The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology will be hosting “Black Fashion Designers” during the month of February to honor African designers from the 1950’s to the present. The purpose is to encourage the audience to explore the designers’ various experiences and fashion expertise throughout the generations.
Black designers have consistently been under-represented in the mainstream fashion media, and exhibits such as these seek to change that. Voguerunway.com is a well-recognized source for viewing fashions from the various fashion weeks from around the world. Black designers still make up only one percent of designers represented on this online viewing site.
The exhibit will include various themes such as evening wear, menswear, street style, experimental fashion. Traditional African influences add lots of color and texture to the collection. It will honor such designers as Stephen Burrows, Patrick Kelly, and Ann Cole Lowe; the latter is credited for designing the wedding gown Jacqueline Kennedy wore when she married John F. Kennedy (see image left).
Lowe is also known for having broken through the barriers as the first internationally known black fashion designer. She had already proven herself as a true designer through an assignment to make ball gowns for the First Lady of Alabama at just 16. She later had the opportunity to go to Paris Fashion Week and met designer Christian Dior. The rest, as they say, is history.
According to the Runway Diversity Report, black designers make up about 9.22 percent of the designers represented, with whites leading by 75.25 percent. Asian, Latino, and Middle Eastern designers make up the remainder. Although great strides have been made past and present, the numbers still reflect the need for greater diversity.
Reality TV shows such as Project Runway has made it possible for designers like Korto Momolu to come to the forefront (see image left). Born in Liberia, Momolu became known as she was first runner-up on the fifth season of the show. She has since gone on to achieve great milestones in fashion, including designing for Miss Universe (Leila Lopes), as well as her own accessory design collection for Dillard’s department stores.
Designers like Momolu are getting some of the recognition they deserve today, which is outstanding. However, for those that have gone before and paved the way, the honor given to their name is all the sweeter.
In what ways do you think we can make greater strides to honor black designers? Let’s discuss here or on Twitter @lcarterwriter.