Many black fashion designers have had successful and influential careers. Only a few, however, are widely recognized today. By exploring the work of these designers – both historical and current – this exhibition calls attention to the diverse perspectives they bring, which make fashion more creative and inclusive. Black Fashion Designers features 75 ensembles by 60 designers, highlighting a range of individual styles. We hope that this exhibition will serve to broaden fashion history by acknowledging the influence of black designers, and also inspire interest and scholarship on the impact of black designers, past and present. Black designers face many challenges, including the presumption that they work in a single “black style,” catering to only one demographic. Black Fashion Designers demonstrates that they work in a variety of styles and genres.
The exhibition is divided into nine themes: Breaking into the Industry, The Rise of the Black Fashion Designer, Eveningwear, Street Influence, Activism, Menswear, Black Models, African Influence, and Experimentation. The wide range of designs on view includes a wedding gown by Ann Lowe that utilizes traditional techniques, while Madison Maxey’s design features a print generated from a computer code. Also on view are Mimi Plange’s pink dress with trapunto quilting that references African scarification traditions, and a red and black shirtdress ensemble from Hood By Air that pushes boundaries of construction and gender.
Installation images: Black Fashion Designers, The Museum at FIT, 2016. Courtesy of The Museum at FIT.