Over the weekend, demonstrations were held across the nation protesting the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. They were a call to action, a plea to change systemic racism that pervades all facets of society. The strife seen all over television screens and social media had many, if not all, reeling from the cries for justice—more so for our Black coworkers and colleagues. Indeed, during this time, it can be difficult to know how to help or use your voice.
Aurora James, founder of Brother Vellies, offered guidance. On Instagram, she shared a post with the title card, “Ok, here is one thing you can do for us.” She went on to ask her followers to support Black-owned businesses, relaying, “So many of your businesses are built on Black spending power. So many of your stores are set up in Black communities. So many of your posts seen on Black feeds. This is the least you can do for us. We represent 15% of the population and we need to represent 15% of your shelf space.”
Now, we’re providing you with a place to start. Below, shop the chicest products from Black-owned and -designed labels.
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Aurora James of Brother Vellies
Aurora James walks to the beat of her own drum, and so does her footwear brand, Brother Vellies. Since launching the label in 2013, James has offered incredibly chic shoes that are as whimsical and alluring as they are practical. Moreover, she has been a profound voice in the fashion industry, extolling the need for brand transparency, fair trade, and support for women’s organizations around the globe.
Carly Cushnie of Cushnie
Silk Charmeuse Off the Shoulder Slipdress
From Michelle Obama and Ava DuVernay to Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez, Carly Cushnie has been outfitting women at the top of their game since launching her label in 2008. Her aesthetic may appear simple, but as any fashion lover fully understands, true quality never can be. Her slipdresses, in particular, are crafted with finesse, accentuating the best parts of the body.
“As a woman, I understand what my customer wants from her clothes,” she said. “I’ve grown and evolved alongside her over the past 10 years, and I strive to present her with timeless silhouettes that make her feel sexy, sophisticated, and powerful—all at once.”
Christopher John Rogers
Tie-Front Silk-Gazar Peplum Blouse
It’s all about theatrics for Christopher John Rogers. His choice of silhouettes are grand, his colors are vibrant, and his fabric selections are imaginative. All this considered, it is no wonder why the Louisiana-born designer, at just 26 years old, has swiftly become a darling in the fashion industry and beyond.
Grace Wales Bonner of Wales Bonner
Wide-Leg Tailored Trousers
Politics, identity, and race are at the core of all Grace Wales Bonner’s collections. The British-Jamaican designer began her eponymous company crafting menswear, later segueing into the women’s category. From exceptionally tailored blazers to sleek trousers, all her pieces embody refinement. But upon closer inspection, they also comment on Afro-Atlantic culture, highlighting the nuances that colonization had on the way indigenous cultures dressed.
Yaba Long Fringed Coat
Kenneth Ize 24s.com
Kenneth Ize was catapulted to the fashion stage after becoming a LVMH prize finalist. Still, the Austrian-Nigerian designer has not abandoned his roots, consistently showing collections that celebrate African culture. He works with artisans in Nigeria so as to preserve centuries-old weaving techniques, bringing them forth to his runways that are often stacked with the industry’s top models.
Collarless Double-Breasted Blazer
What women need for work is something the Undra Celeste understands fully. She is, after all, running a fashion business and is her own best customer. From bold dresses to tapered suits, her pieces are polished, flirty, and flattering to all body types. Indeed, they are meant to embolden the wearer and help her rise up the corporate ladder with panache.
Catherine Mahugu of Soko
Nyundo Stacking Rings
With partners Gwendolyn Floyd and Ella Peinovich, Catherine Mahugu created Soko, a jewelry brand that is founded on sustainability. The trio enlists artisans in Kenya to produce pieces from locally sourced, eco-friendly materials. The result is a collection of necklaces, earrings, and rings that are sculptural and modern, and nod to the rich African culture.
Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss
Kerby Jean-Raymond doesn’t follow the leader—nay, he is one. With his brand, Pyer Moss, the New York–based designer creates collections that are directional (some argue that he was the catalyst for streetwear in luxury) and informed by the struggle of Black people in America. His past collection highlighted the fatal impact of police brutality, infusing the ethos of the Black Lives Matter movement onto the runway, and addressed the undervaluing of African-American contributions in popular culture.
Heron Preston Johnson of Heron Preston Johnson
Heron Preston Johnson’s aesthetic is embedded in the zeitgeist. The pieces he designs for his label, Heron Preston, are informed by music, art, and all other forms of pop culture. He cut his teeth working with Virgil Abloh and Kanye West, and has since branched out on his own, offering attention-grabbing menswear that is a favorite of hypbeats and anyone who values real luxury streetwear.
