Cover image of Nandi Madida courtesy of MTV
Cushnie Et Ochs
These are the names of high fashion labels and powerhouses that are run and given life to by Black people. Virgil Abloh of Off-White has literally changed the face of streetwear in just six years. Olivier Rousteing, the creative director of Balmain, pretty much redesigned what we envision of when we think of glamour. LaQuan Smith had one of his pieces worn by Beyoncé. Stella Jean’s collections are always true and authentic to her heritage, and unapologetically so. But, to be quite honest the list of mainstream high fashion Black designers is short. Annoyingly short.
So let’s talk about it.
New York Fashion Week is obviously a big deal. You have hundreds of designers big and small showcasing their talent in the fashion capital of the world. Fashion Month is literally my favorite time of the year. My Instagram feed becomes a sea of trend forecasting, runway show clips, and views from the front row. I live for it. But it is Black History Month and I have to talk my sugar honey iced tea. I have to.
Is it a mistake that my list consists of Black women run labels? No. But let’s carry on. These are individuals people that wholeheartedly deserve recognition but fail to get it.
Nandi Madida made her NYFW debut this season with her Colour by Nandi Madida collection and did not disappoint. The South-African designer put her twist on what a boss woman would dress like. She updated the classic work suit with exaggerated shoulders, accents, and bold colors.
William Okpo, a fashion label run by sisters, Darlene and Lizzy Okpo, plays with silhouettes and color. They also toy with the ideals of masculinity and femininity with their designs. “With William Okpo, the Okpo sisters wish to illustrate the unique aesthetic that results from the juxtaposition of the immigrant’s sense of style against American cultural sensibilities…”
Tracey Reese, I believe stands in a lane that she created herself. She is a board member of none other than the most prestigious, Council of Fashion Designers of America. She has dressed former (even though everyone wishes she was current) First Lady, Michelle Obama numerous of times, so that itself speaks volumes. Reese specializes in an array of sub industries within the fashion industry, like ready-to-wear, accessories, and even home decor. Her collections challenge romanticism and what’s edgy and what’s not.
Haiti-born, Azede Jean-Pierre also had one of her dresses worn by Michelle Obama on the cover of Essence magazine. Her collections often plays with lines and unique silhouettes. Her pieces don’t strive to be the same. Her pieces, like Stella Jean, gives you a glimpse into her heritage and lineage.
There are a lot more individuals that I can mention, and I could even go on about the four women that I did mention, but still the lack of representation in fashion is telling and damaging.
Inclusion shouldn’t be some radical event every time we see it. There shouldn’t be any more “firsts.” There should just be recognition and not the pandering kind because we see that all too often nowadays. There is real, authentic talent out here. So many small Black run labels have their ideas stolen by bigger competitors. And no one says a peep.
Representation is no joke. It 100 percent matters. Really matters. Most of my fashion idols are black people. I saw myself in them and I knew I could achieve great things myself. And for those who complain that we “complain”, so what. We are not going to be silent. It’s lowkey part of the reason why we’re imitated, but never included. But I digress…
“There would be no fashion industry without us.”