Black History Month: Fashion’s Most Powerful Figures

October is dedicated to highlighting the countless accomplishments and contributions that the African-American/Afro-Caribbean community has made to society, across the spectrum of arts and culture. These are my personal fashion favourite figures, who I believe should be honoured for their incredible achievements in the world of fashion.

1. Fenty Beauty

Rihanna proves that Fenty Beauty is deeper than just makeup. “The new generation of beauty” is redefining the way in which women of colour are represented in popular culture, and also revolutionising the consumer experience for women with darker complexions”, Fenty proudly exclaims. 

Fenty Beauty’s mass success can easily be measured in sales, but it’s the 33-year-old pop icon’s vision of inclusion that’s challenging the outdated ideals of beauty in the media. Rihanna’s lingerie line, Savage x Fenty, is worth some $270 million, while her Fenty Beauty line is worth about $2.8 billion. She owns 50 percent of the LVMH-backed beauty brand and 30 percent of her lingerie brand.

2Off-White

Men’s streetwear label Off White is best known for being founded and led by Virgil Abloh, who is also the artistic director for Louis Vuitton. It is owned by LVMH – who own Louis Vuitton, Gucci and San Laurent, amongst other high-end designers. He is the brains behind the SUPREME & LVcollab.

Virgil Abloh, 41, is an American designer, entrepreneur, and DJ who has been the artistic director of Louis Vuitton‘s menswear collection since March 2018. Abloh is also still the chief executive officer of the Milan-based Off-White.

A trained architect, Abloh, who also worked in Chicago street fashion, entered the world of international fashion with an internship at Fendi in 2009 alongside American rapper Kanye West. The two then began an artistic collaboration that would launch Abloh’s career into founding Off-White. The first American of African descent to be artistic director at a French luxury fashion house, he was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2018. 

3. Telfar

Telfar Clemens is a queer, self-taught Black fashion designer and DJ from Queens, New York. Telfar was born to Liberian parents and created this fashion house in 2005. From the very early days of the brand’s launch, the collections were genderless and unisex. Beyoncé is a big fan and the Telfar bag is THE bag to have in 2021. The Telfar Shopping Bag is made of vegan leather, branded with the signature “T” Telfar logo. It has been called an “it-bag” and “the decade’s most important accessory” by major fashion publications.

Originally modelled after shopping bags from Bloomingdale’s, the Telfar Shopping Bag is also known as the “Bushwick Birkin” due to its combination of status and accessibility. Telfar won Accessory Designer of the year in 2020 as well as collaborating with Kanye West and GAP for the Black History collection of T-Shirts and Caps.

Did Beyoncé just make Telfar cooler than Hermès? Queen Bey flashed the vegan ‘Bushwick Birkin’ bag – nicknamed for its affordable luxury and New York chic – and Instagram had a meltdown

4. Edward Enninful 

Edward Kobina Enninful OBE (born February 1972) is editor-in-chief of British Vogue. He was appointed fashion director of British fashion magazine i-D at the age of 18, a position he held for over two decades. He subsequently held the positions of Contributing Fashion Editor at Vogue Italia and American Vogue, as well as Creative Fashion Director at W Magazine. Enninful was appointed editor-in-chief of British Vogue in 2017.

He has embraced everyone from Kate Moss to the Beckhams on the prestigious cover of Vogue and flies the flag for the UK with uber style and sophistication.

5. Supermodels

The fashion industry has a history of inclusivity and diversity problems, which are, unfortunately, to an extent still prevalent today. Although progress is slowly being made to ensure that people of colour, and specifically black people, are represented in all areas of the industry including modelling, certain key players had to fight to pave the way for others.

Tyra Banks. Before she was the iconic America’s Next Top Model judge, she was a supermodel herself walking in shows from Christian Lacroix to Victoria’s Secret. She was the first black model to sign a contract with the latter brand and was an Angel from 1997 to 2005. She has recently embraced becoming a plus size model and looks phoenominal.

Naomi Campbell. A supermodel with one of the most prolific fashion careers, Naomi’s first experience in the limelight was actually at 7 years old when she was in the Bob Marley music video for “Is This Love?” I don’t think there’s anyone on earth who wouldn’t recognise the beautiful Naomi. She is one of the original 90s supermodels and has just become a mother.

Grace Jones. Not just an awesome singer and personality, but also an iconic model, Grace Jones has does it all: She’s a singer, songwriter, actress, and record producer. She knows how to turn a runway walk into a straight-up performance. Her dances and moves bring so much energy to the crowd, which was apparent at the recent Tommy Hilfiger x Zendaya show. She is timeless and looks incredible at 73 years old.