Erin Puff Dress
Since launching his label in 2010, LaQuan Smith has offered collections that are unabashedly sexy and that push the boundaries of good taste. For him, fashion is intended to make a statement and turn heads. From skintight minidresses in snake prints to tops with plunging necklines to mesh skirts that leave little to the imagination, Smith’s designs are for those who want to show off their bodies and are unconcerned with the comments of naysayers.
Malaika Carr of Chalk Jewelry
Black Marble Sola Earrings
Malaika Carr’s background in architecture is evident in her chic collection of sculptural jewelry and the way she goes about designing them. “I tend to look at various typologies when selecting a building for a collection to keep the designs fresh and dynamic,” she told Folklore. “The design process for each collection is the same but the outcome is always very different due to the nature of the buildings.”
Liya Kebede of Lemlem
Eshe Plunge Neck Dress
Founded by supermodel Liya Kebede after meeting weavers in her home nation of Ethiopia, Lemlem is a brand that celebrates African culture—but not in an overt way. Where others emphasize the prints and colors indicative of countries in the continent, Kebede’s label focuses on the craft, adopting techniques and gingerly adding patterns to form elegant basics that feel as good as they look.
Camille Perry of Tove Studio
Designer Camille Perry, along with her partner Holly Wright, believes that it is up to the wearer to conceive her look. Indeed, personal style is paramount when the London-based duo designs pieces, always keeping in mind how a given item can be worn in a variety of ways. For them, clothes are building blocks that help women express themselves in myriad situations and contexts.
Tiered Geometric Print Skirt
An apprentice of Giorgio Armani, Stella Jean is an anomaly in the fashion industry: She is a Black Italian designer and is reputedly the first to receive international acclaim. Jean also deviates from the rest of Italian brethren with regard to her brand’s aesthetic, eschewing tailored, monochromatic suits for ebullient dresses and separates with vibrant colors and coquettish silhouettes.
Python-Embossed Leather Backless Loafers
Martine Rose doesn’t follow convention. Not only does the London-based designer present her collections outside the fashion calendar, her collections don’t center around one theme or aesthetic, but many. “I remember being very aware of different types of people coming together,” she said in an interview to Ssense. “It’s difficult to describe because it was so much more of a feeling or a sense of something, which is actually how I design.”
Telfar Clemens of Clemens
Black Large Shopping Tote
Born in Queens and raised in Liberia and the suburbs of Maryland, Telfar Clemens’s designs are informed by his upbringing. He creates pieces that are inspired by street culture—i.e., hoodies, zippered tops, and roomy trousers—but elevates them to become covetable for the masses. The most pertinent example is a sleek handbag that he designed, coined the “Bushwick Birkin,” which has become a status symbol for youths across the nation—one that, unlike many other items with that signifier, is completely attainable.
Amaka Osakwe of Maki Oh
Silk Satin Adire Shirt
Amaka Osakwe has fans in high places. From Issa Rae to Michelle Obama to Lupita Nyong’o, these powerful women have all worn pieces from the Nigeria-born designer. They seemingly understand the way her collections, which blend African craftsmanship (like adire, Nigerian cloth dyeing) with classic European silhouettes, celebrate empowerment and convey emotion. “Clothing used to be a form of communication,” she told Fast Company. “Cloth would allow you to make a statement, like, ‘I’m happy that you’re here,’ or ‘I’m sorry about what I did earlier.’ ” And though none of her womenswear pieces are currently available, her men’s pieces convey the same sentiment.
Long Sleeve Ribbed Dress
Victor Glemaud has eschewed streetwear references, instead, offering collections composed of classic silhouettes, reworking details so as to make one feel fresh and modern. With an emphasis on knitwear, he has a keen eye for showcasing the form of the body artfully. He designs clothes that encapsulate ease and are intended to spread joy to both the wearer and the viewer.
Abrima Erwiah and Rosario Dawson of Studio One Eighty Nine
Gold Silk Caftan
Studio One Eighty Nine came into fruition after actress Rosario Dawson and fashion executive Abrima Erwiah went on a trip in 2011 to the Democratic Republic of Congo with V-Day—an organization that supports the City of Joy, a center for women affected by sexual violence. Motivated by how these survivors built a business that provided them with health care, allowed them to put their kids through school, and enabled them to be self-sustaining, the duo founded their fashion company to help this initiative. Headquartered in Ghana, the brand works with local artisans in these communities to produce African and African-inspired apparel and accessories.
Matthew Harris of Mateo
14-Karat Gold Malachite Ear Jacket Earrings
In the world of fine jewelry, there are few Black names that register with the masses, or even in the close confines of the fashion industry. Jamaican designer Matthew Harris, in this regard, is a pioneer, attaining renown for his eye-catching sculptural baubles. From Rihanna to buyers at Net-a-Porter, all are fawning over his mastery with metals and gems.
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