The fashion industry is beginning to turn on its head in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Calls for racial equality and an end to police brutality have swept the nation and the world, leading to protests and demonstrates everywhere from Minneapolis and New York to Paris and Tokyo. Brands, too, have taken stands, disaffiliating with organizations with unsatisfactory track records, kicking off new diversity initiatives and donating to civil rights and justice organizations.
Supporting the #BlackLivesMatter cause goes beyond one-time donations and posts on social media, though. It means a new upheaval of normality in the way we think, act and even shop. As reported by Forbes, black designers remain scarce in the fashion industry and oftentimes see their culture appropriated through misrepresented brands.
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A way to continue the push for change includes donating and shopping at black-owned businesses and brands. Below, FN rounded up a few well-known and more independent black-owned shoe brands that you should be investing in now.
You may recognize Ade Samuel‘s name from her work as a stylist for Jodie Turner-Smith and Justine Skye among others but she also is well recognized for her brand of mod heels and slick silhouettes. From sandals to pumps, her designs are the perfect addition to any wardrobe.
To Buy: Ade Samuel Robyn Heels, $395.
Amina Abdul Jillil
Launched in 2012, Amina Abdul Jillil is a luxury brand best known for bold and feminine silhouettes. Deemed Essence‘s Accessory Designer of the Year for 2019, these shoes don’t mess around. Bow-accented sandals and neon designs are just the tip of the iceberg for the endless selection of cool pairs from this designer.
Portuguese model-turned-designer Armando Cabral centers on beautiful detailing and minimalistic designs that still pack a powerful punch. His styles include sneakers, derby shoes and boots, crafted by Italian artisans with top quality leather.
Best known for its unmatchable designs and traditional African techniques, Aurora James crated Brother Vellies in 2013 to provide women with environmentally conscious footwear and accessories. Most recently, the Toronto native also kicked off the 15 Percent Pledge, an initiative asking brands and retailers to pledge at least 15% of their shelf space to black-owned companies.
Born in Houston and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Eleanor Anukam had a unique upbringing. Throughout her worldly experiences, the designer saw a need for stylish footwear in extended sizes — Anukam herself is a size 12 — so she decided to create her own. Her eponymous line serves women with size 9 shoes and up to size 13, providing trendy silhouettes that don’t have to sacrifice style for comfort.
To Buy: Eleanor Anukam Akuchi Heels, $195.
From see-through pumps to outstanding sandals, Jessica Rich knows a thing or two about fearless footwear. With options for men’s styles as well, Rich’s line of shoes will have you ready for any event or occasion. For her most famous fan, it’s a toss-up between the likes of Jennifer Lopez or Cardi B, too.
To Buy: Jessica Rich Drip Sandals, $99.
Keexs differentiates itself from the pack with its socially-oriented projects and top-of-the-line footwear. Based out of Africa, the brand offers active silhouettes, low-top styles and easy slip-on pairs to fit your every sneaker need. Its designs promote black power through inclusions of stories like Zambia’s space program to put the first African on the moon and pulling inspiration from traditions in the Yoruba language.
To Buy: Keexs Afronauts Sneakers, $85.
Founded in 2015, Kendall Miles kicked off her own footwear line as a third-generation entrepreneur. The designer constantly works to push the bill of strut-worthy silhouettes with boots, sandals, heels and sneakers made to turn heads. The pairs are manufactured in Florence, Italy as well, employing traditional methods of hand-craftsmanship for authenticity and care.
Brought to you by founders Yossi Shetrit and Davidson Petit-Frere, Lavati has all the shoes you need for your dressier occasions. The styles range from sleek boots and booties to suede and leather sneakers with a clean finish.
To Buy: Lavati Chelsea Boots, $595.
Merah Vodianova‘s sandals are not ones to be forgotten. The British designer tapped into her African heritage to create a twisted mix of modern and classic. The pairs are handmade in the Italian region of Marche with a focus on minimalism and clean lines for a refined appeal.
Michael Grey Footwear
Michael Grey worked previously as a designer under top brands like Roberto Cavalli, Vince Camuto and Steve Madden before venturing off for his own brand. His line of sandals comes from his New York-based factory where he hand-makes the summery designs with a personalized flair and finesse.
Of African Amharic and Tigrinya origin, Negash translates to “in line to rule” or heir to the throne. Created in 2007, the brand intends to provide shoes and styles for a modern sense of royalty, those who honor themselves as their own king or queen. Its collections are made up of sneakers, sandals, heels and more for men, women and kids.
To Buy: Negash Amun Ra Red Sneakers, $160.
Off-White is easily one of the most recognizable brands in the world in modern fashion. Virgil Abloh’s signature Helvetica font detailing and bright hand tags turn all of his sneakers into hit styles that sell out within minutes. From collaborations with Nike and Air Jordan to must-see shows during Paris Fashion Week, there is no forgetting Off-White.
To Buy: Off-White Vulcanized Sneakers, $400.
With four stores across the country already, RockDeep is one to note. The footwear provides everything you could need for outdoor adventures like hiking, running, golf and winter activities. And according to its website, the next phase of its expansion will be building apparel factories in underserved areas across America. “For Rockdeep, giving back is not an option… it’s an obligation,” said founder Rocky Parrish on its site.
After a career working for Fortune 500 companies, Ron Donovan followed his passion for entrepreneurship and style to teach himself the art of shoe-making — and it definitely paid off. The FGI Rising Star Finalist designs both full collections and made-to-order pairs, combining classic products with a modern edge. With loafers, boots, sneakers and more, Donovan’s designs never lack a handsome finish and a touch of pizzaz.
To Buy: Ron Donovan Stanford Boots, $795.
Offering up to a size 14 in women’s styles, you may recognize Samanta Shoes‘ silhouettes as worn on the likes of Tyra Banks, Debra Messing and Rihanna. The brand is dedicated to filling a hole in the industry when it comes to extended footwear sizing, blending together comfort and chic designs.
To Buy: Samanta Shoes Melinda Pumps, $125.
Sole Rebels produces handcrafted originals made with sustainable materials in Ethiopia. Founder Bethlehem Tilahun Alem’s original mission was the brand was to highlight the traditional “barabasso” (an Ethiopian recycled tire) shoe, producing incomparably unique styles with maximum comfort. The brand also offers vegan options for a full selection of eco-friendly footwear.
Featuring finely curated, Italian-made pairs, Tiannia Barnes‘ shoes are not for the faint of heart. The collections, titled terms like Freedom and Inspire, bring trending elements with bold touches of fringe and fluff and shine. Tiannia Barnes also donates 10% of her branded label T-shirt sales to local and national charities.
To Buy: Tiannia Barnes Tara Boots, $795.
Luxury footwear reaches a whole new meaning thanks to Titi Adesa. Adesa grew up between Lagos and London and employs her worldly experience in her designs. Delicately hand-crafted in Milan with ethical practices, her collections include heels, sandals and flats. Adesa additionally created the TA Foundation, an organization that works to empower young women in underserved communities within Africa who aspire to work in the fashion and design industry; the foundation aims to provide sponsorship and mentorship through education.
To Buy: Titi Adesa S’oke Rosso, $541.
Founder Tochukwu Mbiamnozie came to the United States to pursue his passion for fashion and for businesses that give back. His shoes for men and women display handcrafted detailing, evident from the one-of-a-kind ombré colors, stitching and accents. Tucci Polo shoes are handpainted and made to order, so every design is created uniquely for you.
To Buy: Tucci Polo Greenish Oxfords, $465.