The fashion industry has changed dramatically in recent years, says Adrienne Jones, the first permanent full-time black professor at the Pratt Institute. Before the global Covid pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement – to name a few catalysts – Jones told us she would drop her clothes off at boutiques with resounding praise until they realized she was black . Then, just like that, their interest in his work would disappear. Jones, who teaches fashion design and works as a pattern maker, stylist and seamstress, hopes the Black Lives Matter movement will thrive through a continued focus on black contributions.
If Black History Month inspires you to support black-owned brands — or better yet, you don’t need a specific month to do so — we’ve outlined the brands below that Fashion experts have recommended us, along with some of their most notable products. With Jones, we spoke to Jonathan Square, assistant professor of black visual culture at the Parsons School of Design, and Rikki Byrd, writer and PhD candidate in African American studies at Northwestern University.
The best clothes from black-owned brands
We consulted the aforementioned fashion experts about their favorite black-owned clothing brands. In some cases we highlight specific items below that they have recommended and other times we highlight a particular item from a brand they have recommended, which we have chosen for an accessible price. or positive reviews and across a variety of offerings, from shirts to skirts to earrings.
Telfar Small Logo Hoop Earrings
Every expert we spoke to mentioned Telfar, the luxury brand helmed by Libero-American fashion designer Telfar Clemens. Like it should be : Telfar’s Shopping Bag was one of Oprah favorite things in 2020 — in other words, Telfar is everywhere. “While on vacation, I came home to Louisiana and saw someone carrying a Telfar bag at Walmart. I thought, wow, [Telfar is] truly global,” Square told us. Although Telfar’s bags are hard to find – they usually sell out within minutes online – Telfar sells a variety of other products, such as these fashionable gold-plated earrings that feature its logo.
Jones remembers falling in love with what designer Byron Lars was doing years ago. “I don’t care what your size or shape is – you put on a Byron Lars dress and you feel like a princess,” she told us. Although the Charissima Sheath Dress looks airy, it features a spandex lining. The dress is sold in three different fits – standard, petite and plus – for a wide range of body types.
Charles Harbison’s luxury brand Harbison recently collaborated with Banana Republic to make something more accessible than its usual offerings. “Harbison makes some really timeless pieces,” Byrd told us, adding that she also shopped from her Banana Republic collection. In addition to mini skirt which we have highlighted here, there is a fluid safari suit (jacket and Pants) that looks versatile enough to suit a wide range of occasions. Harbison said in an interview with the Council of Fashion Designers of America that he hopes the Banana Republic collaboration will communicate optimism, joy and appreciation for black women to everyone.
Fear of God Essentials Summer Core Mock Neck Sweatshirt
Square described fashion brand Fear of God, launched by designer Jerry Lorenzo, as “intellectual” and “well-made”. If Jerry Lorenzo weren’t black, he claimed, the Fear of God clothing line would be considered luxury sportswear – not just sportswear. While some Fear of God pieces cost hundreds of dollars, the brand offers a diffusion line called “Essentials” that includes more affordable options. The Fear of God Essentials Summer Core Mock Neck, for example, is relatively inexpensive.
Denim Tears Virginia 1619 T-shirt White
“Tears of jeans [investigates] the sartorial ingenuity of slaves and their descendants,” Square said of Tremaine Emory’s artistic clothing brand, which unifies America’s history with today’s fashion trends. For example, the release of Denim Tears’ Virginia 1619 t-shirt coincided with the launch of The New York Times 1619 Project: both refer to August 1619, or the beginning of American slavery in Virginia.
“Wales Bonner is one of my favorite clothing brands,” said Byrd, who briefly met its founder, Grace Wales Bonner, while studying at Parsons School of Design. “His collections really focus on building diasporic connections between the Caribbean, London and the United States.” Wales Bonner, in collaboration with sportswear giant Adidas, makes cute retro short-sleeved shirts with the number 78 embroidered on the back as a tribute to late 70s and 80s college athletic styles.
Walker Wear Olive Logomania Crop Top
“In the ’90s, everyone in the hip-hop world wore Walker Wear,” Jones said of April Walker’s Brooklyn-based streetwear brand. “She designed for Tupac, Biggie, Mike Tyson… The Wu-Tang Clan wore her clothes.” Walker then took a break from the industry before making a comeback in the 2010s: This funky olive-hued crop top is now available on Walker’s website, as is this navy blue hockey jersey that recalls his work in the 1990s.
Epperson Studios Black Faux Loop Beanie
Jones also recommended Harlem-based Epperson Studios, which prides itself on creating whimsical yet functional clothing. In addition to plaid button-up shirts with contrasting panels, Epperson Studios sells a flowy faux-loop beanie to keep your head warm in the colder months of the year. Epperson also has an accompanying chest piece that you can wear with the beanie as a set.
Navy Thebe Magugu Sisterhood Hoodie
When he started designing the theme for his latest project, Genealogy, South African luxury designer Thebe Magugu sat down with his mother and went through photos of their family archives, Byrd told me. The brand’s navy hoodie looks plush, with a design at its center that represents brotherhood and echoes the theme behind the historic and family project.
Shaka King Men’s Glenn Frayed Plaid Scarf
Jones mentioned Shaka King Menswear, originally born in Brooklyn before moving production to Washington, D.C. “Shaka King has been in the game for a while,” she told us. “He’s an established designer who makes really good clothes.” Shaka King Menswear also offers big and tall options on the website, as well as custom orders. There’s also a cute plaid scarf from a single layer of imported wool available – good for someone of any size or gender. The scarf has beautiful leather and suede designs sewn on it for extra decoration.