It’s time to start rethinking the way we shop.
We’ve made the cases for shopping smarter and cruelty-free, but being a conscious consumer, as paradoxical as that sounds, means going a step further than that. That’s because, as this week has shown us, a fashion brand can be both sustainable and unethical.
Take Reformation, for example. The L.A. label, founded by Yael Aflalo, has recently been exposed for cultivating a racist company culture. So has Zimmermann — no, not George Zimmerman, the cop who got away with the murder of a 17-year-old Black teenager in 2013. Zimmermann, the Australian boho fashion label favoured by the likes of Kendall Jenner and Kate Middleton, which now faces accusations of anti-Black discrimination within the company.
Adidas, one of the first fashion brands to speak up in support of Black Lives Matter, is also being scrutinised for not actually reflecting its statement within its workplace. As are countless other brands that have shared a black box on Instagram.
So, while waiting on the reformation of Reformation and other fashion brands in dire need of diversity, why not support those that already promote it? That’s the heart of the 15 Percent Pledge launched by designer Aurora James, calling on American retailers to better represent Black-owned businesses.
We’ve curated a shopping list for you below to introduce some of star examples of Black-owned fashion label that you should be adding on your radar.
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(Header photo credit: Pyer Moss for Reebok)
This article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore
Christopher John Rogers: floral-print cotton skirt
If you think this looks like a dress that Rihanna would wear, you’re right. Emerging designer Christopher John Rogers is known for his flamboyant designs that marry volume with colour. If you’re feeling bold and beautiful, this ankle-length dress comes highly recommended. It is emblazoned with the brand’s statement blooms, complete with pockets at the front for that laid-back sophistication.
HK$5,773.74 from Net-a-porter
Brother Vellies: see-through strappy mule
If you think the square-toe trend is worn out, break into the various unique styles offered at Brother Vellies. The accessories label, founded by the aforementioned Aurora James, is aimed at keeping traditional African design practices alive. Its handbags and shoes, like this feathered mule, are handcrafted by independent artisans in Africa using eco-friendly and upcycled materials to help reduce its climate impact.
HK$5,449 from Farfetch
Wales Bonner: tailored canvas jacket
London designer Grace Wales Bonner started her fashion label for men, delving deep into themes like her African heritage and alternative ideas of masculinity. No surprise then, that her womenswear reflects this too. You might recognise this jacket’s silhouette — it echoes Dior’s iconic Bar jacket, which Wales Bonner was invited to redesign for the brand’s Resort 2020 collection. We recommend this version if you want to nail the intellectual look so integral to Wales Bonner.
HK$$7,916 HK$3,958 from Matchesfashion (50% off)
Pyer Moss: black long line hooded parka
Kerby Jean-Raymond hates the term “streetwear”, so don’t use that label on his designs for Pyer Moss. Instead, call it a sportswear-influenced uniform for the socially-conscious. The New York designer is known for using his fashion shows as a platform to highlight issues like racism, police brutality, and more. His brand will speak to anyone who cares about the same things.
HK$$9390 HK$3287 from Ssense (65% off)
Cushnie: asymmetric open-back draped embellished silk-chiffon dress
Michelle Obama is a big fan of Cushnie, if that tells you anything about the brand’s ability to make women feel confident and beautiful in your own skin. Its SS20 collection draws inspiration from the ’80s movie Splash, which gives this asymmetric dress its mermaid-like colours and embellishments. Crafted from dusty-rose silk-chiffon, the dress comes adorned with iridescent paillettes, fringe and beads, and features a plunging cowl neckline and an open back with thin, crossover straps.
HK$15,081 from Net-a-porter
Thebe Magugu: cinched waist trench coat
Thebe Magugu made history as the first African designer to bag the LVMH Prize last year, and it’s easy to see why. Like Brother Vellies and Wales Bonner, the Magugu’s eponymous label is rooted in African culture, as is its whole production process. We love this cinched waist trench coat for its contemporary and feminine design, especially the added storm flap and drawstrings details that create unique shapes and volumes for an interesting visual.
HK$11,295 from Farfetch
Telfar: black large shopping bag
“It’s not for you — it’s for everyone” is the motto of the unisex fashion label Telfar. Its iconic Shopping Bag, dubbed the “Bushwick Birkin”, has now become a symbol of inclusivity, especially among the queer, Black creative community in New York. The Telfar bag, approved by Solange and Dua Lipa, is almost always sold out, so we wouldn’t sit on this purchase.
HK$1,900 from Ssense
Mowalola: indigo & green denim Xscape dress
For tie-dye looks that aren’t boring, check out Mowalola. The label, helmed by Nigerian-British designer Mowalola Ogunlesi, offers a psychedelic brand of glamour that is hard to find elsewhere. That’s probably why it already has a cult following, including the likes of Megan Thee Stallion and Solange. It goes without saying that Mowalola’s leather jackets and minidresses are made for the club, or anywhere else the cool kids hang out.
HK$11,210 HK$3,924 from Ssense