February is Black History Month, so I decided to write about one side of my culture to join the month-long celebration of black culture. I wanted to write about black women because as Malcolm X once said, “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.” Meanwhile, I also wanted to include fashion in my article because I wanted to do some research on the fashion industry and its inclusion (or lack thereof) of women of color.
According to Harlem Row, “Designers of color — both male and female — have largely been left out of the fashion narrative altogether, as evidenced by their scarce presence in the fashion landscape. This results in less than one percent of the global fashion industry profit entering the pockets of designers of color.”
Image Credit: nappy
For example, when people think of fashion designers, they usually think of designers such as Alexander McQueen, Valentino, Christian Dior, or Michael Kors. What do all of those fashion designers have in common? They are all white males. The fashion industry is male-dominated and very Eurocentric, especially in terms of designers who end up receiving recognition and fame.
With that said, I wanted my narrative to be focused on giving black women recognition because they only seem to be acknowledged when the discussion is focused on their bodies or when others are making money by appropriating black culture. Also, I wanted to give a shout out to black women working in the design industry, where people of color are not often given the credit they deserve or their design work is ignored.
Image Credit: Godisable Jacob
So, here are five black female fashion designers you should know about:
1. Tracy Reese
Tracy Reese specializes in women’s ready-to-wear clothing and accessories. Her clothing has a lot of retro influence and bold colors. She has dressed Michelle Obama for several occasions.
2. Laura Smalls
Laura Smalls’ design influence is based on the ’30s and ’40s film noir movies. She specializes in ready-to-wear but also has done some custom designs for celebrities such as Michelle Obama, Kerry Washington, and Zoe Saldana.
3. Kimberly Goldson
Kimberly Goldson is a self-taught designer who was on Season 9 of Lifetime Network’s Emmy award-winning program, Project Runway. She has done a collaboration with Nike and Lebron James to create a sneaker that celebrated African-American women.
4. Darlene and Lizzy Okpo
Sisters Darlene and Lizzy Okpo started the ready-to-wear women’s clothing line William Okpo, which is named after their father. Their Nigerian roots inspire the design of their collection, but it also has elements from American culture.
5. Carly Cushnie
Carly Cushnie created her luxury women’s ready-to-wear clothing line in 2008. The brand is focused on celebrating femininity and minimalism. Cushnie has dressed notable women such as Beyoncé, Gal Gadot, Lupita Nyong’o, and Ava Duvernay.