Iconic Black Figures in Fashion
Black History has made an impact across many different spaces. The Black community has also made a special imprint on the world of fashion too. In addition to the major contributions and accomplishments, Black history also celebrates strength. These icons, their stories and their extraordinary work have influenced life today. Dapper Dan, Ann Lowe, and Tracy Reese are three fashion icons who have made great achievements in the fashion industry because of their talent and resilience. Each of these figures made a memorable impact with their work.
Daniel Day aka Dapper Dan is an American fashion designer who rose to popularity between the late 80s and 90s. Dapper Dan started his career in fashion as a tailor. Soon enough he started to create his own unique pieces by reworking monogrammed items from major luxury brands. He became widely recognized when hip hop stars like LL Cool J started sporting his creations. His designs were a major influence in rap culture. Though Dapper Dan’s work was gaining some spotlight his boutique was forced into the dark after facing a serious lawsuit from Fendi. He officially shut the boutique down in 1992 and did not resurface until 2018 when he entered a partnership with Gucci. Prior to his comeback, Gucci had released a jacket that was very similar to one of Dapper Dan’s most famous works. As a result, the luxury brand faced a lot of backlash and shortly issued a statement crediting Dapper Dan for his innovative style. Then Gucci invited Dapper Dan to join their team. Together they collaborated on a line that launched in 2018. Today, Dapper Dan has reopened his boutique and recently released a memoir titled “Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem”.
Fashion was a part of Ann Lowe’s DNA. Coming from a family of seamstresses it is no surprise Lowe that became a successful fashion designer. Her grandmother was a formerly enslaved dressmaker and her mother did embroidery. Lowe started as a dressmaker for a socialite in Florida but in 1917 she decided to travel to New York to study fashion design. However, the S.T. Taylor Design had not realized that Lowe was a Black woman when they admitted her into their institution. As their only Black student Lowe did not study alongside her peers because of segregation. Lowe specialized in designing elegant gowns for high society women. Many fell in love with her signature style which included floral motifs. Women from powerful families like the Roosevelts, the Rockfellers, and the Du Ponts were regular clients for Lowe. In fact, Lowe was the designer behind Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress. Unfortunately, Lowe was significantly underpaid for her work in comparison to white designers. She was also the first Black woman to open a store on Madison Avenue. Once known as “society’s best kept secret” Lowe’s legacy is remembered as a pioneering couturier who paved the way for African American designers.
Tracy Reese is a fashion designer with a background in working with multiple top fashion houses. She was once the design director for Perry Ellis. In 1997, she started her own line named after herself. Reese’s excellent use of rich hues and prints on modern silhouettes attracted a lot of admiration. Influential women such as Michelle Obama, Sarah Jessica Parker, Meghan Markle and Taylor Swift have all worn pieces from Reese’s collections. In 2016 Reese embraced body positivity within her own brands by expanding size ranges so that all women can be included in luxury fashion. She is also a part of the CFDA Board of Directors. In addition, Reese supports a variety of social causes like the AIDS Fund Committee for the New York Community Trust. Just last year, Reese launched a new brand called Hope for Flowers. The brand’s creative vision is inspired by Reese’s belief that fashion can be transformative. Hope for Flowers combines sustainability with timeless style. Reese continues to be a champion for diversity, inclusion, and ethical production in the fashion industry.