FAB L’Style

FAB L’Style is the global voice of established & emerging luxury. An international, fashion, art, beauty and lifestyle magazine in English based in Vienna, Austria. Ever mindful of equality, we embrace the diversity of inclusive beauty, and having a sustainable mindset.

Black History Month: Celebrating Iconic Black Designers’ Contributions

Black History Month 2023: Black Resistance

Black History Month, also known as African American History Month, is a yearly celebration of African Americans’ achievements in various industries. In 1976, President Gerald Ford formally recognised Black History Month, urging people to “take advantage of the occasion to honour the too-often overlooked contributions of the black community in every field of endeavour throughout our history.” Black History Month is observed in February each year, and it has evolved into a time to publicly recognise the contributions and legacy of African Americans and other black people to society.

This Black History Month, we at Fabl’style want to recognise some of the many black people who have made significant contributions to the world of fashion. These creative geniuses’ works have redefined fashion in unique ways. Also, these black people have pushed to create inclusivity in the fashion industry, ensuring that future generations of black children have a place in the industry. Check Swahili Culture And Its Contributions To African Fashion(Opens in a new browser tab). This year’s theme is “black resistance,” so we’d like to recognise many black designers who surmounted all obstacles to attain success. Though the list is long, we are going to highlight a few.

#1 Elizabeth Keckley, Slave turned Fashion Designer

The theme for Black History Month 2023 is “Black Resistance,” and it is only fair to start our list with a woman who, as a black person, resisted every obstacle to succeed as a fashion designer, especially at a time when black people were still heavily discriminated against. Elizabeth Keckley was an African American seamstress, entrepreneur, and former slave who became prominent during the Civil War. Despite being born into slavery in Virginia in 1818, she was able to buy her and her son’s freedom in 1855.

After relocating to Washington, D.C., Keckley found success as a dressmaker and seamstress and later started her own fashion company. One of her major successes as a black fashion designer was dressing prominent and rich women, including Mary Todd Lincoln, the wife of President Abraham Lincoln. Keckley played a key role in African American history as a result of her commercial success, activism, and willingness to share her narrative.

#2 Ann Lowe: A Role Model For All Minority Fashion Designers in Black History Month

African American fashion designer Ann Lowe had a huge impact on the 20th-century fashion industry. She was born in Clayton, Alabama, in 1898 and showed an early interest in fashion by learning to sew from her grandmother. Lowe later launched her own fashion house in New York after completing her studies at the S.T. Taylor Design School in New York City. She immediately established a reputation for creating dresses that were opulent and refined, and society’s elite were in great demand for her creations. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, one of the most well-known women of her era, wore one of her creations when she married President John F. Kennedy. She also designed gowns for other prominent women of the day.

In addition to her creative use of materials and exquisite attention to detail, Lowe was renowned for the beauty and classic elegance of her works. Lowe persevered in her craft and produced stunning and unforgettable gowns throughout her career, despite encountering numerous challenges because of her colour and gender. There are many contributions that Lowe has made to the fashion industry. She, for example, paved the way for many other aspiring fashion designers. She also served as an inspiration, especially for those from minority backgrounds. Her legacy acts as motivation for new generations of designers and proof of the influence one individual can have on the fashion industry.

#3 Zelda Wynn Valdes: Black History Month Diva

Zelda Valdes has been praised for the emergence of black costume designers in Hollywood. Midway through the 20th century, Zelda Valdes, an African-American designer, rose to prominence in the entertainment sector. She became recognised as one of the best costume designers of her era thanks to her inventive designs and preference for bold colours. Valdes was one of the few black designers renowned for having designed costumes for numerous famous people and entertainers, some of whom included Dorothy Dandridge, Josephine Baker, Marian Anderson, Ella Fitzgerald, Mae West, Ruby Dee, Eartha Kitt, and Sarah Vaughan. She also worked for a number of theatres and dance organisations, and several Hollywood movies have used her costume designs. Don’t miss Afrofuturism: Beginner’s Roadmap To Liberation.

Despite encounters with bigotry and prejudice throughout her career, Valdes persevered, leaving a lasting impression on the field of costume design. In 1948, Valdes became the first black fashion designer to start her own store. This store would become the first black-owned enterprise in New York City at that time. The list of black people who have contributed to the fashion world is not complete without Valdes’ name on it. Her story and work continue to inspire many young African Americans who would love to venture into the fashion business.

#4 Willi Smith: Streetwear originator

The first thing that comes to mind when Willi Smith’s name pops up is streetwear. Smith is reputed to have invented streetwear. His popular brand, WilliWear, had the masses as its primary audience. Smith made this known when he said that he didn’t design clothes for the queen but for the people that waved at her as she went by. Willi Smith was born in 1948 in Philadelphia and was one of the first African Americans to experience huge success and recognition in the fashion world. He became prominent as one of the leading figures of the “sportswear” fashion movement in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This was a decade when black designers began to exert their influence on fashion.

