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If ￼#BlackLivesMatter￼ and ￼#BlackModelsMatter￼, it seems that the Fashion Institute of Technology hopes to prove that black designers matter too. An upcoming exhibit, entitled “Black Fashion Designers,” will showcase a global history of black people in fashion from the 1950s to the present, focusing on designers as well as models. Set to open December 6 at the Museum at FIT, the show is quite the ambitious endeavor, with work from more than 60 designers.
Here we pick out five iconic names from the exhibit you should know.
Anne Lowe was one of a very few black dressmakers in America who created gowns for high society during her time, from the 1920s to the 1960s. The Alabama-born designer got her biggest moment when she created Jaqueline Kennedy’s wedding gown, though she did not receive the kind of credit she would have today. In addition to designing for Kennedy, she also created pieces for the Rockefellers and more society families.
In a way, Stephen Burrows could likely find success today as a designer if he was a newcomer again. His gender-irreverent pieces would slide nicely into the prevailing trends of today. In his day, he also saw success co-founding O Boutique and being offered his own namesake store by Henri Bendel’s president. His pieces found themselves on the backs of Cher, Barbara Streisand, and more. His buzziest moment? Being selected as one of five designers to represent America in what is commonly referred to as the Battle of Versailles. Of the selects, Burrows was the only African-American.
This Harlem boutique owner could be credited with singlehandedly shaping the street and urban markets. He sold his designs to the everyday guy who lived in Harlem as well as the celebrities who came out of the neighborhood, and that put Dan in a unique position. Amongst the trends he helped to push was the all-over logo look pervasive in the ’80s.
As the Washington Post’s fashion critic, Robin Givhan has a unique perspective on fashion and an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the industry and art. Having published The Battle of Versailles, which revolved around the point at which America began to be taken seriously in the global fashion arena, Givhan provides not only facts about what people have contributed but also the context and effects. For the exhibit, she has helped create a film where she moderates a conversation between models Naomi Sims, Veronica Webb, and Liya Kebede.
With a section of the exhibit dedicated to the models, Webb is an important face in the mix. Her face made it in publications like Vogue, Elle, and Essence, and she’s walked for brands like Chanel and Azzedine Alaia. Her history-making moment? Becoming the first black supermodel to bag an exclusive contract with a major cosmetics company, Revlon, in 1992.