Let's face it: the fashion world is melanin deficient.
Lily-White models strut the runways of opulent brands while models of color are peppered in or nonexistent altogether. The Black fashion designers more inclined to use models of color are either unacknowledged or dubbed “urban” brands. Earlier this year, legendary models Naomi Campbell, Iman and Bethann Hardison rang the alarm, loudly, alerting the masses that fashion hadn’t changed—it was still non-inclusive of people of color.
Black designers are here. Creating. Thriving. Perhaps Duro Olowu or Mimi Plange aren’t household names, yet, but it hasn’t stopped these designers from catching the attention of First Lady Michelle Obama. From Bergdorf Goodman to Saks Fifth Avenue, Blacks in fashion are breaking glass ceilings with sketchpads and sewing machines.
Designer: Duro Olowu
About the designer: The Nigerian-born designer arrived on the London fashion scene in 2004. His signature bright colors and patterns caught the attention of Vogue editor Sally Singer. Even First Lady Michelle Obama recognized his talent and was photographed in one of his floral high-low hemline dresses. His collection is available at Barneys and JCPenney.
Style: Prints and vibrant colors. The flowy dresses in the Spring/Summer 2014 collection exuberate radiance and comfort. The Fall/Winter 2013 collection has a Japanese influence and awes with its vintage chic inspiration.
Celebrities spotted in Duro Olowu: Michelle Obama, Brittany Snow
Where to find: http://www.duroolowu.com/
Designer: Cushnie Et Ochs
About the designer: While studying at Parsons School of Design Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs synched for what would become Cushnie Et Ochs. Bergdorf Goodman was given the exclusive debut to the ladies collection in 2009. Talk about a bold fashion career starter. Carly was named on Forbes 2012 “30 Under 30” list partially due to the approximate $2 million the line made last year. Together the dynamic duo created a line for the “sophisticated woman who want[s] to be sexy without being vulgar," Cushnie told Forbes. Cushnie Et Ochs is sold in more than 50 stores worldwide.
Style: Feminine and sexy. “The collection has an alluring sense of energy and its flawless execution is complemented by the use of color and bold lines,” reads the brand’s website.
Celebrities spotted in Cushnie Et Ochs: Rihanna, Kerry Washington, Kelly Rowland
Where to find: http://www.cushnieetochs.com/
Designer: Mimi Plange
About the designer: The Ghana-born, California-raised designer knew early in life fashion design was her calling. She and her husband created the eponymous line focusing on Italian embroidery and Victorian period references. Last year the First Lady wore a Mimi Plange skirt on The View expanding the designer’s visibility.
Style: Ghana inspired. On her latest collection Vogue writes, “…shows just how adept she is at finessing her ideas into shapes geared to an upscale consumer who wants to dress in a variety of ways—she’s no Jane One-Note.”
Celebrities spotted in Mimi Plange: Kat Graham, Rihanna
Where to find: http://mimiplange.com/
Designer: Sammy B
About the designer: Samantha Black graduated from Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute in 2005. She’s worked for an array of renowned designers from Michael Kors to the late Alexander McQueen. The Brooklyn native competed on season 11 of Project Runway, but was eliminated. Her designs have wowed Mercedes-Benz Fashion week audiences for the past two years.
Style: Fun, girly, vibrant. Sammy B designs range from red carpet approved to after five cocktails ready. In the words of Samantha, she makes clothes for “tomboys in pumps.”
Celebrities spotted in Sammy B: Ashanti, Keri Hilson, Elle Varner
Where to find: http://www.sammybdesigns.com/
Designer: Ozwald Boateng
About the designer: Ozwald Boateng opened a studio at the age of 23 in 1991 where he began bringing the dream of his own to fruition. In 1994 he became the first tailor to present a collection on the Paris catwalk and opened his first store. Nearly two decades later, OGs in Hollywood like Laurence Fishburne pay homage to him as a pioneer in fashion.
Style: It’s all in the tailoring. An Ozwald Boateng suit stands out as something perfected by a master of his craft.
Celebrities spotted in Ozwald Boateng: Jamie Foxx, Brian McKnight, Diddy
Where to find: http://ozwaldboateng.co.uk/
(Photos from left: Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic/Getty Images, Anna Webber/WireImage/Getty Images, John Lamparski/WireImage/Getty Images)