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GROUNDBREAKING BLACK-OWNED CLOTHING BRANDS SHAPING LUXURY FASHION

As diversity and inclusion continue to expand within fashion, Black-owned brands are finally receiving the recognition they deserve while simultaneously—and bravely—continue to challenge convention. Today’s Black fashion designers not only continue to bring fresh takes to the cultural and creative landscape of fashion design, as they always have—they’re also inspiring Black youth to pursue their passions, whatever they may be.

When underrepresented voices receive equal access to platforms, it sets the scene for entire industries to shift, and that includes the world of fashion. This is especially important for diversity, inclusivity, and representation, as visibility is vital to fueling creativity, innovation, and societal change. When it comes to fashion, specifically, Black designers not only serve as beacons of hope, pride, and perseverance for their own communities, but they possess the power to provide inspiration for people of color—especially children of color—and marginalized communities everywhere.

For generations, the influence of Black culture and the fruits of Black talent in fashion have been undeniable. But what about their due recognition? By acknowledging the significance of the work of past and present people of color, the world of fashion validates their struggles and successes. And thanks to the inspiring efforts of today’s Black designers, the world of fashion now looks toward a new horizon like never before. At Neiman Marcus, we’re proud to be at the forefront of this journey toward equality as we forge together toward a better future.

Here, we’ve rounded up some of the most influential Black trailblazers in fashion and today’s top Black-owned clothing brands available at Neiman Marcus.

ICONIC BLACK FASHION DESIGNERS IN HISTORY

Without the legends who came before them, where would today’s Black designers be? These are just a few to have defied all odds in the name of following their dreams, consequently paving the way for future creatives.

Elizabeth Keckley

Born into slavery in Virginia in 1818, Elizabeth Keckley was an American seamstress and writer. After gaining her liberty in 1855, Keckley established a dressmaking business in Washington, D.C., that staffed more than 20 seamstresses. Keckley is famed for her work as First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln’s personal modiste and her autobiographical work “Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House.”

Zelda Wynn Valdes

Born in Pennsylvania in 1905, Zelda Wynn Valdes was an American fashion designer and costumer. Valdes grew up during racial segregation—yet these barricades were no match for her tenacity. In the early ’20s, Valdes began working in her uncle’s tailoring shop in White Plains, New York, and in the stock room of a high-end boutique, where she eventually became the shop’s first Black sales clerk and tailor. Valdes went on to open her dressmaking studio, “Zelda Wynn,” in 1948—the first Black-owned business on Broadway and in Manhattan.

Anne Lowe

Anne Lowe is celebrated today as the first Black American to become a renowned fashion designer. Lowe’s designs frequented upper-class women’s wardrobes, with her meticulous handwork, signature flowers, and trapunto technique becoming her claim to fame. Today, she is well-known for having created one of history’s most iconic wedding gowns, the ivory taffeta bridal dress Jacqueline Bouvier wore when she married President John F. Kennedy.

Jay Jaxon

Born in Queens in 1941, Jay Jaxon was a fashion designer, costumer, and pioneer of Black couture. He earned a bachelor’s degree and attended law school before changing paths and becoming a bank teller to support himself while studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Jaxon was the first American to work as a couturier for a distinguished Parisian atelier, taking on stints at Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, and Jean-Louis Scherrer.

Willi Smith

Willi Smith is praised as the father of streetwear. His brand WilliWear Limited, which he launched in 1976, amassed great success and led him to become one of the most revered African-American fashion designers in history. In his early years, Smith studied at Parsons School of Design before leaving to pursue a solo career, taking inspiration from the streets of New York for his designs.

6 MODERN BLACK-OWNED DESIGNER BRANDS

When it comes to Black designers and Black-owned brands, the fashion industry has come a long way and, arguably, still has a long way to go. Here are six stand-out designers who are paving the way by paying homage to their culture and contributing to the ever-expanding creative vision of the Black collective and beyond.

Chelsea Paris

Chelsea Paris Remy Leather Strappy Sandals

Established in 2012, Chelsea Paris is a luxury footwear brand inspired by designer and founder Theresa Ebagua’s African heritage. The collection features brightly colored shoes crafted from vegetable-tanned, metal-free leather. Each season, the label chooses an organization to which it donates a portion of its profits.

Fanm Mon

Fanm Mon was born as an ode to the vibrant heritage of Haiti. The label borrows artisanal techniques from Ukraine, where Fanm Mon was once based, along with Turkish sartorial methods, where the brand has developed a new home. This melding of diverse cultural influences has led the brand to develop a distinct viewpoint filled with fairytale silhouettes, original prints, and gorgeous colors. The ruffles and bows are sharp and sculptural, giving the naturally delicate elements an air of strength within each design.

Ree Projects

Ree Projects is the brainchild of fashion designer Desiree Kleinen and one of the fastest-growing Black-owned handbag brands. The Amsterdam-based label is defined by a timeless appeal that merges elegance and function. Each design is thoughtfully constructed to give women bags that remain relevant year after year. The colors are as classic as the decorative elements—fringe, twisted handles, and netting, to name a few.

TOVE

TOVE Ceres Organic Cotton Poplin Midi Dress

Created in 2019 by Camille Perry and Holly Wright, TOVE designs feminine garments with distinct silhouettes that easily pass from one season to the next. The ready-to-wear line is non-restrictive, granting comfort and freedom of movement. Each garment is designed to last, which shows in their beautifully timeless cuts.

Off-White

Founded in 2013 by visionary Virgil Abloh, Off-White fuses street style with luxurious craftsmanship. The bold graphic prints, signature arrow motifs, and innovative cuts frequent the ready-to-wear, footwear, and handbag designs, giving classic closet staples an edgy vibe. In addition to his reign at Off-White, Abloh became the first African-American artistic director of a French luxury house (Louis Vuitton), which was lauded and celebrated throughout the industry.

Harwell Godfrey

Hardwell Godfrey Yellow Gold Pearl and Multi-Stone Necklace

Born in California, Lauren Harwell Godfrey began her career as an art and creative director in New York and San Francisco. A visit to the famed Tucson Gem Fair inspired Godfrey to teach herself how to craft leather and raw stone accessories. This led to the creation of Harwell Godfrey, the namesake accessories brand that embraces the ancient patterns of the African Diaspora. The fine jewelry line features 18-karat gold, precious gemstones, exotic-colored beads, and ethically sourced diamonds.

UNLOCK YOUR STYLING POTENTIAL

Discover your personal style with Neiman Marcus’ collection of clothing, luxury handbags, backpacks, totes, wallets, and shoes. Or, shop by appointment to enjoy a one-on-one in-store or virtual experience with a style advisor. Online appointments allow you to review items you like and receive real-time personalized styling tips to suit your unique tastes.

Now that we’ve introduced some of today’s most influential Black luxury brands, explore the designers by category page to discover new brands and create a list of favorite designers to watch.