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Whether you realize it or not, how you dress and the brands that you’re inspired by are likely influenced by Black culture. And today, more than ever, it is crucial that we give credit where credit is due and support Black-owned fashion brands that continue to pave the way for the entire industry.
While it’s true that small businesses are being hit especially hard right now due to the economic decline and global store closures brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s also true that minority-owned brands receive smaller loans than those run by non-minorities. This means that these business owners are forced to use their own cash to run their businesses.
According to The Guardian, the impact of this is “slower growth and less hiring. A study found that African American businesses had fewer employees than the average small business owner. Without capital, it’s tough to invest in the future.”
In an effort to change this, Aurora James, the creative director of CFDA-winning brand Brother Vellies, recently issued a powerful call to consumers and big retailers to commit 15 percent of spending on Black-owned businesses with her new initiative, 15 Percent Pledge.
“I am asking you to commit to buying 15% of you products from Black owned businesses. So many of your business are build on Black spending power. So many of your stores are set up in Black communities. So many of your 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,” the designer explained on Instagram. Net-A-Porter, Shopbop, Walmart, Saks Fifth Avenue and Target are just some of the retailers James is calling upon.
More than ever, it’s important for major corporations to support Black-owned businesses. So, how can you help in the fight for economic equality? Below, I’ve highlighted some of my favorite fashion brands and labels that are founded and run by Black creatives.
From pioneering fashion designers like Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss and Christopher John Rogers to smaller businesses such as Elexiay, consider the following brands the next time you decide to shop.
Founded by 35-year-old Telfar Clemens, his eponymous New York-based brand has quickly become one of the most sought after in the accessories space. In 2019, Telfar was nominated for a CFDA Award for the American Accessories Designer of the Year. If you’re in the market for an everyday practical tote that is not only high-quality but chic, we suggest the brand’s iconic Shopper bag.
Subrina Heyink Vintage
This small bridal and designer vintage shop is one of my favorite hidden gems when it comes to finding unique pieces. From archived Valentino to one-of-a-kind styles, you can follow the brand’s Instagram to shop vintage fashion that is hand-sourced by Subrina herself. Subrina grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, before moving to the U.S. to attend college and eventually become a fashion stylist.
Under the creative direction of Aurora James, Brother Vellies’ collection of handcrafted shoes and handbags from South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya and Morocco has become one of the most coveted brands amongst fashion “It” girls and celebrities. James has been committed to using locally sourced textiles and employing artisans from these places whom she pays a living wage.
This luxury inclusive concept shop, founded by Sherri McMullen in 2007, houses some of the best labels in fashion included Jacquémus, Khaite, Christopher John Rogers and more. Women’s Wear Daily named McCullen one of the top boutiques in the country.
Christopher John Rogers
Don’t @ me, but Christopher John Rogers is by far the most important and exciting designer to come out of New York Fashion Week in recent seasons. The 26-year-old Louisiana-born designer won the 2019 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and has since dressed everyone from Rihanna to Tracee Ellis Ross and more. Rogers’ refreshing approach to the runway comes in the form of rich fabrics and fearless, bold colors. You can shop his collection exclusively online at Net-A-Porter and McCullen.
This stunning resort-wear brand focuses on sustainably Nigerian craftsmanship using locally sourced yarn. With advanced crochet designs at the forefront, Elexiay’s stunning pieces are all handmade by female sartorially advanced crocheters.
When it comes to embracing the female body, Carly Cushnie’s collection of women’s ready-to-wear clothes and accessories is one of my favorite luxury brands. From dresses that will take you from the office to a wedding and power suit-separates for your everyday life, Cushnie has become a wardrobe staple for the likes of Michelle Obama, Goldie Hawn, Beyoncé and more.
The New York City-based innovative online retail store stocks the perfect mix of luxe and emerging talent from Africa in order to help brands reach new audiences and enhance profits.
The Lagos-born fashion designer, who made his debut at Paris Fashion Week in February of 2020, has become synonymous for his signature handwoven stripes and checks. Crafting interwoven fabric into fringe that utilizes the heritage art of the Yoruba origin, Kenneth Ize is a name-to-know.
The brainchild of Kerby Jean-Raymond, Pyer Moss has become a force in the fashion industry for not only its ambitious designs but also for the political stance that the brand represents. His work continues to focus on the power of understanding what it means to be Black in America. In 2019, it was announced that Jean-Raymond was appointed to the artistic director role at Reebok.
Owned by Nigerian fashion designer Dumebi Iyamah, Andrea Iyamah is one of the most authentic resort brands I’ve ever seen. Filled with retro colors and modern silhouettes, the next time you’re in the market for swimwear or a chic beachside ensemble, consider this collection of eccentric designs.
LaQuan Smith, who started his namesake label at the age of 21, has quickly become one of New York’s most sought after fashion talents. Known for his sexy fabrications and bold prints, his collection of dresses is a must-have for a night out. His designs can be spotted on Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian and more A-listers.
Founded by fashion editor and stylist, Brittany Kozerski, this minimal collection of swimwear is crafted from luxe fabric with shape retention technology to smooth and sculpt the body.
Launched in 2014 by Grace Wales Bonne, the Central Saint Martins-alum is known for her tailored-to-perfection menswear and womenswear brand. Made up of classic wardrobe essentials, you can find Wales Bonner at Net-A-Porter, Dover Street Market, Ssense and more.
Based in Brooklyn, Felicia Noel has quickly become one of my biggest fashion inspirations. The influence of her Caribbean heritage can easily be seen throughout her collection of vibrant and cool designs. If you’re looking to elevate your wardrobe basics, I suggest checking out Fe Essentials. From an updated take on the classic white button-down to everyday trousers, Fe Noel has you covered.
Tia Adeola made her NYFW debut in February 2020. The Nigerian-born and London-raised designer initially rose to fame after her clothing brand, Slashed by Tia, went viral in the fashion world. Eventually, she rebranded to her full name and has since created forward-thinking designs with elements of sheer sexiness.
Buki Ade has created a collection of anything-but-basic swimwear. The Nigerian-American designer and entrepreneur dreamt up her brand after she realized that the fashion industry was lacking unique swimwear with an emphasis on culture. Her designs have been featured on the cover of Vogue, Glamour and Sports Illustrated.
Fear of God
Jerry Lorenzo built his pioneering streetwear label on the idea of providing people “solutions to their closet.” Lorenzo’s Fear Of God, which he launched from the ground up, is one of the originators of high-end streetwear, making its mark before it became mainstream. The brand has gone on to do major capsule collections with Nike and has developed a fanbase of loyal customers.
The Haitian-born designer was a finalist in the 2017 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and has built an incredible brand of statement-making leisurewear. His collection of geometric knits and color-blocking styling is worth taking note of.
Specializing in intricate details and strong outerwear, Romeo Hunte has become a permanent fixture at New York Fashion Week. The definitive lifestyle brand was founded in 2014 by the Fashion Institute of Technology graduate and has transformed the New York fashion scene for the better.
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