3 Black Fashion Designers You Should Shop From Right Now
by Aniyah Morinia
Fashion Week taught us that it’s not enough to ask for a seat at the table. At the end of every September, headlines flood our timelines, celebrating how much more diverse fashion week was year over year. According to the Fashion Spot, 48 percent of the models on the Spring 2019 runways were models of color. We have to ask how diverse the runways truly are if a majority of Black models are only represented in fashion shows by Black designers. Why are white models still chosen to represent Black culture as opposed to Black models? This was seen in Dior’s Spring 2019 show when white models strutted down the runway in dashikis.
Here’s a bit of history: the dashiki originated in West Africa and was not intended to become a fashion symbol for African Americans like it is today. It was originally made with light and breathable fabric to be worn comfortably in the heat. Fast forward to the 1960s and the dashiki was manufactured in Harlem and worn by African Americans across the United States. Black celebrities and artists have revolutionized the purpose of the dashiki, making it symbolic of Black pride and solidarity. Despite the rich history of this cultural garb, Dior’s Spring 2019 Ready To Wear collection threw dashikis on the backs of white models, when Black models also walked in the show. The chance to be unapologetically Black in one of the most important weeks in fashion was stolen, but Black models and designers will fight to regain this chance.
Asking for diversity is not enough when your representation is seasonal and your voice is stifled by those raising a toast to capitalizing off your culture. People of color have demanded and will continue to demand a change in the homogeneity and lack of representation in the fashion industry. Thankfully, there are Black designers who are working to reverse these trends and bring inclusivity to the forefront. Here are three Black designers who you should know in 2018.
87 Origins is a clothing brand founded in Lagos, Nigeria in 2015 by Tiwa and Tolani Tubi. The couple began with their own personal brands in London, where Tiwa specialized in marketing and e-commerce and Tolani specialized in bespoke menswear tailoring. Finding it difficult to thrive in London’s overly saturated fashion business, Tiwa and Tolani joined forces to bring their clothing brand, 87 Origins, back to Nigeria. 87 Origins provides well-made, wardrobe essentials that everyday people can wear. Tiwa and Tolani say that they are most proud of “seeing people who don’t know us personally wearing the clothes we have designed.” They are currently working to add their touch of Black products to the African Market. Tiwa and Tolani believe that “there are so many talented people of colour with viable businesses that if supported by their communities, could grow to become brands that stand the test of time.”
2. ORANGE CULTURE
Orange Culture is a Nigerian clothing brand that sticks to their African roots with vibrant colors and contemporary silhouettes. The founder of Orange Culture, Adebayo Oke-Lawal, transformed his childhood dream into a fashion movement for men to express their self-awareness and appreciation for art. Knowing that a fashion degree was not in the cards for him, Adebayo took advantage of internship and networking opportunities. He worked with several different industry mavens, saved up, and launched Orange Culture in 2010, when he felt it was time for his voice to be heard. Since its establishment, Orange Culture has been featured in Vogue, Elle, and The New York Times. “I’ve watched African brands go from no interest from internationals to us being featured in print. The industry has grown and I’m super privileged to see it,” Adebayo says. His main focus is expanding the brand and giving customers a space where they can find Orange Culture in their home country.
3. Jamila Mariama
Jamila Jones, founder, and co-founder, Maya Jones, of Jamila Mariama prove that being in a magazine is not the only way to get your brand out there. Jamila Mariama is a womenswear brand that focuses on highlighting women of color through eye-catching colors and beautifully made fabrics. This passion for designing developed when Jamila was in high school and has continued ever since. Working full-time as a design assistant at Macy’s and having complete control over Jamila Mariama requires patience and self-motivation. It’s safe to say that this is not a threat for Jamila, who says that “Because I’ve gotten this far, I feel confident enough to keep going.” They will continue to use Jamila Mariama to connect with and provide more visibility for women of color on and off the runway. Jamila says, “there are a lot more spaces for Black people. I just hope it’s able to progress and grow by the time I get more well-known.”