8 Black Designers to Shop From This Holiday Season (and Year-round)
It's shopping season, whether you're giving yourself something incredible, updating your wardrobe, or buying gifts for loved ones. Yes, winter's buttery soft leather pants, chic cable-knit sweaters, and oversized wool coats are calling. But beyond that, this holiday shopping season (or a shopping spree at any time of year) is a great time to use your purchasing power as a means of rallying for more diversity and inclusion in the fashion industry. While filling online shopping carts, reflect on how you can shop more equitably; In addition to visiting your favorite retailers, introduce new-to-you luxury brands to your rotation, starting with these eight Black designers.
Christopher John Rogers
Move over minimalism. Christopher John Rogers, the 2021 CFDA American Womenswear Designer of the Year, is bringing bold, statement-making clothes to the mainstream. His exuberant designs, in saturated hues and couture-like shapes, are a refreshing change to a year spent in sweatpants. This year, the Baton Rouge-born, Brooklyn-based designer landed a Target collection, dressed big names like Lady Gaga and Adele, and, perhaps most notably, outfitted both Michelle Obama and Vice President Kamala Harris — the latter in a vibrant purple coat and dress for the historic 2021 inauguration ceremony.
Bring some sunshine into your closet. Designer Edvin Thompson, the creative behind Theophilio and this year's CFDA American Emerging Designer of the Year award recipient, crafts sustainable clothes inspired by his home country, Jamaica. Since launching the label in 2016, his roots influence the color palette (Caribbean shades along with a good dose of red, green, and gold, representing the Rastafarian flag), fabrics (sexy mesh and crochet knits), and silhouettes (body-hugging catsuits, breezy culottes, and cutout dresses) of his buzzworthy and good-for-the-planet collections.
Fear of God
Sweatpants are our new normal, but nuanced details separate frumpy loungewear from elevated Americana. It's something Jerry Lorenzo understands all too well, and he's built his Los Angeles-based label, Fear of God, to cult status by cutting french terry just so. His languid silhouettes drape to perfection for a subtle cool look that drips luxury and effortless sophistication all at once. And if the price point for his mainline is too steep — the brand now offers suiting, knits, and accessories that range from $600 for a t-shirt to $2,700 for an overcoat — try to get your hands on his lower-priced Essentials label. But fair warning, set your alarm because the Essentials drops sell out in an instant.
LaQuan Smith is bringing sexy back. Or at least he's empowering women to embrace their curves with his attention-commanding creations. The designer's unapologetically provocative clothes — from head-turning catsuits to body-hugging separates — are a favorite of risk-takers like Hailey Bieber, Beyonce, the Kardashians, and Rihanna. While the Queens native is expanding his glamourous label beyond eveningwear, strong lines and sensuality remain at the core of the brand's DNA.
Designer Kerby Jean-Raymond, known for his brand Pyer Moss, isn't interested in typical fashion shows or fashion just for the sake of fashion. One of the stars of NYFW, he sees the runways as a platform for activism. From Black cowboys in the 19th century to Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the singer-songwriter credited as being the godmother of rock 'n' roll, each one of his collections is inspired by and draws attention to the Black American experience. Last year, the Haitian American designer was appointed creative director at Reebok and launched Reebok Studies, a division dedicated to fostering new design talent. And during the fall 2021 couture schedule, he became the first Black American to officially put on an haute couture show. His inspiration: 25 inventions from Black creators.
Whether looking for sexy lace-up sandals, bold black-and-white cow hair boots, or breezy handwoven Huarache slip-ons, Brother Vellies is a go-to for statement-making accessories. Founder Aurora James (the designer behind AOC's headline-making "Tax the Rich" MET Gala dress) created her brand based on traditional African designs and techniques she fell in love with. James also kickstarted the 15 Percent Pledge, a nonprofit demanding that major retailers like Sephora and Bloomingdale's commit to carrying 15 percent of their inventory from Black-owned businesses. For her efforts, she received The Founder's Award at the 2021 CFDA ceremony.
Don't call him an overnight success. Designer Telfar Clemens has been in fashion for more than 15 years. But last year, when COVID-19 made our fashion choices more utilitarian than ever, his Telfar Shopping bag, coined the "the Bushwick Birkin" for its popularity among hip, creative Brooklynites, became the 'it' back of 2020 and beyond. The ubiquitous carryall, with its trademark T logo, is beloved by everyone from Oprah to Zoë Kravitz and sells out in minutes every time it's on offer. The brand is known for its inclusive messaging (the Liberian-American started his eponymous brand with the motto "Not for you, for everyone"). Next up, the brand is making a big push with its genderless clothes. Get ready for the waitlist.
After Raf Simons' high-fashion turn at Calvin Klein, the brand sought out Heron Preston, an artist, creative director, DJ, and clothing designer, to jumpstart their cool cred. The spring 2021 collection, called Heron Preston for Calvin Klein, elevates everyday staples (t-shirts, underwear, hoodies) in stylish, modern silhouettes and muted colors. (Look for his personal stamp in the details, like orange stitching and an orange box logo). Sustainability is a big part of Preston's mission, and the collection uses recycled plastic bottles and recycled nylon in the denim and joggers. In addition to his CK line, be sure to browse the men's clothing Preston makes for his eponymous brand.
Brandon Blackwood's viral "End Systemic Racism" bag launched in July 2020 and catapulted the brand to success. Shortly after its release, Kim Kardashian posted an image on Instagram with the small tote, and the rest is history. The bag sold out in hours and prompted other celebrities and influencers to pose with their own version. Blackwood whose business thrived during these trying times, savvily engages with his customer base on the social media platform, soliciting their feedback, allowing them to customize (his collections come in a variety of sizes and color offerings), and hyping his new releases. On the horizon: the brand is expanding to outerwear and glasses.
Virgil Abloh passed away on Nov. 28, 2021 at age 41. Creative director of Louis Vuitton and founder of Off___White, Abloh was undoubtedly one of this centuries' most influential designers. His vision will continue to shine through in Off___White and Louis Vuitton's pieces. In fact, Vuitton just showed Abloh's final collection at a Miami show called "Virgil was here." Abloh fans can also shop Off___White's latest releases, and continue to check back on the high-concept brand's releases in support of Black LGBTQIA+ migrants.
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