In honor of Black History Month, we’re highlighting ten Black fashion designers you should know and shop—this month and beyond. Men and women in the Black community all over the world have significantly impacted the fashion industry. The culture runs deep in many of these designers’ brands, from woven textiles to stunning prints, brilliant colors, and overall craftsmanship, which has the unique ability to transcend clothing beyond mere materials to tell a story or send a message.
There are hundreds of Black designers that deserve to be commended for their work, however, the ten featured here are of the most awarded and notable fashion designers of the last decade. They made their mark and forever shaped the fashion industry, plus paved the way for new, up-and-coming talent to arise, all while celebrating Black culture.
Grace Wales Bonner
British fashion designer, Grace Wales Bonner, created Wales Bonner in 2014 following her graduation from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, England. Initially a menswear brand, Wales Bonner expanded into designing everyday clothing with elements of athleisure and tailoring in mind for both menswear and womenswear. The brand encapsulates the multinationalism that is Grace Wales Bonner by combining inspiration drawn from the arts and the European and Afro-Atlantic culture. She is no stranger to awards and prizes; Wales Bonner received the 2016 LVMH Young Designer Prize and the BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund in 2019. She is also an associate lecturer at her former school, Central Saint Martins, and has lectured at Parsons School of Design, New York City.
Beginning his career in fashion at just 14 years old while attending the High School of Fashion Industries in Manhattan, Kerby Jean-Raymond had his first apprenticeship during that time. One year later, he created his first label, Mary’s Jungle. The household brand Pyer Moss was founded in 2013 and was worn by celebrities like Colin Kaepernick to former First Lady Michelle Obama. Only two short years later, he made it on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list. Known for his 2016 New York Fashion Week show that called attention to police brutality and Black Lives Matter, Jean-Raymond uses fashion as a means of art and activism to tell a story that sparks debate in our society. Following his 2018 collection with Reebok, Jean-Raymond was named Creative Global Director of Reebok in September 2020.
Christopher John Rogers
Making the 2020 edition of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list, Christopher John Rogers is known for his colorful, bright, and theatrical fashion pieces that have been worn by countless celebrities already. He was also the recipient of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award this past November. Just recently, Rogers designed our first female Vice President Kamala Harris’ purple inauguration coat and dress. Music artists such as Cardi B, Lizzo, and Rhianna have also worn pieces by Rogers on red carpets. Since 2016, Christopher John Rogers had been a made-to-order designer, but, as of 2020, his label is now sold in stores, including Net-A-Porter and Forty-Five Ten.
What once started as a brick-and-mortar boutique of vintage pieces, the label Fe Noel was prompted by this entry into the fashion world and has since become a womenswear line to encourage and uphold femininity through beautiful colors and lively prints. The Brooklyn-based brand is greatly inspired by Noel’s Caribbean heritage and family, especially her mother and grandmother. In 2018, Noel was given the opportunity to design glam women’s sneakers and jerseys for Lebron James’ Nike collection. Shortly after that, Michelle Obama’s stylist requested an outfit from Fe Noel that she would wear while on her tour promoting her book, Becoming.
Self-made designer Anifa Mvuemba began her career on social media as a designer for her brand, Hanifa, at the age of 21. She has truly made a name for herself over an almost decade-long journey of ups and downs. After realizing the college path she was taking lacked the passion she desired, Mveumba taught herself how to sew. She created a humble following on Instagram and began designing custom orders. Her womenswear brand is inspired by the type of clothes she would envision herself and her friends wearing. Mveumba keeps in mind inclusivity and body positivity in every design. Amid the peak of the pandemic this past spring, Mvuemba hosted a virtual fashion show on Hanifa’s Instagram page that used 3-D animation to look as though the garments were draped on models without any actual bodies or faces.
During his undergraduate study at Pace University, Telfar Clemens created his label, Telfar, in 2005. The brand’s inception was inspired by many of his friends that would dress without regard to gender. The unisex brand celebrates Black culture and individuality that can best be summed up by Clemens’ infamous line, “It’s not for you–it’s for everyone.” In 2017, he won the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award that allowed his label to expand by investments in production. Telfar is best known for its “it” bag, the Bushwick Birkin, which comes in three different colors but can be tricky to get your hands on.
With traditional African practices and techniques in mind, Aurora James launched her sustainably and ethically made luxury footwear brand Brother Vellies in 2013 in Brooklyn, New York. To keep the spirit of Africa in her pieces, James works with artisans from across the African continent for design purposes, so that each shoe is filled with heart and soul. James had the honor of being the Winner of the 2015 CFDA/VOGUE Fashion Fund and the 2016 Vogue Talents Award Winner in 2016.
Virgil Abloh entered the fashion scene in 2009 after getting an internship at Fendi in Rome, Italy, where he also met designer Kanye West. His brand Off-White swiftly became one of the most prominent brands in the decade. Before creating Off-White, Abloh worked on several other projects, including a menswear boutique named RSVP Gallery, directing West’s agency Donda, and launching his first line, titled Pyrex Vision. Founded in 2013, Off-White combines luxury and streetwear to create one-of-a-kind handbags, jackets, accessories, and more. In 2018, Abloh was named the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection.
This boss babe needs little to no introduction, as she truly is a superstar in every aspect. Aside from being a talented singer and beauty brand queen, Rihanna launched her label, Fenty, under LVMH. She was the first woman to create an original brand with LVMH and the first of color to lead a house under their brand. Her Savage X Fenty lingerie line is also widely celebrated for its body-positive pieces and diverse models. The recent Savage X Fenty fashion show caught the attention of many for highlighting individuals of all genders, races, sexual orientations, and body types.
Bringing his Nigerian roots to a place where textile meets fashion, we get Kenneth Ize, the label. Ize works with a small community of weavers and Nigerian artisans. His designs combine culture and craftsmanship with a modern aesthetic; the label is known for its bold colors and prints. This past year, he was awarded Designer of the Year at the African fashion festival Arise. In 2017, Ize relaunched his label after a short hiatus to complete his studies, with funds gathered from a GoFundMe page. A few short years later, he invested in land in Ilorin, the northern Nigerian town where his fabrics are woven with awarded funds from the Arise fashion festival.