As we enter the month of March, Black History Month has technically come to an end. However, we should never stop honoring the Black community’s contributions throughout history that have shaped our country and our entire world.
One industry that has been especially impacted by the Black community is the fashion industry. Here are just a few of the Black fashion designers that broke down barriers to influence the fashion industry as we know it.
As the pioneer of streetwear, Willi Smith is remembered as one of the most successful African American designers in the fashion industry. Smith took inspiration from the fashion he saw on the streets and crafted innovative streetwear that was ahead of its time. Smith’s label, WilliWear Limited, provided accessible and affordable clothes for the modern man and woman. Smith passed away in 1987 from AIDS, but his influence on the fashion industry will never be forgotten.
Being black has a lot to do with my being a good designer.
Ann Lowe made her mark on the fashion industry in the 1920s when she became one of the first renowned Black fashion designers. Lowe continued her mother’s work of dressmaking and took the fashion industry by storm with the gowns she created. Her most famous work would likely be former first lady Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress, though she did not receive the credit she deserved at the time. Lowe went on to become the first Black woman to own a store on Madison Avenue and revolutionized fashion in more ways than one, leaving a legacy behind that has inspired many of the fashion designers that we know of today.
I love my clothes and I’m particular about who wears them. I am not interested in sewing for café society or social climbers. I do not cater to Mary and Sue.
This American designer is known for her women’s ready-to-wear fashion and accessories. As well as being a board member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), Tracy Reese works to design clothes that are both sustainable and inspiring. Reese has designed for prominent figures like former first lady Michelle Obama. Reese is well-known throughout the fashion industry and is sure to remain an influential voice for Black designers.
If I want to do something I’m going to figure out how to do it, and if you don’t like how I look then that can’t be my problem.
Many may know Virgil Abloh as the chief executive officer of Off-White, but his influence in fashion goes far beyond that label. Born in Chicago, Abloh went on to become not only a designer but a stylist and DJ. In 2018, he became the first African American artistic director of Louis Vuitton, heading the menswear collections. Abloh’s influence has been recognized by many, including Time magazine in 2018, when he was named as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
I now have a platform to change the industry… so I should.
Christopher John Rogers
Although he is newer to the fashion industry, Christopher John Rogers has turned heads with his bold designs. At only 25 years old, Rogers has already dressed prominent celebrities including Rihanna, Lizzo and Cardi B. His accomplishments thus far have landed him on the Forbes “30 Under 30” list, and he won the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award in 2019. Rogers has made his mark on the industry and is sure to continue trailblazing.
Whether it’s publishing, styling, writing, designing, production, or finance, we need individuals from a myriad of backgrounds to drive this industry firmly into the 21st century.
-Christopher John Rogers