It’s hard to believe that in 2019, under one percent of designers found in department stores and major e-commerce sites are people of color, but that’s the harsh truth. Check out this list of talented Black designers, support and let up know who we missed!
Darlene and Lizzy Okpo
There’s a new sister duo on the scene in the fashion design industry. Similar to the sibling duos behind Rodarte and The Row, sisters Darlene Okpo,28, and Lizzy Okpo, 24, used family influences and their love for 90’s hip hop as the inspiration for their fashion label William Okpo, whose flagship store opened in the South Street Seaport in NYC. The Okpo ladies named their clothing brand after their father, who’s well dressed style in the 70’s greatly influenced their love for fashion design.
After working for Opening Ceremony clothing boutique in NYC, owners Humberto Leon and Carol Lim started to carry the Okpo’s line of ready-to-wear fashion and accessories with it’s clean, voluminous silhouettes in bright, nineties-hip-hop-minded colors. The sisters bold, colorful designs caught the eye of Solange Knowles and together they collaborated on a Puma Disc sneaker. The owners of Opening Ceremony eventually encouraged the Okpo sisters to open their own store.
Maxwell Osborne along with his business partner Dao Yi-Chow are the owners of the fashion brand Public School NYC. The brand has won accolades from the Council of Fashion Designers of America and also received praise from fashion photography guru Anna Wintour. Originally started as a menswear brand, these guys launched a women’s wear line in February 2014 which was greeted with much adulation. The sky is no longer the limit as Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow are now the creative designers for women’s wear line DKNY.
Tracy Reese graduated from Parsons School of Design in 1984 and began her career as a designer for Perry Ellis. Ms. Reese started her own women’s ready-to-wear line in 1996 and followed that up with a second line of her own called Plenty in 1998. Her collections have been dubbed as bohemian, eclectic and adventurous with a high focus on ultra femininity. Tracy Reese has an extensive collection of ready-to-wear clothing, accessories, and home fashions such as linens that can be found at her own website, at Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus or Bloomingdale’s to name a few. In 2007 Tracy was inducted as a board member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Ituen Basi is a Nigerian designer who started her own fashion line in 2009. Due to her immense talent, she has won prestigious awards such as “Most Innovative Designer” and “Emerging Designer of the Year, Africa.” Ms. Basi received her BA of Theatre Arts degree from the University of Life in Nigeria and then honed her skills even further by studying at the renown London College of Fashion. Her unique take on fashion allows Ituen to create functional but wearable art pieces. The Ituen Basi brand has been described as “a celebration of individuality and feminism, a stylish combination of timeless elegance with a contemporary twist.” (Photo via Samir Hussein/Getty)
Web Site –http://www.ituenbasi.co.uk/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Ituen-Basi-210689262451170/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/ituenbasi
Dexter and Byron Peart
Dexter and Byron Peart are renown for making functional, luxury leather bags, backpacks and canvas totes, priced well below their competitor’s offerings. Some of their bags are named after international airports like Orly and O’Hare. The brothers opened their first store Want Les Essentiels de La Vie in Montreal, Canada. In 2014, the Pearts opened a second store in Greenwich Village in NYC and introduced a women’s accessories collection along with a men’s shoe collection done in the same fine leathers as their bags. In early 2016 they will be opening a store in Tokyo, Japan. The Peart twins’ products are in the same league as venerable luxury brands like Prada and Balenciaga.
Web Site –http://www.wantlesessentiels.com/ca_en/
Andrea Iyamah is a fashion line owned by Nigerian fashion designer Dumebi Iyamah. Her clothing line is influenced by her African heritage with it’s vibrant colors and ethnic details. With a love for fashion and the arts, she honed her tailoring skills and educated herself about the fashion industry which allowed her to start her own brand at the age of 17.
