In celebration of Black History Month, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate some black trailblazers that contributed to the fashion industry. Many times they did not get credit for their beautiful creations, fashion sense or innovation. As a self-taught fashion designer, I contribute much of my success to those who have come before me.
As a fellow designer, I thank trailblazers like Ann Lowe for boldly forging a path for black women designers in the luxury end of the fashion industry.
Born in Clayton, Alabama in 1898, she learned her dressmaking skills from her mother who made dresses for society women in the South. After her mother died suddenly, Ann was left to finish her last job which was the creation of four ballgowns for the First Lady of Alabama. These dresses launched her introduction into the fashion industry. She moved to New York and enrolled in S.T. Taylor Design School. Once graduated, she opened Ann Lowe’s Gowns in Harlem and became the “best kept secret” for high society members--- the Rockefellers, the Roosevelts, the du Ponts. She’s been credited, after the fact, with making Olivia de Havilland’s dress for her Oscar acceptance speech as well as Jackie O’s wedding dress. In 1968, Lowe became the first Black woman to own a store on Madison Avenue.
His bold and bright collections are an inspiration to many, like myself, to step away from ordinary and embrace bright, bold, patterns, textures and fabrics.
Like many aspiring fashion designers of his time, Burrows was taught how to sew by his grandmother. His bold and bright collection debuted at the opening of the “Stephen Burrows” boutique at the iconic Henri Bendels, ultimately catapulting his career. During the height of his career, Burrows was chosen along with Halston, Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, and Anne Klein to represent America in the Battle of Versailles, a fashion face-off against French powerhouses Pierre Cardin, Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, and Emanuel Ungaro. This night American fashion stumbled into the spotlight, made history and garnered a European audience by winning the Coty 3 times. He has since been bestowed “The Board of Directors Special Tribute” by the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
If, "I put on for my city" was a person. Dapper Dan is the epitome of "doing it for the culture" fashion edition. His fashion sense, style and love for his people is truly an inspiration.
Dapper Dan’s name is synonymous with luxury of Harlem. Self-taught tailor with unique style, Dapper Dan proved that rap culture can have a signature style and unique perspective. His concept of reworking luxury-house products to new outfits for numerous hip-hop artists, athletes and celebrities alike proved to be ground-breaking. Although his reworking of these luxury brands came at a price, he was able to revitalize his career to now become synonymous with being THE luxury brand out of Harlem.
***Photos courtesy of Getty Images via MarieClaire.com