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Black Women Left Their Mark On FW

Source: Getty / Getty

The glitz and glamour of Spring and Summer 2022 New York Fashion Week (NYFW) may have ended, but the impact Black women had on the week still remains. Sis, read that again. 

Unlike previous seasons where diversity in fashion week participants – from designers and models to invitees and influencers – were few and far between, this September’s schedule had much more memorable ‘for the culture’ moments. And, many of these moments were led by, produced from, or a direct result of the hard work and constant advocacy of Black women. I’d like to think the Black Lives Matter Movement – also a product of Black women – had something to do with it as well.

Not only was this a refreshing change from years past, but the increased inclusion of women who look like us signified a much-needed shift in NYFW. And in the industry overall – hopefully.

Long time icon and innovator, Brandice Daniel kicked off NYFW with Harlem Fashion Row (HFR)’s 14th Annual Fashion Show and Style Awards on 137th St. where HFR was founded. For the first time, her organization’s event was included as part of the official American Collections Calendar and provided a platform to highlight other Black women making moves in the fashion space including Meg thee Stallion’s stylist, Zerina Akers, who won Stylist of the Year,” model and philanthropist, Liya Kebede, who won the “Fashion Icon Award,” and fashion writer and editor, Constance White who presented during the night. 

At the event, Daniel also announced incubator programs to help support the next generation of young Black talent and new store-front displays in Harlem highlighting Black designers. Event sponsor Stitchfix’s display will launch on Oct. 6 and features five Black women designers: Jamela Acheampong of Kahmune, Bettina Benson of Chloe Kristyn, Diarra Bousso of Diarrablu, Busayo Olupona of Busayo, and Robin Sirleaf of Sarep + Rose.

Following HFR, NYFW attendees were able to see more Black talent and designs in the Black in Fashion Council (BIFC) Discovery Showrooms spearheaded by BIFC co-founders Lindsay Peoples Wagner and Sandrine Charles.  Committed to holding corporations accountable for their diversity efforts and providing robust support for Black designers and fashion creatives, BIFC was created in 2020. 

Black women designers who presented collections as part of the BIFC Showroom this season include, Letesha Renee of the Eugene Taylor Brand, Samantha Black of Sammy B Designs, Jessica Rich, Amina Means of Nalebe, Bronté Laurent of Par Bronte Laurent, Mariama Diallo, of Sincerely Ria, and Neume Anekhe of Oma The Label. BIFC’s partnership with IMG also helped support Black women designers, Rebecca Henry and Akua Shabaka of the House of Aama, Marrisa Wilson of Marrisa Wilson NY, and, Undra Celeste of Undra Celeste New York, who held shows during NYFW as well.

FashionBombDaily creator, Claire Sulmers and Essence CEO, Caroline Wanga also lended their names – and multimedia platforms – during fashion week to increase the presence of Black women by hosting two seperate day-long fashion events. Events were the Bomb Fashion Show and Essence Fashion House, respectively. By curating unique experiences of multiple runway shows, intimate conversations and panels, and tailored shopping experiences, Sulmers and Wanga brought the runway to the general public and showed the importance of creating opportunities for everyone in fashion.

“We have been champions for diversity before it was a buzzword,” Sulmers said about her first Bomb Fashion Show during NYFW. “We are excited to continue to use our platform to fuel the dreams of this underserved yet powerful community.”

The Bomb Fashion Show and event featured several Black women in fashion including model and reality star, Cynthia Bailey, lifestyle and culture commentator Bevy Smith, and designer Oyemwen Oriakhi. Essence Fashion House featured influencer and stylist Kelly Augustine, model Tocarra Jones, and artist Sevyn Streeter.

Lastly, we can’t talk about Black women and NYFW without mentioning CaSandra Diggs, the current and first Black woman president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

While we saw the participation of up-and-coming designers and well-known influencers such as Christopher John Rogers, LaQuan Smith, and Dapper Dan last week, it was the emergence of newer Black women designers that had us saying, “Yasssssss” and “It’s about time.” Highlighted in fashion presentations, in-person runway shows, and virtual showings, Black women were more present than ever before. We can thank the Black Lives Matter movement, initiatives from insiders like those in the Black in Fashion Council (BIFC), and tireless advocates like icon Constance White, Fashion Bomb Daily’s Claire Sulmers, and Harlem Fashion Row’s Brandice Daniel for that.

Not only did last week’s “Black Girl Magic” moments signify a shift in NYFW, but they showed a more inclusive future for the industry overall. Below is a curated list of Black women designers who showed and made their mark at NYFW last week – many for the first time.

Bookmark them, follow them on social, and turn on your notifications. It is our time – and now, our obligation, to keep the momentum going.

1. Renee Bishop

Deity New York - Runway - September 2021 - New York Fashion Week: The Shows Source:Getty

Renee Bishop brought what her site described as the “self-assured look for the Manhattanite” to the runway in a show at Spring Studios last week. Titled Deity NYC, her collection was a mix of feminine, body-hugging silhouettes, staple fabrics like leather and satin, and playful colorful notes. Each piece was wearable and perfect for the city girl who likes classic silhouettes and staples with a unique, youthful high end flair. Diety NYC has been worn by Destiny’s Child’s Michelle Williams and others. While this was one of Bishop’s first runway showings, she is no novice to the fashion industry. Bishop came from a family of seamstresses and fashionistas and was a model and stylist before becoming a designer.

2. Rebecca Allen

Rebecca Allen Source:@rebeccaallenny

Rebecca Allen’s self-titled shoe collection was featured by Afterpay as part of their “House of Afterpay” Small Business Show. Afterpay was this year’s presenting NYFW sponsor. While Allen did not start off as a designer, after working in the finance industry she realized that it was time for a different path. As she looked for attire and footwear for work and play, she constantly became frustrated not finding the right nude tone heels to compliment both her skin tone and her looks. So, in 2018 she created them for herself and every other woman looking for the right shoe to match her skin tone and empower her wardrobe. What started off as one woman’s idea borne out of necessity is now available for everyone at Nordstrom.

3. Samantha Black

Samantha Black Source:sammybdesigns.com

“Small but we Tallawah” is the name of the Spring/Summer 2022 collection from Jamaican-American designer and Project Runway alumna Samantha Black, also known as Sammy B. Presented as part of the BIFC NYFW Showroom, Sammy B’s collection focused on her heritage and what it is to be a Jamaican American living in New York. Her most memorable looks included screen tees and decorated, exaggerated mesh. If Sammy B’s looks familiar it’s probably because of her celebrity appeal. Her clothes have been seen on A-listers from Gabrielle Union and Lizzo to Andra Day.

4. Tiffany Brown

With her Spring/Summer 2022 collection named “Lavender,” Tiffany Brown presented a runway show celebrating the healing nature of purple in midtown Manhattan. Outfits were flirty, fun, and featured options for men and women. When asked why she chose this color – which is the “it” color of the next season – Brown shared “Lavender symbolizes and represents spiritual healing, tranquility, easing of tension, and purification. Today, with this collection, we are celebrating the human spirit.” Hailing from Atlanta, GA, Brown is not only a designer, but a Black PhD as well. Brown started as a small boutique owner and is known for her structured, inclusive styles and designs.

5. Dur Dou

Dur Doux - Runway - September 2021 - New York Fashion Week: The Shows Source:Getty

Mother-daughter duo Cynthia and Najla A. Burt started Dur Doux as a lifestyle brand in 2013 in Washington, D.C. Known for mixing wearable pieces with edgy avant-garde designs and fabrics, Dur Doux is created for the woman who wants to stand out. Dur Doux’s Spring/Summer 2022 collection was presented during a rooftop, in-person fashion runway show during NYFW. Pieces included well-known resort wear prints such as palm trees and leaves, headwraps, vibrant tulle, and floral.

6. House of Aama – Rebecca Henry and Akua Shabaka

House Of AAMA - Presentation - September 2021 - New York Fashion Week: The Shows Source:Getty

Established in 2015, House of Aama is another fashion house presented by a mother-daughter team. A brand that “exists beyond just creating clothes,” according to clothing’s site, the brand looks to tell stories by informing the future from notes of the past. Guests of the House of Aama’s Spring/Summer collection were transported to “SALT WATER,” a fashionable resort inspired by the legacy of Black communities from the 1950s. Models were presented in the form of cultural characters and took on the personas of sailors and the water spirits of Yemaya, Olokun and Agwe, spiritual anchors of African traditions in the diaspora. Attire included vibrant colors and silky fabrics, shorts and polos, and printed swimwear perfect for a resort.

7. Junny Ann Hibbert

Junny - Presentation - September 2021 - New York Fashion Week: The Shows Source:Getty

Harlem designer Junny Ann Hibbert presented “Mama,” a collection paying homage to her mother in a fashion presentation marking her first time to be featured on the official New York Fashion Week calendar. While Hibbert joked her mother, Alex Melceta Johnson, would be “turning over in her grave” if she knew of her new collection and profession in fashion, Hibbert noted how each piece was created with her in mind. The debut collection included colorful silk dresses, capes and caftans, and vibrant bomber jackets. Hibbert proudly boasted catering to inclusive, unisex sizes and styling.

8. par Bronté Laurent

par Bronté Laurent Source:par Bronté Laurent

Brooklyn-based Bronté Laurent presented her fifth collection in the fashion world, Dear Sunday, with BIFC. Filled with neutral colors, feminine slip dresses and blouses, and light summery fabrics, Laurent’s collection is perfect for the “careful Black girl” looking for effortless fashion. After working in advertising and PR, Laurent started her label in 2017 in her Brooklyn apartment. According to an interview with Voyage, Laurent credits her roommate for teaching her how to sew, sample fabric, and help her discover her true passion in fashion.

9. Letesha Renee – Eugene Taylor

Black In Fashion Council Discovery Showrooms - September 2021 - New York Fashion Week: The Shows Source:Getty

Committed to showing the contributions of Black women in fashion, designer Letesha Renee told HelloBeautiful that she’s been wanting to be a designer for as long as she can remember. So eventually she stopped just helping other people and started also working toward her own dreams. In 2015, Eugene Taylor, a unisex design house was born. Part of BIFC, the Eugene Taylor Brand presented a Spring/Summer collection called Resilience. Offering trendy, genderless designs in both body hugging and oversized cuts, the collection celebrated the diversity and creativity within fashion.

10. Marrisa Wilson

Marrisa Wilson - Presentation - September 2021 - New York Fashion Week: The Shows Source:Getty

Born and raised in New Jersey, Marrisa Wilson is a first-generation Guyanese-American designer committed to leaving her mark in the fashion world and the Black community. It’s no surprise that her Spring/Summer collection was multifaceted – drawing parallels between the 1960s Space Age and current technological advances due to COVID and inspired by the spirit of Motown, the Civil Rights Movement, and Black Lives Matter. Pieces included prints hand drawn by the designer, futuristic silhouettes, bold colors and patterns, and bucket hats. As described on NYFW.com, Wilson looked to tell a story of “a new, wild, digital age in order to ensure that Black people, women, and women of color are able to have access in participating and shaping what the future can look like.”

11. Studio 189

Studio 189 - Front Row & Backstage - September 2021 - New York Fashion Week: The Shows Source:Getty

Co-founded by actress Rosario Dawson and Abrima Erwiah, Studio 189 is a luxury fashion brand  headquarted in Accra, Ghana. The brand is known for its African and African-inspired content and clothing and supports various community projects in Africa and the United States. In other words, real life “Wakanda Forever.” Realizing the impact COVID has had on the fashion industry – and recognizing the importance of international textiles and merchandising – Dawson and Erwiah used traditional techniques in creating “Inheritance,” its Spring/Summer collection. Techniques include hand-weaving, patchworking, and natural indigo dyeing, and recycled cotton and upcycled denim from second-hand clothing sent to Ghana.

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