born LaQuan Smith’s unapologetically sexy, body-hugging designs. From sheer catsuits to skin-tight denim, his work is all about celebrating a woman’s sexiness and strength from the club to the street. – M.A.
WHERE TO SHOP: Brother Vellies Brother Vellies was launched as a platform to showcase founder Aurora James’ favorite traditional African footwear to the rest of the world, while also creating and sustaining artisanal jobs within Africa. Boots, shoes and sandals are constructed with the most intricate of details and are crafted in places like Ethiopia, Kenya and Morocco. – M.A
WHERE TO SHOP: Phlemuns and SSENSEFIDM graduate James Flemons’ brand, PHLEMUNS, is uniquely androgynous. While the designer celebrates the experience of Black men with fashion, the clothing produced under his label exists without gender; the PHLEMUNS array of clothing is for everyone, and the diversity of the label’s collection — from body-con dresses to backless tees — redefines the traditionally gendered labels of the fashion industry. – L.P.
WHERE TO SHOP: Slashed by TiaTeniola “Tia” Adeola is fresh out of college, but her fashion career kicked off before she made it to graduation. The Nigerian designer is inspired by the Renaissance era, studying art history through the perspective of Black people who have been excluded from historical narratives. Perhaps as a result of this interest, Adeola’s collections are known for their ruffled takes on everything from sheer looks to bold basics. – L.P.
WHERE TO SHOP: Fe NoelGrenadian designer Felisha Noel has created looks worn by Beyoncé and Jordin Sparks, but her impact on women goes beyond celebrity dressing. The brand does not conform to a single aesthetic; rather, each piece of clothing, defined individually by billowing fabrics and bright patterns, seems to speak for itself. Noel’s “Daughter of the Soil” collection is wholly inspired by Grenada, bringing vibrant cultural influence to some of the designer’s most recent creations. – L.P.
WHERE TO SHOP: Wales Bonner and Matches FashionGrace Wales Bonner had only been designing menswear for a year when she was nominated for a British Fashion Award, and her career trajectory has not slowed since. Her designs are inspired with representation in mind, particularly for Black men who are often overlooked in the fashion world. The staple wide-leg, relaxed looks and button-up shirts reached a new audience when she finally incorporated womenswear into her label. – L.P.
WHERE TO SHOP: Browns and 24S His Fall 2020 collection presented in February was the only runway show in Paris that Naomi Campbell chose to walk in this season. Known for his traditional display Nigerian craftsmanship, Ize works with fabrics produced on wooden looms in Lagos to create bold, graphic lines and dazzling colors in gender-neutral shapes. – M.A.
WHERE TO SHOP: Heron Preston, SSENSE and Farfetch Heron Preston has designed everything from tour merchandise to zero waste clothing; sustainability is a key part of his work in the fashion industry. Preston founded his own label in 2016, and the collection strikes a balance between workwear and everyday comfort. Work boots and turtlenecks are among the label’s diverse catalog, giving the brand a masculine aesthetic across men’s and womenswear. – L.P.
WHERE TO SHOP: Martine Rose, SSENSE and FarfetchFounded in 2007, the edgy, upcycled aesthetic of Martine Rose is inspired by the designer’s Jamaican-British heritage on everything from comfortable sweaters to intricately patterned shirts. She also draws from 90s-era rave and hip hop culture, taking retro menswear staples and reinterpreting them for a modern shopper. – L.P.
WHERE TO SHOP: Glemaud, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth AvenueThe Haitian-born designer Victor Glemaud launched his brand with a focus on statement knitwear made for all people, genders, and races in 2006. He recently expanded his size offerings to include curve-hugging knits in L to 3XL for Fall 2020 after previously collaborating with plus-size shop 11 Honoré. – M.A.
WHERE TO SHOP: 24SThebe Magugu won the LVMH Prize in 2019, beating out buzzy names like Bode and Bethany Williams. He staged his debut presentation at Paris Fashion Week in February with a collection that paid homage to his homeland of Kimberly, South Africa. – M.A
WHERE TO SHOP: Nicole Zizi StudioNicole NÏzi is an eco-conscious entrepreneur and designer bringing a new perspective to streetwear. The Florida-raised and New York-based ZÏzi creates hand-made garments from ethically produced fabrics. Through her work, she strives to empower her own community while advocating fashion’s impact on the environment. – Taylor Champlin
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