While sitting in my computers for fashion class during the first semester of my sophomore year (which was my first semester of fashion design) I realized that I couldn't name any mainstream black designers. I sat in my seat wondering, "hold up, am I really sitting in this fashion class and I can't name a big time designer who is also black?". I couldn't, and according to my professor Michael-Birch Pierce it wasn't really my fault.
My professor had given us a project in which we were to design a collection for a specific designer using prints. First of all, I hated prints, of any kind at that time (I have grown from this notion). Second of all, I wanted to design for a black designer. The only problem was, I couldn't think of one. "Tracy Reese!" Professor Pierce crooned from the front of the echoing classroom. "Look her up, I bet you'll like her". I did, and I did.
It was then that I realized that my relationship with art had not been diverse, at all. Now looking back, not once, had I, in the arts, had a black professor until my junior year of college, and even then I had to travel to the other side of the world to find one. Two actually, Donald Early (both my favorite person and my arch nemesis, who ultimately made me a better illustrator (and he was buddies with Antonio Lopez)) and Sandra Wilkins. Two people who were not only super (and I mean super) hard on me, but knew that I had what it took to be great.
So, sitting in my computers for fashion class, I began my journey into the world of black artists and designers and the curiosity of their undergrounded-ness. Now, I look at these designers and I see myself. I see a space made for me and my voice. And so, here are 5 designers (who happen to be black) to look out for in the coming days, months and years in fashion:
DESIGNER: Felisha Noel, womenswear designer from Brooklyn, NY
LOCATION: Based in Brooklyn
ABOUT: Fe Noel is composed of a beautiful array of flowering silhouettes, patterns and vibrant colors. The brand is inspired in large part by Noel’s Carribbean heritage and close-knit family. She credits her mother and grandmother for showing what drive, determination, and a humble heart will earn you.
WHAT I'M LOVING: Fe Noel has become a favorite of mine in the past couple of months. The colors, the shapes, the draping, honestly its all absolutely beautiful. The way that the clothing simply interacts with, and lives on the body is exquisite and each piece is exciting and graceful. The brand itself is very inspiring to me, and has reminded me to push towards soft, but strong femininity (an area that I easily stray away from). The simplicity and yet complexity of it all is right up my alley and truly speaks to me as a designer. Overall this brand speaks to me as an artist and as a woman.
CEO & ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: Robyn Rihanna Fenty
LOCATION: Born in Paris and made in France and Italy
ABOUT: According to the house’s founder Robyn Rihanna Fenty, the fenty Brand stands for freedom from convention and rules. “Women are forces of this earth...We are multifaceted, complex vulnerable… and Fenty speaks to all of our intricacies” says Fenty.
WHAT I'M LOVING: First of all, great minds think alike because that arch cut-out mini skirt is a winner. Ms. Fenty really gave us (and continues to give us) elevated looks with a style that screams ANTI. It's truly Rihanna in garment form, daring, oversized, fitted, moody, exclusive, inclusive, softly badass. It's so dynamic, and yet so simple. Obviously it's multifaceted. What I love about this brand is that Rihanna is bringing a different perspective to the world of high fashion. She is opening doors into the rooms of luxury and letting herself in.
CHRISTOPHER JOHN ROGERS
DESIGNER: Christopher John Rogers
LOCATION: Brooklyn based designer
ABOUT: Recent winner of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, Rogers has stated that he designs for a client who has a strong sense of self. His designs carry a message of “feeling the fantasy” and “feeling the look” which can only be worn by someone who will communicate that attitude. The brand exists to create timeless clothing that is full of emotion and sensitivity, with a focus on occasion wear (aka dressing up).
WHAT I'M LOVING: I'm usually not into things this extra, but I think that this is the most beautifully that I've seen extra be done. DRAMA. Rogers shows us that a garment/look doesn't have to be loaded with 10,000 different details to be dramatic, to make an impact. Rogers exhibits an understanding of volume, silhouette, and textiles that gets his message of drama across without the bells and whistles. He designs with the intent of showing us what the fabric can do and what he chose to do with it. This is an aspect that I truly appreciate and identify with as a designer. This brand is for the woman who knows who she is, she doesn't need to stand out, she just does.
DESIGNER: Kerby Jean-Raymond
LOCATION: Produced in New York, Italy and Portugal.
ABOUT: Pyer Moss aims to use its design-based platform to begin conversation and challenge social narratives. The founder of Pyer Moss, Kerby Jean-Raymond, has described the brand as an “art project” or a “timely social experiment”. The brand redefines itself every season with collections and runways that combine theater, music, storytelling and social activism.
WHAT I'M LOVING: Pyer Moss has been on my radar since the Met Gala in May. Everything is COOL. I can't even explain why I love this brand as much as I do, but I shall try. Pyer Moss has an air of social understanding and a wisdom about it that I don't really see too much in fashion. The clothing is a message in itself along with the way that it is presented and spoken about. There is a story. It is clear. It is real. It is beautiful.
DESIGNER: Bishme Cromartie, designer from Baltimore, Maryland
LOCATION: Baltimore based
ABOUT: Bishme Cromartie has said that a majority of his collections have been inspired by Baltimore, his hometown (also mine). His designs, which can be described as contemporary avant-garde, architecturally sculpt and beautifully celebrate a woman's body. According to Cromartie, his mission as a designer is to “encourage self expression, advocate for representation, and shatter the expectations for people of color in the fashion industry”.
WHAT I'M LOVING: I recently came across Bishme through a friends instagram story and I saw something that I liked and connected with. There is a vision and I can dig it. Simple, sculptural, just enough detail. Ah such a perfect storm. There is an air of sculpted-streetwear-sophistocation and a wisdom about the garments. They actually speak. The intentional details, the attention to shape, volume and color is exciting and fresh. I'd like to see what Bishme does in the coming months and year. I will definitely be watching out.
So, these are my 5 designers to watch. I hope you enjoyed.
If you have any particular topics that you'd like me to write about then please leave a comment. Feedback is greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading!