Wow, guys. The world has taken a turn this past week. Last week, we were all stunned by yet another Black life unjustly taken in America. And finally, after one too many familiar, tragic and completely unnecessary incidences of senseless murders, we are finally speaking out. We're finally standing together against systemic marginalization, repression and prejudice. But there is still so much work to do. So much. I'm continuing to navigate, listen and educate myself on why this is and how we can work to change it. I'm holding myself accountable for it and have shared ways in which we, and I, can show up for the Black community on Instagram. I'm committed to highlighting more designers and artists of color. To start, I'm highlighting some of my favorite, as well as new-to-me Black designers, who are making waves in the fashion industry with their incredible talents. Let's support them. More to come, friends . . .
Atlanta-based designer Asiyami “Gold” Wekulom is known for incorporating traditional prints and textures from her Nigerian culture into her designs. Her latest collection 'India' celebrates the rich culture with exquisite fabrics and voluminous, bold and playful silhouettes.
Brother Vellies founder and designer Aurora James is a champion for sustainability and social activism. The Brooklyn-based designer has committed her brand to use locally sourced materials while employing artisans across Morocco, Ethiopia and South Africa with living wages. Her stunning shoe designs, including calf hair booties, embossed leather cowboy boots and feathered heeled sandals, have earned her the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award in 2015. In recent years, she's worked to create custom products to benefit Planned Parenthood and the Women’s March and in recent days, Aurora has called on the fashion retail industry to pledge 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses.
One of my all-time favorite designers Tracey Reese recently relaunched her brand with Hope for Flowers. After over 30 years in the fashion industry, she felt the need to embrace a whole new, sustainable and ethical model for her business. Her collections are designed and produced following three principals of sustainability: health of the employees, ethical sourcing and equity in profit. Also, 10% of all sales go to Detroit Dirt to offset environmental impact.
Danish accessories designer Yvonne Koné combines her minimalistic Scandinavian design roots with the colorful references from her Ivory Coast ancestry. Her bags are made with butter-soft leather and although playful in design, totally functional and fuss free. And chic!
I first fell in love with lemlem's breezy and colorfully woven scarves back in 2011. Today the label, founded by model Liya Kebede, includes swimwear and the most amazing breezy, beach-ready essentials for women, men and children. The artisan and ethical Ethiopian-based brand continues its commitment to lemelem's philantropic arm, a non-profit organization aimed to help woman artisans in Africa thrive by connecting them to healthcare, education and pathways to jobs.
Designer Akosua Afriyie-Kumi founded AAKS to introduce the world to the beautiful weaving techniques done by the women of her native country Ghana. Her collection of shoulder bags, totes and cross body bags are woven incorporating colorful and ecologically harvested raffia from family farmers in Ghana. It takes, on average, about one full week to complete an AAKS bag.
Designer Felisha Noel was drawn to fashion at a very young age. Her mother, who immigrated to the US from Grenada, worked in a clothing factory in Manhattan and would often come home with fabrics for her daughter to play with. Fast forward several years and after running her own boutique in Brooklyn, Felisha launched her own label, inspired by the strong circle of women in her life. Her clothing is expressive, dramatically feminine and wonderfully colorful. Just ask Michelle Obama, she's a fan!
Aminah Abdul-Jillil was a professional dancer before launching her eponymous shoe label in 2012. Her sandals can recognized for their signature, dramatic bows and feminine details. I'm absolutely obsessed with her neon PVC bow flip flops - definitely buying myself a pair for summer!