A lack of inclusivity and diversity have long been pervasive issues in the fashion industry, not only for Black models, but also for designers themselves. Despite the challenges they’ve faced, these creators are working hard to change the conversation and whether they’ve been in the biz for decades or are just now blowing up, there’s no arguing the impact they’ve had.
Between them, they’ve dressed major celebs, have made huge splashes during fashion week, and created real works of art, remaining true to their aesthetics and their visions. Below are 23 Black fashion designers that you might already know (hint: Rihanna, duh), and others that you should damn well remember, lest you be out of the loop.
(Also, while we’re on the topic, click these links to shop from a ton of Black-owned businesses—from clothing and accessories to beauty products.)
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1 Kerby Jean-Raymond
Brand: Pyer Moss
Founded in 2013, the Haitian designer started off with menswear before expanding into womenswear, and he’s only gotten more buzz. Stars like Lil Nas X, Issa Rae, and Tracee Ellis Ross have worn his creations, and he was also named one of Time Magazine‘s 100 most influential people in 2019.
2 Aurora James
Brand: Brother Vellies
James was also the creator of the “15 Percent Pledge,” which launched this year to give more shelf space to Black businesses in retail stores in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Her sustainable accessories brand, Brother Vellies, features enviable boots and handbags (like the one she’s holding, here).
3 Telfar Clemens
His popular purse designs with the signature logo have been dubbed the “Bushwick Birkin.” Telfar’s designs are unisex and he’s championed gender-neutral clothing.
4 Romeo Hunte
Brand: Romeo Hunte
Michelle Obama, Zendaya, Beyoncé, Saweetie, and Keke Palmer have all worn Hunte’s designs. His outerwear definitely makes a statement, and he’s known for using the buffalo-check pattern in many of his clothes, like on his jeans here.
5 Carly Cushnie
Designer Carly Cushnie’s sleek styles have been worn by the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Ashley Graham, and Lupita Nyong’o, btw. Her streamlined silhouettes and luxe fabrics combined make real “wow” pieces in your closet.
6 LaQuan Smith
Brand: LaQuan Smith
He’s a real celeb fave. Proof? Rihanna, Beyoncé, and sooo many more have worn his pieces. Basically, go to LaQuan Smith for any of your glam and/or sexy outfit needs.
Brands: Fenty, Savage X Fenty
Yes, you already know RiRi and she has not one, but TWO lines. Savage X Fenty has affordable and size-inclusive lingerie and Fenty is super upscale. With the latter’s launch, she was the first woman—and the first Black woman—to helm her own original brand at LVMH.
8 Christopher John Rogers
Brand: Christopher John Rogers
His runway shows are consistently the talk of New York Fashion Week with their exuberance and amazing styling. At just 26 years old, the Louisiana designer has already dressed high-profile ladies like Michelle Obama and Cardi B.
9 Fe Noel
Brand: Fe Noel
Beautiful robes, swimsuits, and ready-to-wear from designer Fe Noel will literally make your life a happier place. You’ll fall in love with the stunning, vacation-worthy prints, like the one on the robe she’s wearing here.
10 Dapper Dan
Brand: Dapper Dan
The Harlem designer has his own atelier where he creates his made-to-order designs, which are practically synonymous with the hip-hop stars of the ’80s and ’90s. He’s known for reworking designer logos into his clothes, and has collaborated with Gucci. He even has a memoir out where he talks about his experience as Black designer and how he made his now-famous store on 125th Street.
11 Dumebi Iyamah
Brand: Andrea Iyamah
Specializing in swimwear, there’s quite literally something for everyone (seriously, even brides!) from designer Andrea Iyamah’s stunningly colorful collections.
12 Anifa Mvuemba
Designer Anifa Mvuemba’s sophisticated designs (sold in sizes 0 to 20) are just the beginning of her innovations. She recently debuted her newest collection in a completely digital, 3-D fashion show that will blow your mind.
13 Mowalola Ogunlesi
Brand: Mowalola Ogunlesi
The Nigerian-British designer will be heading the Yeezy design team of Kanye’s new Gap collaboration. (Gap was supposed to do a collab with Telfar, but that’s another story you can read about here.) She also has her own label featuring fun pieces worthy of a night out like long-sleeve bra tops and cutout dresses.
14 Grace Wales Bonner
Brand: Wales Bonner
Launched in 2014, her eponymous label started as a menswear brand and later ventured into womenswear. The clothing is inspired by European and African history, and the tailoring is basically PERFECTION. (As you can probably tell from her impeccable black blazer in this shot.)
15 Kenneth Ize
Brand: Kenneth Ize
If mixed patterns and prints are your thing, then you absolutely need to know about Kenneth Ize, whose colorful menswear-inspired pieces will make you feel so joyful just by looking at them.
16 Victor Glemaud
Brand: Victor Glemaud
In case you can’t tell from his striped sweater, Glemaud is known for his amazing knitwear. You’ll want to update every piece in your closet to this material thanks to his designs.
17 Heron Preston
Brand: Heron Preston
Preston’s streetwear aesthetic has been a favorite among celebs like Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Hailey Bieber. His graphic tees usually have the bird of the same name on them, but he also does accessories like bags, phone cases, shoes, and belts.
18 Virgil Abloh
Brand: Off-White, Louis Vuitton menswear
As the artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear and his own label, Off-White, Virgil Abloh is a prominent figure in the fashion industry. Recently, though, he has been dragged a bit about an album cover design for the late Pop Smoke and his $50 BLM donation.
19 Liya Kebede
Both a model and designer, Kebede founded Lemlem, a clothing brand that’s made by artisans across Africa. She is Ethiopian and through the label she created a foundation that benefits African women “by connecting them to healthcare, education and pathways to jobs.”
20 Tracy Reese
Brands: Tracy Reese, Hope for Flowers
Launched in 1998, her namesake brand is known for its retro-inspired styles and floral patterns. A-listers like Michelle Obama and Regina King have worn her creations, and , since 2007, she’s been a board member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. In 2019, she launched a beautiful new brand called Hope for Flowers, which focuses on sustainability and ethical production practices.
Yes, he’s controversial—and probably not running for president anymore—but there’s no doubt that his Yeezy brand is influential in fashion. Thanks to his collab with Adidas, you’ve seen his sneakers everywhere, and he’s also partnering with Gap to make a more affordable line.
22 Stella Jean
Brand: Stella Jean
Jean is recognized as Italy’s first Black fashion designer (she is both Italian and Haitian), and her creations represent the intersection of those two cultures. She often uses bright colors, mixes patterns, and adds a tropical flair to her pieces.
23 Camille Perry
Co-creators of Tove, Perry (R) and Holly Wright (L), met while working at Topshop, but the pair decided to launch their own contemporary label of breezy, romantic, yet fashion-forward pieces.
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