Fashion is a tool to be unique, different, and expressive. It also can be a tool to unite and inspire. Meet the names of black people that made it big in fashion and made fashion. Listen to what they have to say to all of us. And if you want to know the context of what has inspired us to pay this tribute, read our article on the basics of Black Lives Matter.
Editor-in-chief of British Vogue as of April 2017
Being 18 Edward became i-D’s fashion director – the youngest person ever to have been named an editor at a major international fashion title. He was awarded an Order of British Empire for his services to diversity in the fashion industry.
By people getting together and celebrating this idea of togetherness, great things can happen.
Model & activist
Of Chinese, Nigerian, and Thai descent, Adesuwa was a chemistry student at the University of Maryland. She started attending at age 15. She initially entered the modeling world intending to earn money for a NASA internship. Now, Adesuwa is also a filmmaker with her debut movie “Spring in Harlem,” focusing on Africa’s culture.
The foundations are all the same: Don’t be a d*ckhead. Respect your neighbors. Show empathy.
Next editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar as of July 2020
Nasr is currently the executive fashion director at Vanity Fair and has been part of a rebirth of a title that highlights a much more diverse slate of contributors than is typically seen in mainstream magazines. Her appointment marks the first time an black editor will lead Harper’s Bazaar, the oldest continuously published fashion magazine in the country, a milestone in an industry where there is little if any diversity in the highest levels of leadership.
My lens by nature is colorful, and so it is important to me to begin a new chapter […] by shining a light on all individuals who I believe are the inspiring voices of our time.
First African American plus-model in the pages of American Vogue
In 2012, right after graduating with a degree in Mass Media Arts from Clark Atlanta University, Lee left behind law school plans and moved to New York City to begin her career in modeling. Lee believes in encouraging self-love and a positive body image in girls and young women. She proudly counts herself as an advocate for diversity across race, size and gender in her field.
As a curvy model, as a woman of color, my message is trying to make people realize that they’re worthy of loving themselves as-is.
Model, first Antiguan-African American, trans, disabled woman ever to be signed by a major agency
Philip sees herself as an advocate for the representation of marginalized identities. Her accomplishments outside of modeling include appearing as a panelist and guest speaker at Antigua’s first national conference on disability and has also penned her memoir “This Kid Can Fly: It’s About Ability (NOT Disability).”
…keep your head high, know your worth, and your special place in the world.
First black supermodel
Only 15 Naomi appeared on the cover of British Elle, and later she was the first African American model to be featured on the cover of British and French Vogues. Now she is credited as a trailblazer for African American models.
Naomi founded the charity Fashion for Relief, which has organized fund-raising fashion shows to benefit victims of hurricane Katrina in 2005, the India terrorist attacks in 2009, the Haiti earthquake in 2010, and the Japan earthquake in 2011. Fashion for Relief is reported to have raised £4.5 million so far. Campbell is also an active fundraiser for breast cancer and started a charity to battle poverty in Brazil.
Anger is a manifestation of a deeper issue… and that, for me, is based on insecurity, self-esteem, and loneliness.
Model & activist, founder of Gurls Talk
Adwoa’s battled with addiction and depression after entering modeling at only 16. Now, her Gurls Talk project gives young women a safe space to discuss feminist issues like mental health, body image, and sexuality. In 2019, she was immortalized in doll form as part of Barbie’s 60th anniversary “Shero” collection.
Diversity can’t be a fashionable thing: it should be here to stay.
Fashion designer, LVMH Prize finalist
Sindiso has founded her eponymous label with a focus on creating modern sustainable textiles with a strong emphasis on African storytelling. Sindiso works very closely with NGO’s in developing handmade textiles for her collections.
[My fashion is] a healing agent that allows people who have been previously marginalized in society to have an opportunity to share in their stories.
First African American male model to walk for Chanel
Discovered in 2015, model & dancer Allton was photographed by Karl Lagerfeld himself and scouted to walk in Chanel’s 2018/2019 “Métiers d’Art” show, he became the first African American male model to walk for the luxury house in its then 108-year history.
Whatever is meant for you is going to be for you […] and no matter how many times you fail, nothing and nobody can stop you.
Lindsay Peoples Wagner
Editor-in-chief at Teen Vogue
Peoples Wagner rose in August 2018 with her barnstorming piece “Everywhere and Nowhere: What It’s Really Like to Be Black and Work in Fashion”, a collation of testimonies from over 100 black professionals and public figures across the fashion industry.
How far have we really come in fashion if a black woman I’ve never met is advising me to dim my blackness so that I can continue to have a seat at the table?