Willi’s brand placed an emphasis on casual, comfortable clothing for everyday wear. Bright hues, striking graphics, and the creative use of odd textiles were some of the hallmarks of Smith’s popular creations. Smith once said that his clothes were for everyone. “Fashion is a people thing, and designers should remember that. Models pose in clothes; people live in them.” Smith’s WilliWear line, rejecting simple categorisation, featured a variety of items, including graphic T-shirts, avant-garde dresses, and daring sportswear.

#5 Dapper Dan, Gave Rappers a Signature Style

Dapper Dan’s real name is Daniel Day. He is a Harlem couture designer who rose to prominence in the late 1980s and early 1990s as the tailor who gave rap culture its signature, gangster-inspired style. Dapper Dan is dubbed the “king of knock-offs.” Dapper Dan is reputed to have reworked traditional luxury-house products to outfit some emerging hip-hop stars, athletes, and gamblers, such as LL Cool J, James Jackon, and Floyd Mayweather.

Dapper’s most well-known designs were audacious and avant-garde fusions of high fashion, streetwear, and hip-hop culture. Hip-hop artists and celebrities were great fans of his designs, which frequently featured designer labels like Louis Vuitton and Gucci. His work also contributed to the development of the hip-hop fashion movement’s look. Dapper Dan continues to produce sought-after clothing and accessories, and he is still regarded as a legendary figure in the fashion industry today.

#6 Sean Combs: The first African American to win CFD’s Designer of the Year

“In 2004, the Council of Fashion Designers of America named Sean Menswear Designer of the Year, and equally impressive, he was the first African American to win this award.”

The name Sean Combs may sound unfamiliar to many of us, but what about Diddy or Puff Daddy? Yes, you guessed right—Diddy’s real name is Sean Combs, and apart from being a rapper and producer, he is also a fashion entrepreneur. Combs has made significant contributions to the fashion industry by constantly setting trends in the world of hip-hop fashion. Comb’s journey in the fashion industry started in 1998, when he started his own apparel company under the name Sean John. The apparel line immediately gained popularity and accolades for being both well-made and fashionable. Since then, Sean John has grown to provide a wide variety of clothes, including suits, outerwear, and accessories.

Sean Combs has been seen on many occasions wearing Sean John clothing, using his platform as a celebrity to promote the clothing brand and also the fashion industry in general. Other than his fashion-related projects, Sean Combs has tried to advance the careers of young designers and models of colours. Over the years, he has been very vocal in his support for diversity in the fashion industry. Overall, Sean Combs has had a significant impact on the fashion business, and he continues to influence modern design and style.

#7 Duro Olowu: Reinvented African-European Style

Black History Month celebration is incomplete with recognising Duro Olowu, a Nigerian-British fashion designer who has significantly impacted the fashion business. He is renowned for using brilliant prints and strong colours, as well as for his eclectic and colourful designs that combine African and European aesthetics. For his works, Olowu draws inspiration from both his Nigerian roots and his travels across the world. Many of his works frequently combine surprising patterns, textures, and hues. But that is not all. Olowu is also recognised for his novel use of traditional African fabrics such as ankara and adire, which he would then blend with traditional European fabrics such as silk and linen. Most often, this combination results in eye-catching and unique pieces. By doing this, Olowu has succeeded in reinventing African styles and exporting them to the global stage.

There are other ways that Olowu has contributed to fashion, and one of them is through his advocacy of ethical fashion practices. He advocated very strongly for fair labour practises as well as inclusivity in the fashion industry. Many of Olowu’s works have been featured in various publications, including Vogue and Haper’s Baarza, and his designs have been worn by a number of high-profile celebrities and politicians, including Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey.

#8 Tracy Reese, Celebrates Inclusive Beauty

Tracy Reese is an African American designer who is well renowned for her beautiful, feminine designs. Tracy’s designs have a reputation for celebrating the beauty of women of all body types. Her designs are loved and have been worn by numerous celebrities and political figures. Some of the peculiarities of Reese’s designs are their bold prints, vivid colours, and intricate details, which have won her many fans. Since launching her fashion line in 1998, Reese has become a leading voice in the fashion world, and she has won many awards. Also, many in the industry have praised Reese for her dedication to sustainability and ethical production methods. She is a strong advocate for using eco-friendly materials and has taken steps to ensure that her production process is environmentally responsible.

The above-listed people are just a few of the numerous black designers and stylists who have made significant contributions to the fashion industry. We still have the likes of Ruby Bailey, Jay Jaxon, Patrick Kelly, Stella Jean, Patrick Robinson, Virgil Abloh, Telfar Clemens, Aurora James, LaQuan Smith, and Kanye West, among many others. The works of these great people have influenced the fashion industry, and the resistance with which they have worked hard to be successful continues to inspire countless others to believe that they too can pursue a career in the fashion industry.

Black History Month, Recognising Pioneering Black Music Artists
Black History Month, Pioneering Black Music Artists

Black History Month, Recognising Pioneering Black Music Artists

What’s Black: Black Excellence, Black Resistance, and Black History Month
A vivid display of fashion as resistance, featuring bold Afro-centric designs and textiles as a celebration of Black History Month.

What’s Black: Black Excellence, Black Resistance, and Black History Month

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