5 Black Fashion Designers Uplifting the Black Community in 2020
The United States is currently facing a time of turmoil and civil unrest as protests are being held across the country seeking justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless other Black lives lost to police brutality over the years.
These times have sparked new reason to reassess Black Americans’ position in society and forcing citizens to have conversations about the ramifications of inequality. Discussions about how to support the black community in all aspects of life – socially, politically and economically – have become more important than ever.
Though the fashion industry has a long way to go with the representation of black people, several black designers have been using their voices to be the change they want to see. Here are five black designers who are using their brands to uplift the black community:
- Aurora James - Creative Director of Brother Vellies
Aurora James is the founder and creative director of the luxury shoe brand Brother Vellies. Though based in New York City, her designs are produced in South Africa, Morocco and Kenya.
This past week, James took to Instagram, calling for retailers to support black businesses tangibly. She wrote, "So many of your businesses are built on Black spending power. So many of your stores are set up in Black communities. So many of your sponsored posts are seen on Black feeds.” James continued by saying, “This is the least you can do for us. We represent 15 [percent] of the population and we need to represent 15 [percent] of your shelf space.”
She named several specific retailers, including Whole Foods, Net-a-Porter, Saks and Target, challenging them to show that they are truly willing to support the black community. She coined this proposal as the #15PercentPledge.
2. Kerby Jean-Raymond - designer and founder of Pyer Moss
Kerby Jean-Raymond is the founder and designer of the streetwear brand Pyer Moss. Jean-Raymond has been an advocate for the black community throughout his fashion career.
In his September 2019 New York Fashion Week show, Jean-Raymond presented his new three-part collection called ‘American, Also’. It was a three-part collection by Pyer Moss created to tell stories of black people and their contribution to American pop culture.
In a pamphlet given to guests of the show, Jean-Raymond wrote, "We tell stories of the erased; we used fashion, film, music, and fine art to reverse that erasure."
3. Kai Avent-deLeon - founder of Sincerely Tommy
Kai Avent-deLeon is a design curator and the founder of Sincerely Tommy, a fashion boutique in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. By being in Bed-Stuy Sincerely Tommy has situated itself amid black history, literally. The clothes she curates in Sincerely Tommy celebrate black femininity.
With the recent protests for the Black Lives Matter movement, Avent-DeLeo took to Instagram to share her thoughts and provide helpful resources for those who want to support the movement. "In an attempt to unify and create self-sufficiency within the black community we are creating a black business resource page that will highlight all black businesses in the neighborhood (this includes service & trade jobs),” Avent-DeLeo wrote.
4. Rihanna – founder of SavagexFenty
Robyn Fenty, commonly known by her middle name, Rihanna, is mostly recognized for her music career. However, the singer has ventured into the realm of beauty and fashion, creating a global business empire. Rihanna established her lingerie line called SavagexFenty, which has been praised for its size inclusivity and its promotion of black models and black brand ambassadors.
5. Telfar Clemens – Founder and designer of Telfar
Telfar Clemens designed the Telfar Shopping Bag, which has become a cultural staple in minority communities in New York City. Coined as the ‘Bushwick Birkin’ the shopping bag was given its nickname because, unlike the extremely exclusive Hermés Birkin, it is deemed as a high-fashion piece that is still accessible to many.
Clemens has been praised for his use of mostly black and brown models in his ads. He has also stated how important inclusivity is for his brand because “someone like [him] wasn’t thought of as a fashion customer.”
Clemens recently spoke out about the protests, telling his Instagram followers to “know the difference between justice and power and precisely what order they come in” and ending his statement with the words “black power”.
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Blog post by Kayla Sabre