The Black in Fashion Council showrooms returned for another iteration of New York Fashion Week this season. Black in Fashion Council’s mission is to help improve diversity and representation for Black fashion industry professionals. The organization created the discovery showrooms to introduce stylists and editors to up-and-coming Black-owned and founded designer brands.
The designers featured as part of this year’s Black in Fashion Council Discovery Showrooms included Harbison, Madame Adassa, Jessica Rich, Sammy B, Vavvoune, Izayla, Atelier Indigo, Kwame Adusei, Muehleder, and Ajovang. While the event is still in its infancy, it's proven a useful tool in helping designers achieve notoriety.
Black in Fashion Council Disovery Showroom returns to New York Fashion Week
Charles Harbison has managed to create a sustainable luxury label where he centers Black, female, queer, and marginalized identities. Harbison launched his line in 2013 and has since expanded it to include ready-to-wear, jewelry, and accessories. His clothes have appeared on major celebrities, including Beyonce, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Ava Duvernay.
With such strength in celebrity, his most stellar pieces this season were his red carpet ready dresses, including a sculptured gown with crescent moon and leaf buttons in blue, black, and pink. Statement capes in pink and green with oversized puff sleeves were also standouts.
Black in Fashion Council makes space for designers who are more established, like Harbison, who may have the celebrity dressing credits but haven’t got the level of press some of their contemporaries have.
For both slightly more established designers and newcomers, the space proves a haven for visibility. Ajovang, founded by Adrian Guillory, is a new brand just in its second collection. The womenswear designer graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago during the height of the pandemic. Rather than sit there and mope for the world to reopen, the young designer birthed his label Ajovang.
Now, in a post-lockdown world, Guillory’s goal is to get his clothes more press placements and in the hands of stylists who can get his clothes on up-and-coming and established entertainment talent. As Fashion Week has become more centralized around editors, stylists, and influencers, not as much of the buying happens during Fashion Month. However, some brands are hoping that after landing a major retail account, the success will domino effect and lead to more retail partnerships.
Designer Isha Dunston of Izayla is now proudly carried by top department store Saks Fifth Avenue. Her goal as a member of this year’s Black in Fashion Council Discovery Showrooms is to bring her brand to the attention of more editors, but she’s hoping to slowly gain more retail partners.
“Saks has been an amazing retail partner,” Dunston said to FashionUnited. “While I have been meeting with other retailers, I want to take a slow and steady approach to grow my brand and add new retail partners. Moving and expanding too fast can be the death of a brand, but I am pleased to be with Black in Fashion Council this season.”
Certain brands are managing to set themselves apart from the saturated market of designers by filling a space in the market that no one even thought existed. Larissa Muehelder’s eponymous label Muehleder focuses on creating sculptured ready-to-wear pieces made from neoprene. Neoprene is typically a material restricted to scuba gear or a skirt, but Muehleder is using the material to create everything from daywear to athleisure. The line, established in 2014, has found a growing customer base and increasing demand for its unique offerings.
With its now inaugural Fashion Week showcase, Black in Fashion Council is carving out a space for long underrepresented Black designers in the fashion industry. The organization’s work is going noticed by the industry as it collectively works toward more diversity, equity, and inclusion.