WORDS BY JOSEPH FURNESS
It's Black History Month over in the US, so we’re celebrating the best way we know how: by calling attention to the African-American fashion designers we’re digging right now.
From Telfar to Heron Preston, Lemlem to Third Crown, we’re fortunate to stock some of the most brilliant collections, by the most inspirational Black designers in North America.
Here, we take you through our edit of the top Black fashion designers making waves in the States (and beyond) with their luxury fashion labels.
Designer: Telfar Clemens
You don’t have to scroll far on social media before you come across a Telfar shopping bag – the vegan leather accessory (available in three different sizes) is currently the It bag of Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.
But that’s not all Telfar Clemens is doing over at his eponymous brand. The 36-year-old designer – born in Queens, New York to Liberian parents – is also putting an avant-garde spin on wardrobe staples (e.g. Converse Chuck Taylors and cable knits), making velour tracksuits cool again and bringing depth to graphic-print tees.
In short: this African-American designer should definitely be on your radar. He’s fast becoming one the best Black designers in fashion history.
Designer: Jerry Lorenzo
Hitting that sweet spot between streetwear and luxury fashion, Fear of God is one of the most coveted brands in the world right now. But who is the man behind it?
Jerry Lorenzo – son of former MLB manager and player Jerry Manuel – is an African-American designer who founded FOG with just $14,000. Quickly attracting the attention of Virgil Abloh, it wasn’t long until the former club promoter was designing merch for the likes of Kanye West and Justin Bieber.
Now, the label is collaborating with stalwart brands such as Ermenegildo Zegna, Converse, Nike and adidas and shows no sign of slowing down. Just goes to show how far one can get with little funds and a lot of passion.
Designer: Brittany Kozerski
Why did fashion editor Brittany Kozerski found JADE Swim? The answer is simple: she struggled to find swimwear that was right for her, so she started creating her own.
The Black designer puts her spin on classic swimwear silhouettes, created with luxe Italian fabrics that, according to her official website, “smooth and sculpt the body”. Ergo, every piece looks tailored to fit – no matter the wearer’s body type.
But our favourite thing about this female-run brand is its stance on sustainability. Kozerski’s pieces are timeless, rather than following trends, and created in LA using ECONYL (100% regenerated nylon) for the majority of her collections.
Designer: Heron Preston
Heron Preston is the NYC streetwear brand of in-the-know style connoisseurs, founded by its African-American namesake. Defined by a signature safety orange hue and uber-contemporary workwear aesthetic, the brand’s luxury leisurewear pieces are all about the detail.
Where does Heron Preston seek inspiration from? Well, because he’s an artist, content creator, creative director and DJ (as well as a fashion designer), he has a whole lot of influences in his everyday life. His specific references to uniforms, however, can be traced back to memories of his father working as a police officer in his hometown of San Francisco, California.
Designer: Matthew Harris
Minimalist elegance is the essence of Mateo: the New York-based fine jewellery brand run by African-American designer Matthew Harris. Fittingly, it’s the perfect place to purchase treasures that’ll be passed down for generations.
Born in Montego Bay, Jamaica to a seamstress mother, Harris discovered the art of jewellery making when he moved to New York City at the age of 16. Initially, he launched a men’s jewellery business, designing pieces with himself in mind; but after a shake-up in 2014, Mateo shifted its focus to women’s jewellery. Now, Harris’ designs can be spotted on the likes of Zendaya and Rihanna.
Designer: Kristin and Kofi Essel
Third Crown is the Harlem-based jewellery brand run by husband-and-wife team Kristin and Kofi Essel. Bridging the gap between everyday jewellery and statement accessories, the couple design sculptural pieces that are both bold and easy to wear.
Why should you be paying attention to this Black-owned brand right now? Well, it’s already caught the eye of Beyoncé and Solange. And we’re firm believers that if something’s good enough for the Knowles sisters, it’s good enough for us.
Designer: Josué Thomas
Josué Thomas is the African-American designer behind Gallery Dept.: a forward-thinking brand that does much more than just create clothes. In fact, it's not really a brand at all – more of a studio, based in LA, that specialises in repurposing vintage garments.
Just like his studio, Josué Thomas is multidimensional; he’s also an artist, which should come as no surprise to fans of his imaginative contemporary take on classic daywear designs.
Designer: Liya Kebede
Lemlem is a fashion label by supermodel, actress and designer Liya Kebede. Made in Africa, the brand – which means ‘to bloom and flourish’ in Ethiopian – puts craftsmanship, sustainability and humility at its centre.
Kebede set up Lemlem after a trip to Ethiopia, where she discovered a team of traditional weavers who were out of work. So, she founded the brand and hired the group to work for her. Now, the weavers are helping Kebede to produce beautiful, versatile and timeless pieces that spotlight true craftsmanship.
Designer: Liya Kebede
In partnership with Comme des Garçons, DJ Honey Dijon is channelling her norm-breaking attitude into fashion. The name of her label? Honey Fucking Dijon, of course.
Honey Fucking Dijon is a manifestation of its namesake’s loud, proud and unapologetic nature. The African-American transgender designer puts her spin on a range of wardrobe staples – from graphic T-shirts to tote bags and sweatshirts – by embellishing them with bold slogans, 00s-inspired materials and off-beat details.
Designer: Don C
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Don C is a Black designer of Louisiana Creole descent. For many years, he was Kanye West’s manager and an executive at the rapper’s G.O.O.D record label. But in the last decade, he has moved away from the music industry to pursue fashion.
With a focus on luxury sportswear, he founded Just Don in 2011. Since then, the Black creative’s streetwear label has enjoyed a slew of lauded collaborations, worn by some of the most high-profile names in sport, music and fashion. Just Don’s USP? Its confident identity, playful with animal prints, vibrant colours and bold look-at-me graphics.