December 19, 2018 | ° F

Black designers rise in relevance, making waves in fashion


laquan smith
Photo by Instagram |

Over time, the fashion industry has gradually become much more inclusive. Representation has been a prominent issue within fashion, but today’s brands are now deciding that it is finally time for diversity. Models are no longer your standard tall and thin — they come in all races, shapes and sizes. Those in charge of brands are starting to diversify as well. Black designers are becoming more influential, whether it be through becoming the head of already established fashion houses or creating their own brands. These designers are changing fashion as we know it and have now become some of the most powerful in the industry. 

Virgil Abloh

The mastermind behind Off-White, Virgil Abloh redefined street style. 

“In a large part streetwear is seen as cheap. What my goal has been is to add an intellectual layer to it and make it credible,” said Abloh in an interview with Business of Fashion. Creating a brand that combines streetwear, luxury and utility, he’s figured out the perfect balance. He understands what consumers already like and realizes that vintage pieces are equally important to luxury items.  

After graduating with his civil engineering degree, he interned at Fendi with Kanye West. Collaborating with West led him to become the artistic director for Jay-Z & West's album “Watch the Throne.” Following his work with West, Off-White was born. His iconic Yellow Classic Industrial Belts and signature stripes are now a staple in streetwear in all of the most fashionable cities. Earlier this year, Abloh was named artistic director of menswear for Louis Vuitton. It hasn’t been very common for a Black designer to be at the top of such a prestigious fashion house, so this is a milestone for not only Abloh’s career, but fashion as a whole. 

Olivier Rousteing  

Aside from his long-standing friendship with the Kardashian/Jenner family, Olivier Rousteing is equally famous for being the creative director of Balmain. Beginning his fashion career as a designer at Roberto Cavalli, he moved on to being a ready-to-wear designer at Balmain and worked his way up to become the second-youngest designer to be the head of a French fashion house. Since 2011, he has been growing Balmain into one of the most well-known and influential brands today. He has his “Balmain Army," which includes powerful and fashionable celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Gigi Hadid, Cindy Crawford and Rihanna. With his young age and engagement on social media, Rousteing revolutionized the use of social media for brands — with Balmain being the first fashion brand to reach one million followers on Instagram

Rihanna

From singer to designer, Rihanna proves that you can do it all. Known for her unique style, Rihanna took it into her own hands to create clothing, ranging from athleisure to lingerie. Named the creative director of womenswear for Puma in 2014, Rihanna isn’t a stranger to the fashion industry. Her Fenty x Puma collection brought out the well-loved Creepers and fur slides. Following her collection with Puma, she rocked the beauty industry with her own cosmetics brand, Fenty Beauty. Providing customers with a much-needed inclusive shade range, Rihanna did not disappoint beauty lovers. This powerhouse woman doesn’t take a break — she released her lingerie line, Savage x Fenty, less than a year after releasing her cosmetics line. Her Savage x Fenty show took the finale spot during New York Fashion Week — typically taken by Marc Jacobs. 

LaQuan Smith

If you haven’t heard of his name, you’ve definitely seen LaQuan Smith's designs on your favorite celebrities. Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner and Beyoncé have sported his looks before, which always accentuate and embrace women’s curves. Unlike most designers, Smith has no fashion school degree. Getting his first sewing machine at 13 years old, he shows that sometimes all you need is a dream and hustle. By the age of 21, he made his debut at New York Fashion Week. 

“A lot of networking, a lot of talking and showcasing my work, wearing my own designs, a lot of self-promotion,” said Smith in an interview to Fashionista when asked about building his network filled with celebrities. He built his empire from the ground up and not only worked with the biggest celebrities, but one of the largest retailers as well. Smith came out with a collaboration with ASOS earlier this year, providing fans with the high fashion glam at fast fashion prices. 


Leona Juan

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