You’re never fully dressed without a smile, a mask ... and maybe another mask, just in case. But now that we are starting to emerge from our home offices, shed the sweatpants and venture back to the streets, you might be asking yourself: What should I wear? Is tie-dye still cool? Can I still wear high-rise jeans? Welcome to the great reopening, which will have you second-guessing your outfit like you’re back in middle school. But never fear, OZY is here to introduce the Black rising stars in the world of fashion, help you foresee future industry trends, show what you need to up your game for the fall and the global trends in a glamorous but sometimes grubby industry.
Isabelle Lee and Liam Jamieson, OZY Reporters
Black rising star fashion designers
1. Tadiwa Mashiri
Africans are used to being sold dreams. Mashiri, a 24-year-old from Zimbabwe, is trying to offer up a dose of creative reality to his country and the continent through Soul’d Dreams, a brand he started with his co-founders four years ago with a name that references those dashed promises. Mashiri tells OZY Soul’d Dreams’ work can be described as “Unisex street fashion with their inspiration stemming from the marriage of African history, fashion, art and postmodern culture.” But there’s a strong social ethos behind the brand, which holds an annual blanket drive where profits are used to buy blankets for families in need in Zimbabwe. To Mashiri, fashion’s about more than appearances. “Even though design can be seen sometimes as being purely aesthetic, the functionality of it sometimes is more important than we give it credit for,” he says.
2. Dapper Dan
In 1989, Olympic sprinter Diane Dixon was photographed wearing a puff-sleeve, fur-lined jacket featuring the iconic Louis Vuitton pattern. Then in 2017, Gucci created its own rendition of the jacket but did not credit the original designer — Harlem’s Dapper Dan. The incident sparked controversy but ended up spotlighting Dan’s incredible career as a pioneer of hip-hop fashion. He was forced out of business in the ’90s after being sued for using luxury brands in his designs, and admittedly, beating them at their own game. Since being called out, Gucci has put money behind Dapper Dan’s atelier. Given his history, we’d say that an apology is also a smart investment.
3. Yvonne Jewnell and Tandra Birkett
This powerhouse mother-daughter duo is the driver of Harlem Fashion Week. Yvonne is a designer herself and attended Parsons School of Design. Her mother, Tandra, is a New York University-educated history teacher. So it isn’t surprising that their work bears the stamp of delicious design married with a sense of history. The fashion week is aimed at showcasing global designers of color and giving Harlem its day in the sun as an international nexus of fashion. It highlights trends that originated in communities of color — especially in Harlem. It’s a counterforce to cultural appropriation that designers and sponsors have flocked to in droves.
4. Letesha Renee
The designer behind Chicago’s unisex, streetwear-inspired Eugene Taylor Brand is much, much more than a fashion entrepreneur on the rise. Once a victim of abuse, she started writing essays to help heal from the trauma. Upon realizing how powerful the experience was, she founded Safe House, a collaborative space for survivors to come together and share their stories. Renee joins them, reading her essays in front of other women. The self-described tomboy’s collections have been dedicated to icons like Diana Ross, but the brand itself is an ode to Renee’s grandmother — her middle and last names were Eugene and Taylor — who taught her how to sew.
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By nature, fashion is an evolving industry with new styles, designs and trends emerging every day. But for much of its history, it’s been shrouded in exclusivity, barring those with darker skin complexions and curvier body shapes. This time, Rihanna hopes to leave no one behind. The singer’s Savage x Fenty lingerie line shuns the picture-perfect sentiments of brands like Victoria’s Secret, promoting inclusivity by featuring underwear for people of all skin tones and body types. What’s more, as people of color consistently struggle to find makeup that matches their skin, Rihanna also founded Fenty Beauty, a makeup brand that features a wide range of products to match skin tones of all kinds. While social media campaigns like #savagesummer continue to bring on the heat, keep an eye out for new drops from Rihanna’s brands this fall.
For decades, Harlem has been an epicenter of Black culture. Yet until recently, Black designers had few avenues to gain broader recognition. Memphis-born Brandice Daniel has been on a mission to change that since 2007, when she founded Harlem’s Fashion Row, stirring up the industry years before diversity and inclusivity initiatives were at the forefront of the fashion world’s radar. HFR serves as a platform for designers of color by hosting fashion shows, including some that are part of New York Fashion Week, which takes place in September. It also organizes exhibitions and summits that help small designers of color promote their work and build vital industry connections. The company’s trailblazing work has garnered significant community support, including a collaboration with Nike and LeBron James in 2018.
