In a recent interview, Donatella Versace made a very poignant statement: “When something never changes, it’s not relevant anymore, and the most important thing is to keep fashion relevant.” For centuries, fashion has stagnated along elitist lines. Gatekeepers at publishing houses dictated the trends – from “who’s in” as a designer, to what to wear every season. Even after the Internet disrupted all levels of society and all forms of communication, the fashion industry marched stalwartly on. In refusing to evolve, fashion was on the verge of signing the death warrant on its own relevancy. However, myriad factors are now urging rapid change.
A new generation of informed consumers are now requiring accountability from the brands they buy. Cancel culture has disrupted the ability for bad actors to get away with bad behaviors, and shined a light on the darkness surrounding formerly acceptable practices within the fashion industry – from how it treats its models and how it pays its workers to how toxic its manufacturing efforts are to the planet. A pandemic showed the dire need for brands to embrace e-commerce globally and prompted a rise of digital experiences in place of the traditional physical show format. However, the greatest change has come from consumer behavior in response to the Black Lives Matter protests that swept the globe in June, and have continued to demand real change at all political, social, and retail levels.
In an exclusive interview with Savoir Flair last year, Pyer Moss designer Kerby Jean-Raymond illuminated the deep-rooted issue with how the fashion industry has treated its Black consumers, saying, “We’ve been marketed to in a way that specifically says, ‘I’m going to show you what you can never be.’” He’s completely right. The luxury sector in particular has long been guilty of exploiting Black culture, while simultaneously acting as a barrier to Black consumers by treating them as undesirable. In internal memos, they were labeled as ‘non-target customers’. In an expose on how the fashion industry initially failed to respond to the Black Lives Matter movement, we noted, “The reality is, the black market is a significant part of luxury spending, worth more than one trillion dollars in America alone, according to Nielsen’s 2019 Diverse Intelligence Series (DIS) Report. Black people outspend their white counterparts by more than 28% on luxury goods.”
As the Spring/Summer 2021 shows begin, we’ve noted that both sustainability and diversity have been centralized messages. However, stringent efforts have become to speak inclusively, one of the most radical acts you can do as a consumer is to support BIPOC brands directly. With new Fall/Winter 2020 collections hitting the retail shelves at black and indigenous-owned brands like Brother Vellies, Hanifa, William Okpo, and Sergio Hudson, there are plenty of ways to both support these designers and update your seasonal wardrobe.
Below, you’ll find our top 20 picks from some of the coolest BIPOC fashion designers on the market right now.