With Juneteenth coming up, I wanted to spotlight a group of Black designers who are making some of the most dynamic, thought-provoking clothing around the world. Some, like Grace Wales Bonner, Christopher John Rogers, and Telfar Clemens have already reached contemporary icon status. Others, including Thebe Magugu, Kenneth Ize, and Felisha Noel are rising stars to watch—before you know it, their stunning work will be everywhere. Here’s a primer on the creative forces who are making their mark on the global fashion industry by pushing boundaries, challenging norms, experimenting with new and traditional techniques alike, and ultimately using their platforms to help bring awareness to their various cultures.
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Grace Wales Bonner
The British-Jamaican fashion designer was awarded the LVMH prize after showing her first solo runway collection in 2016. Since then, she has collaborated with Dior and Adidas, always producing on boundary-pushing clothing and accessories inspired by a variety of cultures.
Christopher John Rogers
Rogers does not shy away from the fantastical. The use of bright jovial colors that capture the pure feeling of happiness are common themes that can be seen throughout his collection. A healthy use of crystals and gemstones also find their way on Rogers’ designs, which have garnered him a client list that includes Zendaya.
Ebagua has said that launching her brand Chelsea Paris in 2012 was a leap of faith. Since then, she has been successfully churning out fresh, free-spirited pieces inspired by her upbringing.
This London-based designer is all about dramatic elegance: Plunging necklines and backless gowns are a few standout features throughout his collections.
Handbags are this designer's forte, and he has been making waves thanks to support from A-list celebrities like Saweetie, who featured his designs in her “Fast Motion” music video.
Formerly known as “the leggings guy,” Smith has dressed Beyoncé, Rihanna, and the Kardashian-Jenner crew in his sensual, experty tailored pieces.
Flemons’s brand Phlemuns is all about careful attention to detail. In addition to a slow fashion approach, the designer has also focused on making his brand accessible to all, offering unisex options in every collection.
This 27-year-old designer is known for her handcrafted, patchwork handbags that have been spotted on the arms of models, influencers, and celebrities alike.
Since his first collection in 2017, the South African designer has been crafting forward-thinking designs that cater to women who crave clothing with a modern edge.
The creative director behind the brand 5000 makes wearable, utilitarian pieces with a touch of formality. With his FW21 collection, he continues to stay true to his core while experimenting with different fabrics, textures and colors.
When Cuthbert established her jewelry brand Bychari in 2012, she was hoping to tap into the mindset of women who appreciate simplicity but demand luxury. In 2020, her life changed when Meredith Koop, Michelle Obama’s stylist, requested a custom “VOTE” necklace. Cuthbert has been at the top of her game ever since.
Already one of the best known Black designers of this generation, Clemens successfully tapped into the energy of New York City with his iconic Telfar shopping bag (dubbed “The Bushwick Birkin” for its status appeal). Because the bags are in such high demand, the designer only releases them through intermittent, limited drops.
Ize’s designs are rooted in traditional Nigerian weaving techniques. In the past, the designer has made it clear that he wants to showcase the beauty of African cultures through his work.
With his brand Pyer Moss, Raymond has pushed fashion forward with his futuristic, experimental designs. This September, in addition to presenting his first ready-to-wear collection after a two-year hiatus, he will also be the first Black American designer to present during Paris Haute Couture.
Noel, a Brooklyn-based Caribbean designer, has been constructing looks since she was 19 years old. Her brand Fe Noel is all about beauty and femininity inspired by her close-knit family.
This young jewelry designer has focused on bringing back the classic chain-style jewelry that dominated the early 2000s. Her bold designs incorporate safety pins, lockets, and hooks—offering infinite layering possibilities.
James’s goal in creating Brother Vellies back in 2013 was to highlight traditional African craftsmanship and design, and to bring jobs to shoemakers in Africa. Celebrities ranging from Solange to Reese Witherspoon have been spotted in her intricately detailed sandals, slippers and clogs. Last summer, James launched the 15 Percent Pledge, an initiative meant to challenge major retailers to increase their representation of black-owned brands.