The Black History of Fashion Design
Posted on 09 January 2023
The history of fashion design is long and varied, with many talented designers and stylists making their mark on the industry over the years. However, the contributions of black designers and stylists are often overlooked and undervalued. In this article, we will explore the rich and diverse history of black fashion design, highlighting some of the most influential and innovative designers and stylists in the industry.
One of the earliest known black fashion designers was Ann Cole Lowe, a seamstress who gained fame in the 1950s for her elegant and sophisticated gowns. Lowe, who was born in Clayton, Alabama in 1898, learned the art of dressmaking from her mother and grandmother, both of whom were seamstresses. Despite facing significant racial and gender discrimination, Lowe went on to open her own design studio in New York City, where she created beautiful and intricate gowns for high-society clients, including the Rockefellers and the Kennedys.
Another influential black designer was Stephen Burrows, who rose to fame in the 1970s with his bold and colorful designs. Burrows, who was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1943, was known for his use of bright and vibrant hues, as well as his innovative use of jersey fabric. He became the first black designer to be featured in a solo runway show in Paris, and his work has been worn by a number of celebrities, including Grace Jones and Cher.
In the 1980s, Willi Smith emerged as a major force in the fashion industry with his streetwear brand, WilliWear. Smith, who was born in Philadelphia in 1948, was known for his casual and affordable clothing, which he designed with the urban consumer in mind. His brand was popular with both men and women, and he was praised for his innovative approach to fashion design.
More recently, designers like Tracy Reese and Misa Hylton-Brim have made a significant impact on the fashion industry. Reese, who was born in Detroit in 1964, is known for her feminine and sophisticated designs, which have been worn by a number of high-profile clients, including Michelle Obama. Hylton-Brim, who was born in New York City in 1970, has made a name for herself as a stylist and designer, collaborating with a number of high-profile celebrities and brands.
Black fashion designers and stylists have made a significant impact on the fashion industry, despite facing significant challenges and discrimination. Their contributions should be recognized and celebrated, as they have helped to shape and define the fashion industry as we know it today.