When it comes to style and fashion, Black people are unmatched. Ann Lowe is credited as the first Black fashion designer. Lowe created pieces from the 1920s to the 1960s for some of the country’s most affluent families, celebrities and politicians.

Willi Smith’s WilliWear Limited was launched in 1976 and became the innovative foundation of modern streetwear. By 1986, WilliWear Limited had grossed over $25 million. Iconic designer Dapper Dan took the creative initiative to mix the high-end monograms of Gucci and Louis Vuitton with fabrics ready for the streets of Harlem.

The ’90s saw designers such as Karl Kani and Carl Jones with Cross Colours set the tone for urban streetwear. The colorful athleisure and oversized looks were the fashions associated with the evolution of hip-hop.

In the 2000s, music artists became the face of their own brands and affiliates. Brands like Sean Jean, Rocawear, Babyphat and FUBU were everywhere.

While Black designers and clothing companies have been around, they haven’t always been given their rightful place on the major runways like New York Fashion Week and its affiliated annual global events.

However, within the last decade, Black designers have begun to receive their flowers for their influence and contributions to the fashion industry.

New York Fashion Week kicked off on September 7, with over 15 Black designers showing their latest designs. A host of newcomers will join some familiar faces. According to Vanity Fair, over 25% of 2022’s NYFW official schedule featured Black-owned brands.

Organizations like the Black in Fashion Council and the Fifteen Percent Pledge address systematic racism that has hindered Black designers from opportunities, space and resources in the fashion industry. 

Black designers are constantly pushing the envelope to create timeless pieces of wearable art, and they deserve to be celebrated. Here are some Black designers who have impacted fashion in the 2020s.

Dur Doux

Cynthia and Najla Burt, the Washington, D.C. mother-and-daughter team, are the creative geniuses behind Dur Doux. As the brand name translates to Hard/Soft, their designs represent the duality of feminity. Their statement runway and ready-to-wear luxury pieces flawlessly combine colors and textures.


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Frederick Anderson

Frederick Anderson’s designs represent the evolution of the Upper East Side type of woman. His signature knits and tailored silks are a high-end, ready-to-wear fashion favorite. Anderson made a statement during his NYFW show in 2022, opening the runway with images of Black Lives Matter and queer rights protests.

Studio 189

Co-founded by actress Rosario Dawson and creative entrepreneur Abrima Erwiah, Studio 189 is an “artisan-produced fashion lifestyle brand and social enterprise.”
The brand is made in Africa and produces African and African-inspired pieces. Their dedication to ethical sourcing earned them the prestigious CFDA Lexus Fashion Initiative for Sustainability.


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Virgil Abloh

In March 2018, Virgil Abloh became the first African-American artistic director of Louis Vuitton when he was appointed to head the French fashion house’s menswear collections. The Chicago-born designer, entrepreneur and stylist also served as the CEO of the Milan-based label Off-White. 

His creative mind transformed the look of the prolific fashion house and created a bridge between it and modern fashion. 

Abloh passed away in November 2021. Two years later, Louis Vuitton chose Pharrell Williams to step into Abloh’s role. 


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Shayne Oliver

Minnesota-born Shayne Oliver founded the New York City-based label Hood By Air.
After taking a hiatus to focus on a special 2017 collection for Helmut Lang, Oliver reprised his brand in 2019. He is known for incorporating ’90s staples like oversized tees, bold logos and graphics onto premium fabrics.

His androgynous pieces are favorites of celebrities such as Rihanna, Ciara, Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Rocky.

Telfar Clemens

Telfar Clemens began creating a collection of reimagined vintage clothes in 2003. In 2005, he launched Telfar.

The brand didn’t see much traction until its signature shopping bag purse became the new must-have. Donned the “Bushwick Birkin,” the bags received global recognition and gained Clemens a cult following due to its affordability and celebration of Black pop culture. In 2020, Clemens was awarded the Accessories Designer of the Year by the CFDA.

Telfar has expanded from purses into ready-to-wear fashion and outerwear.


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LaQuan Smith

LaQuan Smith launched his design line in 2013 at the young age of 21. His sexy designs have been seen on everyone from Halle Bailey to Lori Harvey.

In June, Beyoncé wore his metallic shattered glass catsuit during a stop on her Renaissance World Tour. The singer celebrated the designer again when she wore a stunning two-piece orange set for The Book Of Hov celebration in July.

Smith jumped to menswear after debuting a line at NYFW in February.