Although Andrea Iyamah is known for it’s swimwear collection, the brand also specializes in ready-to-wear and custom made special event dresses. Located in Ontario, Canada, the brand caters to females looking to make a statement at an event or turning heads in an edgy bathing suit on a steamy vacation.
Web Site – http://www.andreaiyamah.com/
Armando Cabral is a model turned entrepreneur who has taken his experience in the fashion industry and turned it into a line of luxury Italian-made men’s shoes which he named after himself. He’s a very familiar face, having graced the pages of J. Crew, GQ and numerous other magazines.
Publications like GQ and the The New York Times have lauded Cabral’s footwear which retail for between $275-$500. After launching his footwear business in 2008, Cabral has since launched a women’s collection and opened his first store in Kuwait
(Photo via Jason Carter Rinaldi/Getty)
Jérôme LaMaar at age 28 has been in the fashion industry for almost half of his life. He got his start at age 15 (yes 15!) as an intern for Kimora Lee Simmons’ Baby Phat women’s collection. Mr. LaMaar has launched his own label called “5:31 Jérôme.” Due to the immense knowledge he gained working for Ms. Simmons, LaMaar passed up the chance to attend Brown University and instead attended the Fashion Institute of Technology. When asked where his design inspiration comes from, Mr. LaMaar says “I lived in two worlds; the streets of the Bronx and the luxury of experiencing life in Paris and Tokyo as a consultant.”
(Photo via Vivien Killilea/Getty)
The stunning Stella Jean is one of Milan’s rising stars. In 2011, she won Vogue Italia’s talent competition, “Who’s on Next,” and now counts designer Armani and Vogue UKeditor Suzy Menkes as fans. Her designs are a true reflection of her and embody ladylike silhouettes. Her prints pay tribute to her mother’s homeland of Haiti, as well as West Africa. (Photo via Gareth Cattermole/Getty)
Nigerian-born designer Duro Olowu began his L fashion line in 2004 in London. It caught the eye of Vogueeditor Sally Singer and Julie Gilhart of Barney’s New York. He’s become famous for his use of bold colors, African prints and ‘70s tailoring. He and his wife, Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem, make one impressive power couple. (photo via Slaven Vlasic/Getty)
Jessie Adore is the current Creative Director for Harlem Fashion Row. She started as a fashion blogger before designing her first phantom handbag in 2013. After receiving critical acclaim and a slew of orders, she decided to start her handbag collection, Adore New York, in 2014. The luxury bags are made of finely crafted leather imported from Italy and manufactured in New York City. (Photo via Adore New York)
June Ambrose is the mastermind stylist and costume designer behind your favorite nineties music videos for artists like Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey and Jay-Z, just to name a few. Ambrose began her company, Mode Squad, when no one was in the business of dressing celebrities. A couple decades later, she has written a book, launched a women’s ready-to-wear collection (June by June Ambrose), and continues to style celebrities. (Photo via Chelsea Lauren/Getty)
While completing her degree at Parsons School of Design, Carly Cushnie perfected her skill as a designer at Donna Karan, Oscar De La Renta and Proenza Schouler. She paired up with Michelle Ochs and launched Cushnie Et Ochs, a women’s ready-to-wear label that has since been donned by celebrities like Reese Witherspoon, Rihanna and Michelle Obama. (Photo via Jemal Countess/Getty)
Neville Wisdom is the Head Designer and Owner of the Neville Wisdom clothing label based in New Haven, Connecticut. Neville began designing and creating clothing at the age of fifteen, and learned many aspects of the trade from watching a local tailor in his small rural town in Jamaica. Neville is mostly self taught, having picked up his love for creating clothing from a combination of necessity and originality––straying from the norm even as a child.
I began making ties for myself and with the encouragement of others, it has blossomed into me being able to offer my bow ties to you. I make everything by hand. I am truly not a tailor or one that is into Haberdashery. I am merely a guy who enjoys bow ties and makes extras to sell. My sewing isn’t always perfect, but the ties always look good. 🙂