As we know, it's Black History Month, so today I wanted to shed light on Black fashion designers—the ones who have undeniably left their mark on the fashion industry despite being overlooked for years. These designers have created chic, sleek and iconic looks for your favorite celebs, past and present, shaping the fashion industry forever.
Ann Lowe was a dress designer, originally from Clayton, Alabama, and born in 1898. Ann became the first black woman to own a store on Madison Ave. in New York. Her mother was a dressmaker, which is how Ann learned her skills. At 16, she had to finish a dress for First Lady of Alabama right after her mother died. A couple years later, she moved to New York and went to design school. She continued making dresses in Harlem for socialites and celebrities from back in the day like the Rockefellers, Olivia de Havilland, and Jackie Kennedy.
Ann was not given the recognition for the dresses she made or even paid at times. It caused her to go into debt, but thankfully someone paid her debt for her. To this day, no one knows who.
Dapper Dan from Harlem, New York, made a name for himself the 80s creating custom pieces from the logos of luxury designer brands for rap icons like LL Cool J and athletes like Mike Tyson. Dapper Dan's designs got him into legal trouble in 1992 when Fendi sued him for breaking their copyright laws. His boutique was raided and shut down.
Dapper Dan made a strong comeback in 2017 when Gucci created a collection inspired by his archive of designs. He partnered with Gucci on a menswear collection that year, and in 2018, he opened the first atelier in Harlem called Dapper Dan's of Harlem.
Kimora Lee Simmons
Kimora Lee Simmons started in the fashion industry as a model at age 13. From modeling she went on to run Baby Phat, one of the most iconic streetwear brands of the 2000s. Kimora was the first Black woman to be in charge of a billion-dollar company, as well as the first Asian woman. Baby Phat was created to give women confidence in fashion through streetwear. The brand recently made a comeback and is being run by Kimora's daughters with hip hop legend Russell Simmons, Aoki Lee and Ming Lee Simmons.
Olivier Rousteing is known for the work he's done at the luxury label Balmain. He started working as a designer at Roberto Cavalli when he was just 18 years old before moving up to the role of creative director in the womenswear division. After a couple of years at Roberto Cavalli, Olivier went on to work for Balmain. In 2011, he became Balmain’s creative director. While in this role, he used social media, specifically Instagram, to promote Balmain and diversity in fashion. Celebs like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian have modeled for Balmain, creating an army of influencers to promote and wear the Balmain brand.
Happy Black History Month, Luvlies! Hope you enjoyed this post. Let’s make an effort to honor and give Black people their props all year long. And if you're not Black, but you want to be an ally, make sure you're doing your part to educate yourself.
Marie Claire’s “The Black Designer Who Shaped Fashion History” article was referenced in this post.