Positioned to make strides in the fashion industry, several emerging black fashion designers are catching the world’s attention. From Jamaican immigrant to Brooklyn-raised creative, these up-and-coming designers are pushing the boundaries of fashion and setting the season’s trends. As the fashion industry continues to diversify and showcase black talent, here are 10 emerging black fashion designers from around the world who are galvanizing the current landscape.
Edvin Thompson, founder and creative director of contemporary clothing brand Theophilio, presented a new vision for integrating cultural heritage. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, the young designer has lived in several cities across the United States, all of which have influenced his unique vision of design. What stands out about Thompson’s label is its weave of social commentary and personal stories of Jamaican heritage. By bringing these stories to the fore, her designs have captured the attention of celebrities like actress Keke Palmer, model Alton Mason, athlete Sha’Carri Richardson and many more. Last year, Thompson won Emerging American Designer of the Year at the CFDA Fashion Awards.
Although Maximilian Davis was born and resides in England, his Trinidadian-Jamaican identity remains central to his design philosophy. Davis’ first SS21 collection under nonprofit talent incubator Fashion East not only represented an eye-catching display of rich colors and seamless designs, but also the importance of sharing personal stories through design. Her eponymous label Maximilian has recently been on a trailblazing path, catching the attention of Rihanna, Michaela Coel, Kim Kardashian, A$AP Rocky and more. Davis is due to showcase her latest collection with Fashion East on Tuesday, February 22.
Head of state
Founded by Taefeek Abijako, Brooklyn-based label Head of State takes a different approach to evolving male and female silhouettes. Instead of referencing pop culture, Abijako’s designs are inspired by books and what he envisions for the characters. Hailing from Lagos, Nigeria, Abijako also incorporates elements of her cultural heritage through the pieces that play with an array of cutouts and subtle structural shapes.
Kenneth Ize embraces bold patterns, and the fabrics that encapsulate his vivid designs are produced at his factory in Lagos, Nigeria. Although he grew up and attended school in Austria, Ize’s eponymous label sheds new light on traditional West African textiles. The brand’s positioning on handwoven textiles illustrates how playful using all the colors of the rainbow can be. Ize was a finalist for the 2019 LVMH Prize and her cross-cultural pieces have been worn by Beyoncé, Naomi Campbell and Donald Glover.
Johnny Nelson Jewelry
Based in New York, Johnny Nelson’s jewelry brand is inspired by pop culture and historical figures. Founded in 2017, its designs pay homage to music, literature and cultural milestones, as exemplified by its unique rings that feature the faces of renowned personalities such as James Baldwin to Biggie Smalls. Nelson pieces are made from an array of metals and gemstones and have been worn by Lil Nas X, Kerby Jean-Raymond, Colin Kaepernick and many more.
Central Saint Martins graduate Feben reclaims the narrative surrounding black identity. Inspired by Eartha Kitt, Maya Angelou and Beyoncé, the London designer’s pieces strike a balance between strength and pleasure. Although Feben’s technical details include vibrant colors and voluminous silhouettes, her designs excel due to a blend of personal cultural experiences. Feben’s pieces have caught the eye of Erykah Badu, Janelle Monáe and Michaela Coel, in addition to working with Beyoncé as a costume designer and stylist for the “Brown Skin Girl” segment of black is king.
The community brand No Sesso was founded in Los Angeles by Pierre Davis. The brand’s name is Italian for “no sex/no gender” and its mission is to include people of all colors and identities through a range of prints, fabrics and patchwork knits. As an asexual brand, No Sesso strives to elevate what clothing can be by taking a closer look at culture and the future of gender expression.
Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, Thebe Magugu’s brand embraces the everyday experience of men and women. Through clean and contemporary sartorial notes, the brand produces a timeless catalog that also pays homage to the multidimensional culture in Africa. Along with her cultural awareness, one of Magugu’s label landmarks is her willingness to address social and political issues through fashion. In 2019, Magugu won the LVMH award, becoming the first African designer to do so. Celebrities who have donned the South African label include Issa Rae and Miley Cyrus.
Des Pierrot started his brand to design clothes he would want to wear. Based in Los Angeles, Pierrot’s handmade pieces are inspired by his lifestyle, hip-hop music and his experiences growing up. The emerging brand has no set gender labels and features iconic design elements like multi-pocket pants, embellished pants and modified knits. At its core, Pierrot wants to challenge everyone to embrace their individuality.
Emeric Tchatchoua mixes pop culture and streetwear with his label 3.PARADIS. Based in Montreal, Canada, the Tchatchou brand was created as an alternative to traditional luxury and harbors a youthful twist that connects the realities of rebellion, art and culture. As the “3” represents balance and “PARADIS” represents joy, the emerging brand wants to find the balance between youth-centered ambitions and changing cultural ideologies.