Model & public spokesperson
After being diagnosed with a skin condition at a young age, Winnie suffered from verbal harassment, which led to her changing schools numerous times and dropping out of high school, after which she contemplated committing suicide, model to-be was discovered by “America’s Next Top Model” host Tyra Banks in 2014. Now she is a public spokesperson on the skin condition vitiligo.
The more people see, the more they want to see.
After moving from native South Sudan to Nairobi, Kenya, she was discovered and debuted during the Autumn/Winter 2017 season. Initially, a flight attendant wannabe now has walked over 50 shows of high fashion brands.
Always be true to yourself and the sky is the limit if you work hard and don’t give up.
He made his name in the late ’80s and ’90s as the tailor who provided rap culture with its signature gangster-inspired style, reworking traditional luxury-house products to outfit a slew of emerging hip-hop stars and athletes. Dan’s work was highlighted as part of the MOMA’s “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” exhibit.
I’m a product of a culture that’s been excluded. When you bring these two forces together, the chemistry involved in that is explosive. So that’s why you heard me say, ‘I’m a black man before I’m a brand.
Model & actor
Moore left home at 14 and grew up in foster care. She has spoken candidly about traumatic experiences on sex trafficking, time in prison, being on and off hormone treatment, drug addiction attempted suicide, and homelessness. She also starred in a TV dramatization of New York’s 1980s LGBTQ underground ballroom scene “Pose”. Indya Moore is one of the most visible trans people of color in fashion and media today by using social media platforms — namely Instagram — to build their image in a way they could control.
I don’t know who I am outside of someone who’s just trying to be free and find safety for myself and for others.
Dorothea Church (1922-2006)
First African American fashion model in Paris
In the 1950s, Dorothea became the first African American model on the runways of Paris, where Christian Dior hired her. After returning to the U.S. in 1954 laden with trunks of designer dresses, she traveled the country, putting on fashion shows and serving as an inspiration for African American women.
If you’re beautiful, they don’t care what color you are.
Lagos-born and based designer Kenneth Ize is reinterpreting traditional west African fabrics and Nigerian craft with his namesake label that he founded in 2013. Ize is an LVMH Prize 2019 finalist. He is also influencing the creative arts curriculum in local schools to create traditional fashion.
The African fashion industry is rising due largely to personal stories that are uniquely narrated to create a space for diversity and culture, most of this can be seen in local craftmanship and handmade techniques.
Ugbad was born in Somalia and raised in a Kenyan refugee camp and Des Moines, Iowa. She wears head coverings since 14, and in 2019 she was Fendi’s and Lanvin’s first runway model to wear hijab.
I haven’t encountered any discrimination or people making me feel like an outsider solely because of my hijab. I’ve had instances where people would say something ignorant, and that’s when I feel I have a responsibility to educate them.
Naomi Sims (1948-2009)
Supermodel, businesswoman & author
Naomi Sims was the first African American model to appear on the cover of Ladies’ Home Journal in 1968. She was the ambassador for all African American people and broke down many the social barriers.
Maybe I won’t see it in my lifetime, but there will come a day when it will be quite common to see a black face on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar or Vogue.
Mona is originally from Denmark, with roots of Somalian, Ethiopian, Danish, and Turkish heritage. She was the winner of Denmark’s Elite Model Look competition in 2017, although she was first scouted at the tender age of 12. It’s only the beginning, but she’s off to a killer start.
I think it’s great that the world is finally acknowledging all these different black girls, especially in the industry, it was so needed.
Model & businesswoman
After pursuing a successful modeling career since finishing high school, Liya has focused on philanthropic ventures that include Lemlem, a clothing line founded to protect traditional Ethiopian weaving techniques and support women, which is sold at Barney’s, J Crew, Net-a-Porter and numerous boutique shops. Kebede has also been a goodwill ambassador for the World Health Organization’s Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Division since 2005. In 2013, Kebede was named one of Glamour’s “Women of the Year” for her philanthropic work through her Liya Kebede Foundation.
Helping others isn’t a chore; it is one of the greatest gifts there is.
Adut Akech Bior
Born in South Sudan, Akech was raised in Kenya and moved to Australia. Aged six, with her mother and five siblings as south Sudanese refugees, she started her modeling career at 16. She was the second black model in history to land the coveted bridal spot in a Chanel couture show, closing the house’s Haute Couture Autumn 2018 show. Akech has also started work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, promoting causes to support refugees worldwide.
I don’t want to be known as ‘Adut, the model,’ I want to be known as someone who made a positive impact. It’s an honor to be used as an example of what diversity looks like.