It’s now more important than ever to recognize (and patronize) top-tier Black designers, all of whom deserve the same limelight as their non-Black counterparts. The talent behind these Black-owned fashion brands hail from around the world, and their brands have garnered notable celebrity followings, from politicians donning these designs on Inauguration Day to pop icons hitting the runway in their couture ensembles. From sustainability-driven fashion to Afrofuturist jewelry, here are eight Black-owned fashion brands of the moment paving the way for a more inclusive fashion industry.
The hottest, forever sold-out bag of the moment is the brainchild of a Liberian-American New Yorker. Known as the “Bushwick Birkin,” the award-winning, gender-neutral shopping bags made of vegan leather have been seen on Oprah (it’s one of her “favorite things''), Bella Hadid, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Solange Knowles. Yet none of the Telfar bags cost more than $257. Beyond the bags, queer designer Telfar Clemons creates clothing and accessories with inclusivity in mind. With multiple brand collaborations kicking off in 2021—including collaborations with Ugg and Converse—this might prove to be Telfar’s best year yet.
Inauguration Day 2021 spotlighted the new President and Vice President of the United States, but fashion (and particularly Black-owned fashion brands) also took center stage with pieces like Michelle Obama’s plum-colored jumpsuit turning heads. This now-iconic outfit was by Sergio Hudson, a Los Angeles-based designer who has dressed superstars like Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, and Kendall Jenner since he started his eponymous label in 2014. (Vice President Kamala Harris also wore a Sergio Hudson evening dress later in the Inauguration Day festivities.) Hudson’s spring/summer 2021 collection is all about bold colors, sharp tailoring, and curvy silhouettes, made to make anyone feel powerful when they walk into a room.
Black-owned fine jewelry brands have rarely made it to the mainstream, but KHIRY is paving the way. Founded by Jameel Mohammed during his political science studies at University of Pennsylvania, the accessories line—part of Net-a-Porter’s Vanguard program for promising fashion talent—celebrates Afrofuturism with diaspora-inspired earrings, necklaces, and rings made of 18 carat gold vermeil and sterling silver. Fans of the jewelry line include Ava Duvernay, Serena Willams, and Halle Berry, and a new capsule collection will debut in this year’s hotly anticipated Coming 2 America sequel, worn by several characters.
Christopher John Rogers
There’s nothing minimal or reserved about Christopher John Rogers’ ready-to-wear fashion line, a brand shaking up the industry as of late with bright and slightly outré (in the best way) pieces. One of the fashion world’s brightest young stars and winner of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, the Baton Rouge-born designer has seen his eye-catching dresses and accessories on the likes of Cardi B, Tracy Ellie Ross, Zendaya, and even the Vice President, who wore his violet dress and winter coat on Inauguration Day.
Kerby Jean-Raymond’s acclaimed label isn’t just about making a fashion statement—it’s about taking a stand. Pyer Moss’ collections and unconventional runway shows address pressing social issues and unsung facets of the Black American experience. In 2020, Jean-Raymond converted his brand’s studio into a PPE donation center and also raised funds for businesses affected by the pandemic. It’s no wonder, then, that Vice President Kamala Harris chose to wear a Pyer Moss camel coat at the COVID-19 memorial on the eve of her inauguration.
It was the show that shook the fashion world in 2020: a virtual presentation with life-like 3D clothing on “invisible” models strutting down a digital runway. That show finally brought the spotlight on Congolese designer Anifa Mvuemba, who started the womenswear label Hanifa in 2012, receiving fanfare from celebs such as Ciara and Sarah Jessica Parker along the way. The upscale brand celebrates women of all shapes, with bold, vibrant, and sexy designs for sizes 0 to 20.
Sustainability runs deep in the work of Cape Town-based designer Sindiso Khumalo and her namesake line. Her penchant for organic textiles and economic empowerment (she’s partnered with a Cape Town NGO which gives women who were formerly sex workers stable employment) earned her the 2020 Green Carpet Fashion Award for Best Independent Designer. The Central St Martins graduate and 2021 Net-a-Porter Vanguard recipient chooses a Black female heroine as her muse each season. Khumalo’s recent spring/summer 2021 collection—which debuted at Milan Fashion Week—highlighted freedom fighter Harriet Tubman to great acclaim.
Streetwear meets Savile Row precision with A-COLD-WALL*, a disruptive brand making global waves from the U.K. Created by Samuel Ross, a protégé of Louis Vuitton artistic director Virgil Abloh and a LVMH prize finalist, A-COLD-WALL* fuses material innovations with a youthful, subversive aesthetic, seen on the likes of Rihanna, Jaden Smith, and film director Steve McQueen. The brand’s many high-profile collaborations include Nike, Retrosuperfuture, and Converse.