To commemorate Black History Month we’re honouring the legacy of black designers who left an indelible mark in the world of fashion. Whether it’s their bold sartorial designs or ethically designed accessories, these movers and shakers have successfully diversified the fashion world over the last years.
From New York-based Stephen Burrows, to Toronto native Aurora James, we’ve rounded up five of the best black designers that should inspire you.
This designer launched his own namesake label in the ‘60s and instantly made it to the forefront of African American fashion. Burrows, who learned how to sew from his grandmother, is renowned for his timeless wrap dresses, chiffon dresses, colour-blocked designs, and signature red zigzag stitching.
Over the years, he has gained international recognition and won multiple awards, including the Coty Award for best womenswear (for which he was the first black designer to do so). Today, he dresses celebrities like Oprah, Taylor Swift, Naomi Campbell, and more.
Popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Dapper Dan originally started out with a boutique in Harlem where he designed made-to-order pieces catering to the hip-hop industry. “I had trouble sewing my life together, so God made me a tailor. Then, a dream of being a designer was born,” Dan once stated. His clients includes celebrities like Jay Z, Salma Hayek, and more.
In 2018, Dan made a major comeback through a collaboration with creative director Alessandro Michele of Gucci. The designer now has a Gucci atelier studio in Harlem to pay tribute to his legacy.
Launched in 2011 by Nigerian fashion designer Andrea Dumebi Iyamah, this Canadian brand celebrates the culture and heritage of Africa through its unique range of resortwear, swimwear, and bridal wear
Iyamah has won favour for its contemporary and feminine silhouettes, and celebrities like Michelle Obama, Kate Hudson, Gabrielle Union, and Issa Rae have been spotted donning the label’s bold designs.
Founded in 2013 by Torontonian Aurora James, Brother Vellies crafts ethically designed luxury shoes, handbags, and accessories. Each piece is handmade by artisans in Morocco, Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, Haiti, and Mexico.
Prior to starting her own label, James worked in the fashion industry as a creative consultant. In 2011, while travelling in Africa, she was inspired by the workmanship of local artisans. That’s when she decided to initiate a collaboration with the communities to help preserve the country’s traditional design practices and craft techniques. Today, her designs have dressed the likes of Beyoncé and Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle.
Christopher John Rogers
Since 2018, Rogers’ eponymous label has swiftly made it to the inner circle of the fashion world. From supermodels Bella Hadid and Hailey Beiber, to singers Lady Gaga and Rihanna, the designer’s bright and rainbow-esque ensembles have captivated a host of celebrities.
“When I moved to New York in the summer of 2016, cutting and sewing discount fabrics in my apartment with friends in my Brooklyn apartment, I couldn’t have predicted the current trajectory that my career would be on,” he recently wrote. In 2021, Rogers received the CFDA American Womenswear Designer of the Year award and in 2022, he was recognized in BoF’s 500 list.
Shweta Gandhi | Contributing Writer