Black women have been trailblazers in the fashion industry for a long time. However, they don’t always get the recognition they deserve. This Women’s History Month, I want to highlight some of the Black female designers that have changed the industry for the better, as well as some local up-and-coming designers.
- Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes
Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes is considered the first Black female designer to open up her own shop in the United States. She opened her own boutique in Manhattan, New York in 1948 and designed for some celebrity clients including Ella Fitzgerald and Josephine Baker. Hugh Heffner hired her to design the first Playboy Bunny costumes. This rich history was a stepping stone for Black women in the design and fashion industry.
- Tracy Reese
Tracy Reese has a long history in the fashion industry, starting in 1984 with French fashion designer Martine Sitbon at the small contemporary firm, Arlequin. She then went on to create her own line DRESSES and has designed for Michelle Obama, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Taylor Swift, among others. She is a board member of the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) and continues to make a great impact on the industry today.
- Melanie Joyce
Melanie Joyce is a local Denver fashion designer who has created her own brand named after herself. According to her website, she says, “I am passionate about style, detail, color, texture, and helping women look and feel amazing in my pieces.” As a local Black designer, her perspective in the Denver fashion industry is important. Joyce was featured in Vogue in November and continues to grow her vision.
- Dom Streater
Winner of Project Runway season 12 in 2013, Dom Streater has continued her passion for design into creating her own brand. She designs and manufactures her garments in her studio in Philadelphia where she focuses on slow fashion and thoughtful craftsmanship. She is the only Black woman to have won Project Runway.
- Stella Jean
Stella Jean is an Italian fashion designer, born to an Italian father and a Haitian mother. She won the 2011 “Who’s On Next”, a competition from Vogue Italy, collaborated with Christian Louboutin on a shoe collection, and has designed for impressive celebrity clients such as Beyonce and Rihanna. Stella Jean is also a vocal activist for the Black Lives Matter movement and spoke out this past summer to denounce racism in Italy.
The fashion design industry still has a long way to go as far as inclusion and diversity are concerned. These are just a few of the powerful Black women who have helped shape the industry and create a more inclusive environment in the fashion world.