June 08 2020 – Gergana Damyanova
The is guilty of committing probably every crime an can commit. It is so very sad that an that is supposed to celebrate beauty, character and confidence is actually so ugly, impersonal and suppressing. The is actually difficult, mean and not inclusive. Not inclusive at all. Today we focus on the great African American of the 20th century that against all odds persevered to make a name for themselves and express their creative talent. Their vision and their hard effort resulted in some of the iconic fashion pieces of the last century and left a mark on the fashion industry forever.
Elizabath Hobbs Keckley (1818-1907)
Keckley was a former slave who went on to become America's first black fashion designer. She established her atelier in Washington D.C. and became a trusted confidante of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln - Abraham Lincoln's wife. Keckley made her gown for Lincoln's second inauguration. The was widely popular for her talent of using draping and fitting while still maintaining a modest style.
Ann Lowe (1898-1981)
So skilled and talented, the legend goes that even Dior was stunned by Lowe's craftsmanship - he once examined one of Lower's gowns and immediately asked "Who made this gown?". Lowe was famously commissioned the which would come to be one of the most famous gowns in history. Unfortunately, Jackie never rightfully named Lower, instead saying that "a coloured woman" made her of the wedding of Jackie Kennedy - . Lowe encountered a lot of obstacles - from blatant racism, illness, a husband who left her because of her dedication to her work to the Great Depression destroying her business. However, she never let any of these things get in the way of her passion, so she always found a way to bounce back. She was one of the most in-demand New York designers of her time - making gowns for generations of the Du Ponts and the Rockefellers among others.
Zelda Wynn Valdes (1905-2001)
Valdes was the first to open a shop on Broadway in New York in 1948. You probably have seen her dresses worn by the movie stars from the last century - she was adored by Hollywood, with starts like Josephine Baker, Ella Fitzgerald and Mae West loving her designs. Her sexy silhouette that cinched the waist and accentuated curves were made for stars such as Joyce Bryant who would often be described as the Marilyn Monroe. However, you are probably most familiar with one of her a bit unusual designs. In 1958 her role in glamourising women caught the attention of Hugh Hefner - the founder of Playboy. He commissioned Valdes and she created the iconic - one of the most recognisable cultural symbols of the 20th century.
Rosemary Reed Miller (1939-2017)
Miller was the owner of Toast and Strawberries - a landmark boutique in Washington, D.C she opened in 1967. The store featured emerging and established designers from all over the world. As Miller put it, "we felt it was important to show that talent had no limits - male, female, white and ." She was profoundly interested in the "Threads of Time, The Fabric of History: Profiles of African American Dressmakers and Designers, 1850-2003". Next to this, she developed a program to educate others about the history of African-American women in dressmaking and designing. She wanted to demonstrate how the craft was a tool for economic support and independence. in . Miller published a book on African-American dressmakers from the 19th to the 21st centuries -
Willi Smith (1948-1987)
Smith was an American who at the time of his death was seen as one of the most successful designers in the . He started his own label - WilliWear Limited, and by keeping his designs accessible and affordable, Smith helped democratise . His label was as well the first label ever to sell womenswear and under the same name.
Amsale Aberra (1954-2018)
Aberra was an Ethiopian-American Amsale, also covered more luxurious gowns, bridesmaid and cocktail dresses as well as ball gowns. Aberra had a platform on the Huffington Post for brides to ask her any questions they had about their weddings. Next to this, popular culture featured a number of her designs - in Grey's Anatomy, When in Rome, 27 Dresses, American Wedding and The Hangover. Aberra dressed notable women as Halle Berry, Julia Roberts, Salma Hayer and Heidi Klum. who is best known for her wedding dresses. In 1985, planning her own wedding, Aberra discovered an untapped niche in the bridal market - there were few to none simple, refined wedding dresses. With focus on bridal, her line -
Stephen Burrows (1943-)
Burrows is known as the first African-American to sell internationally and develop a mainstream, high- clientele. He is best known for his bright colours and "lettuce hem" curly details that became an integral part of the disco scene in New York in the 70s. He was one of only five American designers to showcase their work at the historical Battle of Versailles in Paris. Not only was he selected but he was as well over a decade younger than all the other American participants. In 1978, Farrah Fawcett wore Burrow's gold chainmail to the Academy Awards where she was a presenter and in 1981, the 15-year old Brooke Shields appeared on the cover of Cosmopolitan wearing his .
Dapper Dan (1944-)
Daniel Day, also known as Dapper Dan, is one of the most famous black designers. He started his business in New York in the 80s. First he aspired to be a clothing wholesaler, however, he struggled to get the fabrics and furs he needed as most companies refused to do business with him - because of his race or location. This pushed him to teach himself textile printing and resulted in him inventing a new process for screen printing onto leather. His clientele was inspired by the flamboyance of icons like Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davies Jr. and later converged towards his s designs. Dapper Dan is well-known for his work in hip hop dressing LL Cool J, The Fat Boys, Eric B. & Rakim, Bobby Brown, Big Daddy Kane and famous boxers like Mike Tyson.
Dapper Dan's signature textile designs included logo from big In 2017, Gucci released a based on Dapper Dan's 1989 custom-made for Diane Dixon but without giving credit to him. There was a backlash after Dixon posted a photo of the Gucci next to her original one requesting Dapper Dan to get credit for his work. This resulted in a partnership between Dapper Dan and Gucci for a line and a new atelier in becoming the first house store in . houses like Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Fendi. This resulted in numerous counterfeiting raids and litigation leading to his eventual closure in 1992. His designs, however, remained an influential part of
Scott Barrie (1946-1993)
An absolute master of the jersey, Barrie was one of the New York designers to start his career on 7th Avenue in the 60s and 70s. He began by selling his clothes to independent boutiques but soon became stocked by Bendel's and Bloomingdales. Many department stores wanted his iconic and revealing jersey dresses. He had the skill to cut jersey into luxurious and sensual designs. Barrie is one of the iconic designers of the Studio 54 era with shows that were catwalks as much as a dance party - something unseen by traditional until then.
Patrick Kelly (1954-1990)
Kelly was a broadly celebrated whose crowning achievement was his admittance into the du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Crèateurs de Mode - the prestigious governing body of the French ready-to-wear . He was the first to be accepted and to join icons like Dior, Chanel and Givenchy. Kelly was loved for the eccentricity, bold use of colours and daring fun designs that encompassed cultural references and references to folklore - something unique that the Parisian runways had never seen before.
Duro Olowu (1965-)
Olowu is a Nigerian-born British Duro Olowu, are a colourful explosition of fabrics with beautiful patterns. Olowu has won the New of the Year at the British Awards, the Best International by the African Awards and received one of six nominations for the Swiss Textile Federation's coveted prize. He has been widely supported by Michelle Obama who chose him among very few non-American designers she wore. strongly recognised in his field. The designs of his brand -