The ongoing need for more diverse representation continues to press against traditional cultural institutions in America. From the efforts of award shows such as the Oscars and Grammys to incorporate more non-white and non-male nominees and winners, to proper racial casting in blockbuster films, the desire for the inclusion of different bodies, races, and genders is trending in our cultural milieu. At the 2019 New York Fashion Week, inclusivity reigned as a melange of POC and queer models walked the runways alongside traditional talent. Yet, behind the scenes of this international fashion event still stands a rigid infrastructure that defies the inclusivity trend. This past year, a few of fashion’s timeless brands Gucci, Prada and Burberry were under scrutiny for their racially insensitive products. The racist imagery perpetuated by these laudable brands opposes the diversity exhibited on the runways, which implicates a lack of internal diversity within the fashion industry.
Nevertheless, NYFW attracted diverse established and emerging designers whose projects are less about trend-setting as they are about incorporating identity and experience into their work. The reconstruction of the fashion industry to include more diversity cannot happen on the surface. It requires an entire infrastructure overhaul, where more POC, queer, and disabled designers have visibility and respect within the industry. To celebrate the end of NYFW and Black History Month, here is our selection of black designers who are changing the face of the fashion industry from the inside out.
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Chelsea wearing Look 21 from our #NYFW “Trust No Trade” A/W 19 Collection designed by @pierrehommes Photography by @hatnimlee Casting by @decorvm Styling by @mmmmylipshurt Makeup by @mimiquiquine; products by @narsissist Hair by @lilhunty_; products by @cutlersalon Shoes by @nike
No Sesso’s co-founder Pierre Davis made history this past month as the first black, trans woman designer to be officially featured at NYFW. Davis’ gender identity undoubtedly informs the company’s agender brand (no sesso is Italian for no gender/sex). The F/W 2019 collection features medieval cuts: frocks, coresettes, and pleated skirts, created with contemporary fabrics such as silk, velour, mesh, and denim. The results vary from potential gym-wear to seedy dungeon apparel.
With elegant length and emphasized necklines, Cushnie’s 2019 collection is for the posh, contemporary femme. The shape of Cushnie’s wear is consistent from season to season, as they rely on altering the patterns, materials, and colors to match seasonal tones.
Romeo Hunte is known in the fashion industry for his outerwear and his F/W 2018 collection blended functional forest fabrics (think camouflage, furs, and lumberjack checkers) with modern urban shapes. His Spring 2019 collection jumps from the Pacific Northwest to SoCal, as neoprene body suits and miniskirts are accented with bright neon piping and fur lines fit for a stylish surf day or dancing at Burning Man.
With each season, Victor Glemaud’s signature knitwear becomes bolder and more daring. His designs combine unique silhouettes not often found as knit with vivacious colors: neon green, tangerine, pepto bismol pink and more.
LaQuan Smith’s S/S 2019 collection is consistently sexy and glamorous, just like seasons prior. Playful graphic material showcasing old-fashioned mugshots is used for multiple sleek garments; while neon lilac lace and tight mesh bodysuits comprise the part of this collection that looks like gluttonous lingerie.
Telfar bridges garment-based fashion with performance art that contemplates race in America. In their NYFW show, models donning Teflar’s functional urban cowboy 2019 collection crowd surfed while American imagery danced in the background with rap and hip-hop music.
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@Abamufasa in Look 26 from Fall 2019. An evening frock with hand-painted bustier by @drake.carr and wispy layered skirt in shades of Sky, Cunningham Blue, Pistachio and Leek Green tulle with matching Leek Green shawl. Thank you @gregoryalfred for helping with the construction of this look! ⭐️💫✨ Photography: @revivethecool Lead Makeup: @marcelogutierrez Hair: @uhmmwhat Art Direction: @christinachanel In collaboration with: @drake.carr Footwear courtesy of: @manoloblahnikhq
Christopher John Roger’s fourth collection is fit for Quinceaneras and perhaps the carnival, with bright tulle skirts and tightly checkered stockings. This collections is far from practical. Instead, Rogers blurs the lines between clothing and museum-worthy art with his whimsical patterns and extravagant shapes.
Pyer Moss’s second collection features the flow and length of kimonos, which is appropriated into both formal business attire and athletic streetwear. Moss’s collection also features images of black avatars painted onto shirts or created through elaborate beading and sequin work. This specific feature is an element of multiple collections by black designers this season.
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When I search for a “nude dress” the options don’t include my skin tone, so I designed a collection that explores NEW notions of nude 👑 🙇🏾♀️ Tag someone who you think would body this gown 👇🏾💫 Jewelry by @_bypurple Shot by @korolkovas #BlackHistory #BlackDesigner #WhatsYourNude? #NYFW #MINDOFKYE
Designer Kyemah Mcentyre, who is only a first year at Parson’s, rose to prominence after posting images of her handmade prom dress that had a classic silhouette and plunging neckline created out of fabric that pays homage to traditional African print. Her current work continues to dismantle the Western floor-length dress aesthetic with non-Western (specifically African) prints.
Martine Rose’s F/W aesthetic is a contemporary spin on 70’s apparel. Mutating classic silhouettes and reappropriating shirt patterns for pants and vice-versa, Rose creates the new cool in her 2019 looks.
Ashya’s leather bags reimagine the fanny pack with minimalist and functional pouches that feature minor details, like scalloped edges and crocodile patterned flaps.
Virgil Abloh is the titan of contemporary streetwear. His S/S 2019 collection does not push the limits of fashion, but makes the already-happening trends of camouflage, animal print, puffer jackets, and denim more robust. His Women’s line also confirms the creeping trend in chic pajamas.
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