Black figures in fashion


Like much of the entertainment world, the fashion industry is largely influenced by Black culture and artists. In most cases, however, this community is credited incorrectly, if at all, leading to a lot of obscured talent. In light of Black History Month, here are some prominent Black artists that have taken the world by storm. 

Virgil Abloh (1980-2021)

A true pioneer, the Chicago-born fashion mogul, Virgil Abloh, was one of the key figures involved in the fusion of luxury and streetwear fashion. Initially a civil engineer, Abloh built a loyal following for his first brand, Pyrex, which capitalized on the then-novel concept. With long-time friend and business partner Ye West, Abloh went on to intern at Fendi and eventually, in 2011, rebranded Pyrex Vision to the luxury streetwear name we have all come to know: Off-White. Chosen as Louis Vuitton’s creative director in 2018, Abloh’s short stay cemented streetwear’s position in the luxury fashion circle. 

Naomi Campbell 

The first Black model to grace the cover of American Vogue’s September issue, Naomi Campbell’s fashion career has opened many doors for the Black community. Discovered at 15 years-old by Elite Management– one of the most prestigious modeling agencies in the world– Campbell has continued to make a name for herself in the fashion industry. Known for her powerful catwalk and no-nonsense attitude, it’s no surprise that the supermodel quickly gained international recognition for both her fashion and philanthropy work. Part of the supermodel group that dominated the 90’s known as The Big Six, Campbell has co-founded many charities that integrate the world of fashion with humanitarian projects like Fashion for Relief.

Telfar Clemens

An advocate for creating quality pieces and promoting inclusivity, Telfar Clemens’s raging success hasn’t caused him to forget his core values. Initially moving to New York to launch his modeling career, Clemens eventually found a passion for designing clothing, starting with gender neutral pieces back in 2005. He has since created the coveted versatile Telfar bag, affectionately nicknamed the “Bushwick Birkin,” after the part of Brooklyn in which the label is based. Despite being a fan favorite among bigger names like Beyonce and Oprah, Clemens remains true to his motto, “Not for you, for everyone,” by continuing to create more affordable, comprehensive products. 

Oliver Rousteing 

Appointed creative director of Balmain at age 25, Oliver Rousteing is the youngest individual to hold a position of such caliber in the French fashion scene since Yves Saint Laurent. As a queer person of color, the road to the top has not been easy for the French designer. While conservative critics initially shunned his flamboyant image and lack of experience, his age proved to be advantageous in the ever-growing digital age. The first French designer to hit one million followers on Instagram, Rousteing is one of the leading individuals in an era where fashion meets technology, having invented a cult of personality that combines Balmain’s brand image with his personal style. 

Ruth E. Carter 

The first Black American to be nominated and win an Oscar in costume design, Ruth E. Carter is the driving force behind some of the most popular films. Much of her work honors the history of the Black community and introduces the world to the beauty of traditional Black culture, as demonstrated in the integration of Afrofuturism in Marvel hit, “Black Panther”.