Women's History Month: 10 Black Designers Who Continue To Move The Fashion Needle Forward

These tastemakers have written the blueprint on how to harness a successful fashion brand while inspiring the next generation.

As a new wave of fashion-forward trends struts down runways in Paris, it's important to recognize trailblazers who have helped pave the way for others who aspire to have a seat at the table. 

The industry reeks of inequitable access for some of its creators, even at the table.

In a report produced by Harvard, less than eight percent of fashion designers are Black as there are 60% of white designers in the industry. While this figure paints a disproportionate reality, gains in the industry are expected to soar.

According to a recent study, the global women’s apparel market is projected to reach $829.6 billion by 2025, with the US accounting for approximately $180 billion in 2021.

Still, a fight remains for Black women to get a fair share of the pie. Although women are the fastest-growing demographic in the industry, they only receive "1% of venture capital funding," Forbes cites. Another study by Zippia reported that women only receive 91 cents for every dollar a man makes in the industry.

Despite these jarring figures, Black women keep the industry booming. 

Whether in juggernaut department stores or boutiques, mannequins stay dressed to the nine in threads that are symbiotic with our culture. From Cali to Harlem, the South, and the Midwest, our flavor is etched in every thread and stitch worldwide.

To honor Black women who have made a significant contribution to the fashion industry, here are 10 visionaries whose designs are as equally stimulating as their mission to design clothing that leaves an indelible mark on society.

  • Ann Lowe

    Ann Lowe doing a fitting on Alice Baker.

    Ann Lowe is a pioneer in the industry who became the first Black person to be recognized as a renowned fashion designer. She curated looks for NYC's upper echelon from 1920-1960. Lowe also designed Jacqueline Bouvier's wedding dress in 1953 when she married John F. Kennedy. But Lowe never received credit from the press or the First Lady for the garment because of her race.

  • Rihanna

    Rihanna at the Dior Haute Couture show during Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2024.

    Rather than give us typical pieces that we see walk down the runway like shirts, pants, and dresses, Bad Girl RiRi dropped undergarments on us with her brand, Savage X Fenty, and undies have never looked better. This size-inclusive brand caters to bad girls and bad boys everywhere who desire their underwear to be the main character.

  • Anifa Mvuemba

    All fashion lovers can agree that Hanifa is where it's at. This Kenyan-born designer founded the brand in 2012 for those who dare to turn heads. Tracee Ellis Ross, Issa Rae, and Jennifer Hudson are fans of the brand.

  • Kimora Lee Simmons

    Baby Phat was all the rage in the aughts and was worn by our favorite video vixens, rappers, and everyday people. After dominating the fashion world, the brand closed up shop in 2010. Nine years later, Simmons brought the brand back for a second act and the line's iconic cat continues to roar in closets around the globe.

  • Nina Parker

    This TV host is making curvy women everywhere are getting the love they deserve when they shop. The Nina Parker Collection features body-positive pieces including sizes 0-4X that speak life to the downtown bombshell and the uptown beauty. This collection is exclusively available at Macys.

  • Aurora James

    In this soft girl era, everyone needs a dose of Brother Vellies. James –a New York transplant from Canada–birthed the brand in 2013 that produces garments across the globe in South Africa, Kenya, Mexico Morocco, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Italy, Haiti, and NYC.

    James is also the founder of the 15 Percent Pledge, a nonprofit that calls on major retailers to foster sustainable and supportive ecosystems for Black-owned brands.

  • Buki Ade

    Designer, Buki Ade (middle) while closing fashion show.

    From striking the perfect thirst trap on IG, to rocking a sexy bikini while on a tropical vacay, Bfyne's got you covered. Ade's at the helm of this curvy-girl-approved line that specializes in making sure all women feel seen and heard.

  • Mowalola Ogunlesi

    For those who are proud fashion disruptors, Mowalola is just for you. Ogunlesi caters to men and women who move to the beat of their own drum, just like Kanye West and his wife Bianca Censori. They are fans of the brand along with Naomi Campbell and Solange.

  • Felisha “Fe” Noel

    This Caribbean designer meshed her Grenadian heritage and her love for the community into a line that speaks to the modern woman who desires the finer things in life. Fe Noel proudly celebrates femininity, while empowering women and all "it" girls that are charting their own course.

  • Dumebi Iyamah

    This Nigerian fashion designer founded Andrea Iyamah when she was 17, and since then, she has never looked. The brand has evolved into a one-stop shop for all personalities from the corporate baddie, the happy hour hottie, the WFH trendsetter, and even the girly who is entering her wifey era.

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