Black fashion designers are on the leading edge of luxury and streetwear

The events of the last few weeks have undoubtedly been emotional and stressful for us all, on top of everything that has happened in 2020—COVID-19 being the biggest change to our shared reality. But, a new focus in America and across the world on how black people and people of color are treated in life and by the police has refocused us all on economic equality, social justice, and the daily inequities that many minorities and non-white ethnicities still face.

Thus, we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight some of the world’s most trending labels that were founded by or are designed by black fashion designers, many of which are on the leading edge of the luxury and streetwear worlds and are regularly some of our most sought-after labels on the site.

Heron Preston

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Heron Preston is the San Francisco-born designer, whose line is inspired by sport and street style, as well as science and discovery. His designs are recognized by their utilitarian aesthetic and the urban edge reflected in elevated wardrobe staples and accessories for both men and women. Many of the designs have a distinctly futurist vibe; the iconic “PULL” belt can be seen on one of the characters in HBO’s Avenue 5 series. Preston often collaborates with unexpected partners, including Nike, NASA, and Levi’s.

shop heron preston on italistTelfar Clemens

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As we wrote back in March, Telfar Clemens may be the most interesting, egalitarian designer you’ve never heard of. Taking an unconventional approach and making no assumptions about the structure of his business, Clemens doesn’t follow any traditional fashion calendar. He mostly shows unisex designs that are wearable by anyone, and takes inspiration from the people he sees while riding his bike in Brooklyn. His vegan leather “Bushwick Birkin” (above) is already a recognizable design on the fashion circuits.

Olivier Rousteing (Balmain)

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Balmain requires no real introduction. It’s consistently in our top 15 most sold brands for women and men. Olivier Rousteing has been at the brand’s creative helm since 2011, and has helped usher in a new era for the label. Menswear now accounts for roughly 40% of their business, and the iconic double-breast blazer for women is consistently one of our best sellers.

Stella Jean

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Stella Jean is the Haitian-Italian designer often known as Giorgio Armani’s protégé. Her designs are celebrated for their multicultural influences, bright colors and patterns, unconventional style (out of sync with the predominant fashion trends), and expert hand craftsmanship. Using her position in high fashion as a platform, the designer takes inspiration from other cultures to create unique garments that are worldly and ethically-sourced. She also makes garments for kids (above).

Virgil Abloh (Off-White)

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Since 2012, Virgil Abloh and his brand Off-White have taken the fashion world by storm, leading the streetwear movement into the mainstream, and giving us urban, industrial-chic in every iteration imaginable. Headquartered in Milan, Off-White garments are in many ways the new luxury, appearing both casual and polished and taking cues from other arenas like modern art and graffiti.

Jerry Lorenzo (Fear of God)

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Highlighted in January under our post about Los Angeles (our hometown) designers, Fear of God was launched in 2012 by designer Jerry Lorenzo, but takes a more sartorial approach to its streetwear inspired designs. The color palette is narrow, its designs are carefully crafted in Italy or the US, and its menswear collections are curated to be niche and special, with limited distribution. Thus, it’s been the pick of many celebrities, including Justin Beiber and Michael B. Jordan.

Samuel Ross (A-COLD-WALL*)

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Samuel Ross is the name behind the label A-COLD-WALL*, which features streetwear staples such as sweaters, joggers and overcoats equipped with unconventional design elements intended to provoke public discourse on class and identity in the United Kingdom. He grew up in Brixton and from an early age, had a nascent knack for consumer culture and clothing, art, and design.

After completing a degree in graphic design and illustration at De Montfort University, he worked in consumer industrial design before launching his own portfolio designs and catching the attention of fellow black designer Virgil Abloh, who’d recently launched Off-White. In 2015, he launched A-COLD-WALL* as an art project that quickly turned into a fashion line, and the rest is history.

Martine Rose

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Martine Rose is the female menswear designer, also British, who since 2007 has garnered quiet attention for her designs inspired by the melting pot of subcultures in South London, including the rave and reggae scenes of the 1990s.

Her design sensibility can also be seen in the collaboration line known as Napa by Martine Rose, a partnership between the designer and Italian outerwear brand Napapijri, first launched in 2017. The line is geared toward heftier fabrics, boxier fits, and a blending of sensibilities—between Rose’s 90s graphical aesthetics and Napa’s starkly functional, practical jackets and sweaters.

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We know that inequality, systemic racism, and politics will not be changed overnight, or by a post highlighting talented black fashion designers. But, we hope this shed some light on labels you may already know, but didn’t realize are creatively headed by talented people of color and the next class of superstar fashion designers.


Discover more Designers to know: Marine Serre, Malone Souliers, and Fabiana Filippi.


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