4. The Disruption of the Traveling Pants
Though most clothing tags list the country that the article was made in, that doesn’t tell the whole story. From sourcing the raw materials to shipping the product to a home or store, most clothes take a journey around the world, reliant on a network of supply chains for all of the pieces to come together. But the pandemic caused a significant disruption in these supply chains, from retailers canceling orders to changes in consumer habits. The brunt of the impact, though, has fallen on fast fashion’s garment workers, many of whom have gone without wages amid the pandemic. As the world slowly opens up and supply chains crank back up, is the time right for fast-fashion reform so that workers’ rights are protected?
fab fall pieces
1. Go-to Heels
Nothing is more essential than a shoe that goes with everything. Nude heels are perfect for that purpose and are a staple for the office or a night out. But, not every brand makes nude heels in every shade of nude. The lack of shade diversity impacts everything from Band-Aids to bras to ballet shoes. So, designer Salone Monet decided that she would make nude heels for every woman after working on a department store floor in D.C. Enter her New York-based eponymous brand, Salone Monet. It offers six shades of nude heels, making it an industry standout. The brand was endorsed and worn by Beyoncé for its commitment to inclusivity.
2. Banging Bag
If you are headed back to the office or are frantically running through airports again, you need a bag that works for you … and ideally, one that will last a long time. Materials like leather are ideal for longevity and the cool factor. Look no further than Made Leather Co. Lenise Williams founded the company after visiting leather tanneries in Morocco. All the leather for the bags is sourced from artisans in the “land of colors,” so you can feel good about where your bag comes from and who your purchase is supporting. It’s time to make going back to the office fun, unique and sustainable.
3. Skateboarding’s in
Not ready to brave the subway or public buses just yet? Have you considered a skateboard as a means of transportation for 2021? Maybe you learned to skateboard during the lockdown as a hobby, or perhaps you envy how cool skateboarders look whizzing by you. If you live in New York, you might have noticed more and more skaters taking to the streets. One NYC resident described skating through the empty streets as “flying.” If you’re looking for a board, you should try Proper Gnar. Black skater Latosha Stone started the brand in 2013, and her boards have even been on TV: They were featured in HBO’s Betty.
4. Good for the Planet and You
Seattle-based designer Valerie Madison uses recycled diamonds and metals to make her jewelry guilt-free and stunning. Making jewelry sustainably and ethically is no easy feat, so it helps to have a degree in environmental science from the University of Washington. One of the largest gold mines in the world lies in Utah, and the mining has caused such a large crater that it is visible from space. But eco-friendly jewelry is increasingly an area of focus for designers. By using recycled metals and gemstones, Madison is at the cutting edge of this sparkling revolution.
stylin’ around the world
1. Cool Weganool
Nature often has the best answers. Amid calls for green products and fabrics in the pollution-heavy fashion industry, Indian fashion entrepreneur Gowri Shankar found an eco-friendly and vegan alternative to wool in the form of a wasteland shrub that grows throughout much of South and Southeast Asia. Coined “Weganool,” the plant’s fibers can be extracted without chemicals and it can be grown in soil with high salinity and little water — plus the liquid leftovers can be made into insect repellent. European firms are already embracing it. Could America be next?
Step aside, Milan. Amid a sea of white kandura robes worn by men and dark abaya cloaks worn by women, desert city Dubai is becoming an emerging capital of fashion. International, modern and wealthy, the Emirati city has the tools for success, headquartering Vogue Arabia, boasting gargantuan, luxury shopping centers and even featuring a design district dedicated to hosting galleries and studios for high-end brands like Christian Dior and Burberry. But can the oil-dependent city compete with the culture-rich fashion hubs of New York, Paris and London?
Reminiscent of Victorian and Edwardian aesthetics, founded in Japan and now spreading around the globe? Welcome to Lolita fashion. Popularized through the ever-booming anime and manga industries, the knee-high socks, pastel ruffled skirts and frilly flower-laced bonnets of Lolita “makes me feel feminine, creative and unique,” American Lolita fan Ashlyn Smith tells OZY. And with its global spotlight booming thanks to Lolita conventions, annual “Lolita Days” and appearances on the New York Fashion Week catwalk, the Lolita industry is bursting at the seams, bringing in more opportunities for its designers to rake in the big bucks.
“Made in Vietnam” is taking on a new meaning. Once synonymous with the export of fast fashion, Vietnam is now giving birth to a generation of homegrown fashion designers. They’re starting to make waves globally, such as Do Manh Cuong, who has worked with brands including Christian Dior and Dominique Sirop, and Nguyen Cong Tri, whose daring ’fits have cloaked A-listers like Rihanna and Katy Perry. And other designers might soon follow. Just over a decade ago, there were a mere four fashion education institutions in the country. Today? There are over 15 schools in Ho Chi Minh City alone. Count the country in for the future of fashion and glam.