Black-owned beauty businesses have been on a well-applauded rise in recent years. But when it comes to diversity in fashion, Black-led labels, especially in the luxury market, still feel like a rarity—save a few exceptions. Olivier Rousteing has been creative director at Balmain for almost nine years (since he was 25!); in 2018 Virgil Abloh was tapped to run menswear at Louis Vuitton while also running his own label, Off-White. Shayne Oliver started cult label Hood By Air in 2006, went on hiatus in 2017, and recently announced that he’s reinstating the brand after designing for Helmut Lang. Nigerian-born Duro Oluwu has been a London staple since 2004. Carly Cushnie has been in the game a minute, first with womenswear line Cushnie et Ochs, and currently, after splitting with her design partner, as CEO and creative director of the luxury label Cushnie. And, of course, we can’t forget Queen Rihanna of house Fenty.
Representation in fashion campaigns and runway shows has also gradually improved thanks to powerful conversations urging labels to hire models of different ages, races, body types and gender identities. But at the same time, every fashion week seems to unleash at least one or two offensive, appropriative designs that feel like a giant step backwards. (Looking at you, Burberry and Comme des Garçons.)
That’s why we’re pledging to put our dollars behind brands with talented creatives of colour at their helm—not just during Black History Month, but all year long.
From homegrown companies on the come up to international superstars, the range is real. Here are 13 fashion brands featuring Black designers who bring fresh perspectives, exquisite taste and ingenuity to the sartorial conversation.
Toronto’s Ashley Alexis McFarlane creates heirloom-worthy jewellery that incorporates inspiration from Africa and the diaspora. Her pieces are handmade with conflict-free metals using traditional techniques. This necklace stack takes the pressure off perfect layering and includes pendants featuring Cleopatra and the Queen of Sheba.
The Queendom Coin Necklace Stack, $249, omiwoods.com.