Friday, April 19, 2024

REVIVE YOUR STYLE: Beyond the Runway and Celebrating Black EXCELLENCE in Fashion House Leadership

With the spring/summer 2024 fashion weeks in full swing, we see so many beautiful collections, colors, fabrics, silhouettes and the oohs and ahs as we are intrigued by the flow, the swing, the flare, the clean/classic lines or the bold swag. As we watch these talented designers’ prized possessions, we can’t help but wonder what they were thinking; what was the inspiration behind the design or what is the story they are wanting to convey with said collection?

With all this, do you ever wonder about the challenges one may have had to face or how important this collection may be for the designer? Or how about the creative director, the highest creative position in a fashion house?

Labels employ creative directors to advise the designers on overarching concepts for collections and help guide the aesthetic vision of the brand. They are responsible for giving design direction for the fashion season and attending overseas sourcing trips, as well as training and managing a team of fashion designers.

Sounds like a pretty impressive and imperative task.

So, keeping with the theme for Black History Month, “African Americans and the Arts,” let’s take the time to recognize some of the pioneers who are breaking barriers in fashion.

In 2011 at 24 years old, Balmain appointed Olivier Rousteing (boy wonder) as creative director of the French label, and he has since successfully implanted a style that is easily recognizable and exclusively synonymous to Balmain, beautiful intricate embroidery and high shoulders that command attention.

In 2011 at 24 years old, Olivier Rousteing (boy wonder) as creative director of the French label.

Virgil Abloh, who began his own luxury street wear brand, Pyrex Vision, later re-branded as Off-White in 2012, became the first black creative director for Louis Vuitton in 2018 and ending in 2021 due to his untimely death but made a major impact on the history of the brand. He was also an architect, DJ, engineer and musician.

Despite a life cut short, Virgil Abloh, who began his own luxury street wear brand, Pyrex Vision, later re-branded ad Off-White in 2012, became the first black creative director for Louis Vuitton in 2018.

This void allowed for Pharrell Williams (the musi-fashion maestro) whose legacy extends beyond the fashion scene as he is a musical genius – a 13-time Grammy winner, songwriter, record producer, rapper and singer as well as an extraordinary entrepreneur.

Let us not forget an Academy Award nominee for “Happy,” a song that is loved by all ages and ethnicities.

A musical genius with 13 Grammys, Pharrell Williams (the musi-fashion maestro) has a legacy extending beyond the fashion scene.

Maximilian Davis one may call a risk taker, dropping out of the Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) Prize Young Designer competition to accept his new position at Ferragamo as creative director. Then again, you could say fashion is in his genes; his mother and sister were models, his dad studied fashion design and his grandmother taught Davis how to use a sewing machine. You could say this path was inevitable for Maximilian.

A risk taker with fashion in his genes, Maximilian Davis dropped out of the Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) Prize Young Designer competition to accept his new position at Ferragamo as creative director.

These four trailblazers are the results of those who came before them like Elizabeth Keckley, Virginia-born slave and dress maker to Mary Todd Lincoln (Abraham Lincoln’s wife); Zelda Wynn Valdes; Ann Lowe, the first African American to become a renowned fashion designer who designed Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ wedding dress when she married John F. Kennedy, a very famous dress indeed; Dapper Dan; Stephen Burrows and so many more.

They are also the highlight of those who are currently spearheading their own fashion brands like (in no specific order) Kanye West, Telfar Clemens, La Quan Smith, Aurora James, Ozwald Boateng, Grace Wales Bonner, Rihanna, Christopher John Rogers, Bishme Cromartie, Mowalola, Martine Rose Heron Preston, Carley Cushnie and so many emerging talents. 

To close this out, next time you happen to find yourself in a shopping mall reading the latest edition of your favorite periodical, I challenge you to think about those who had such a pivotal role in what we wear day-to-day, and the time and dedication it takes to bring us beautifully crafted garments each season in the form of a 15-minute presentation (fashion show). 

Fantasia Strickland
Fantasia Strickland, Contributing Writer

Fantasia is a passionate fashion stylist with personalized wardrobe solutions. As a native of New York City, the stylist has extensive experience in the fashion industry and always stays up-to-date with the latest trends.

From her experience and interactions with industry experts, she has learned the importance of being organized and flexible in the fashion field. She believes fashion is not just about clothes but also about reflecting one’s personality.

She helps clients create a unique look that enhances their individuality. By taking the time to understand each person's specific needs and preferences, she provides a personalized wardrobe solution that goes beyond the closet. She specializes in designing versatile and functional looks that make clients feel good about themselves.

Ultimately, she aims to empower clients with the confidence to be comfortable in their own skin.