Though the fashion industry isn’t the most inclusive institution, Black designers are finally receiving rightful praise for their innovation and creation of trends that parade around social media, catwalks and couture. From the beloved work of Telfar Clemens to the sustainable practices of Brother Vellies, here are five designers to celebrate this Black History Month.
The Queens native has continually graced catwalks with dynamic and glamorous women’s wear. Recently, he has received universal recognition for his 2019 Spring Ready-to-Wear collection. LaQuan Smith makes clothing that become instant trends; whether it’s because of his intricate and provocative patterns or flattering silhouettes, his ingenuity and progressiveness in his designs are obvious. His most recent show at New York Fashion Week paid homage to André Leon Talley and elegantly captured why his craftsmanship is impressive and important to the next generation of eager designers.
Haitian-American knitwear connoisseur, Victor Glemaud has a bold eye for creating sensual, everyday wear. Glemaud was a CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund finalist in 2017 among other impressive achievements including working as a studio director at Paco Rabanne and a style director at Tommy Hilfiger. He recently championed the global network IN THE BLK to connect and uplift Black creatives, describing the platform to InStyle as “a safe haven for like minded creatives who want to see change.” Glemaud’s knitwear is often defined by its sleekness and laidback allure. When knitwear comes to mind, more often than not frumpy and heavy sweaters are consistent – adjectives such as sleek, form-fitting and sexy are unusual. Glemaud crafts the latter, pushing the boundaries of womenswear while uplifting and creating space for Black creators and designers.
Most people are aware of Telfar Clemens; if not, they must be living under a rock. Clemens’ iconic vegan leather Telfar shopping bag, embossed with a large “T” in every color granted him notoriety in the fashion industry. He became even more popular among those who desperately wanted to get their hands on one. Clemens is highly decorated in awards and achievements, one being for his work designing Liberia’s uniform for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Clemens’ unisex apparel is unmatched by anything done before given its affordability and on-trend design that is accessible to all.
Simply put, Fe Noel consistently makes ethereal, eccentric womenswear. Inspired by her Grenadian heritage, the Brooklyn-based designer is best known for her swimwear that bolsters fun patterns and bright colors. Noel’s collections are size-inclusive and set the standard for what attractive and comfortable swimwear should look like. The designer made waves in 2019 for reworking fashion’s devotion to the Renaissance by illustrating Harmonia Rosales’ art of Black women painted in notable works (think Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus”) in her collection of dresses. Noel also started the Fe Noel Foundation, “Dream in Color,” which mentors young women with aspirations to go into the fashion industry who experienced similar anxieties as Noel. With Noel’s career just beginning, it is inspiring to watch her succeed while uplifting the next generation of female designers.
Founded in 2013 by Aurora James, the goal of shoemaker brand Brother Vellies was keeping “traditional African design practices” through working with smaller sustainable artisans. Materials such as vegetable-tanned leathers, recycled tires and carved wood are among many listed on the brand’s website — their transparency in production and dedication to eliminating the “traditional consumption cycle” is praiseworthy. Brother Vellies will be sure to take the industry by storm, especially with their dedication to sustainability. Why buy Steve Madden or Jeffrey Campbell when Brother Vellies makes trendier pieces that are well-crafted, sustainable and pay homage to traditional African design? The most stunning pieces on their website include the cheeky ying-yang styled “2020 Boot,” the brilliant suede “Isla Mule” and highly adored and comfortable “Cloud Socks.” Brother Vellies’ commitment to authenticity in their production and style stands out in the industry; they retain powerful artistry and a vision worth celebrating.
Kaitlin Clapinski covers fashion. Contact her at [email protected].