Jul 20, 2020

SydlovesFashion List: 21 Black-Owned Womenswear Brands To Shop

Over the past few weeks, I've been conducting outreach to local retailers of all sizes and asking them to take the 15% Pledge. As a result, many Seattle-based retailers are reviewing the product lines they carry and actively seeking Black-owned brands that can supplement their product mix in a dynamic way.

In order to help connect the dots for retailers and help save them time as they navigate reopening from COVID closures, we’ve compiled a list of 21 Black-owned womenswear brands that may be of interest for local boutiques. This list is organized in alphabetical order for easy scanning. Our hope is that by helping to eliminate time barriers, retailers can start the process of onboarding new brands as open-to-buy dollars become available. At the very least, we hope that this list helps start meaningful conversations between fashion retailers and Black-owned womenswear brands.

Designer Alimo Bello of Bello | Edu attributes her Nigerian and Ghanaian heritage as playing a major role in her flair for aesthetics. She started designing and creating clothing for her family in friends in 2008, debuted her first collection in 2014 and opened her first storefront in 2016. Bello | Edu garments are made with pride in Accra, Ghana in small batch production. The assortment includes apparel, accessories, and handbags.

Designer Chelsea Bravo was born in New York and moved to London at the age of two. She founded her eponymous menswear label in 2013 and two years later was invited to be a part of the British Fashion Council’s Emerging Designer Showroom, taking part for two consecutive seasons. She went on to add womenswear to the mix and continues to design artistic pieces in contemporary silhouettes. Chelsea is now based in Brooklyn, New York.

Based in Amsterdam, Daily Paper originally started as a lifestyle blog by three childhood friends. The blog morphed into a full-fledged brand, established in 2012, and the rest is history. The designs are fueled by Africa’s rich heritage and inspired by the founder’s shared love for music, art, fashion, and street style. Daily Paper offers timeless designs across accessories and ready-to-wear for both men and women.

Hanifa is a contemporary womenswear label featuring bold colors and feminine silhouettes. Available in a range of sizes from 0-20, Hanifa was founded by Anifa Mvuemba in 2012 and continues to make waves in the fashion industry for its direct-to-consumer model and creative use of technology.

Hope for Flowers is a womenswear brand designed by Tracy Reese. Inspired by the belief that clothing can have the power to inspire self-confidence and personal agency, Hope for Flowers is designed for women who desire to use their power as consumers to be agents for positive change in the world. The collection has a strong focus on sustainability and also uses eco-friendly fabrics including organic cotton, organic linen, and cellulosic fibers such as Tencel™. Photo: Itaysha Jordan.

House of Aama is a culturally inspired lifestyle brand rooted in the ethos of the African continent and diaspora. Run by mother and daughter duo, Rebecca Henry and Akua Shabaka, House of Aama was born out of the collective frustration the pair felt while trying to find clothing that adequately reflected their cultural and aesthetic interests.

Island Tribe is a womenswear lifestyle brand based in Southern California. Founded by a dynamic duo of free spirits, Angeline Hayling & “OD” Odero, Island Tribe focuses on femininity, environmental consciousness, and holistic living. This year, the brand was invited to be one of the featured emerging brands in the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Design Entrepreneur Program which offers selected designers the business acumen, resources, and community to grow their companies.

Queen’s native LaQuan Smith started his namesake label at the age of 21, inspired by his grandmother who taught him the art of sewing and pattern making. His distinctive design work has gained the attention of a long list of celebrities including Beyonce, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Kim Kardashian, all of whom were early supporters of the brand. LaQuan recently launched a capsule collection with Revolve featuring sheer slip dresses and bike shorts.

lemlem is an artisan-driven sustainable fashion label for men, women, and kids founded by supermodel Liya Kebede. Designs are made in Africa by local artisans and the range includes everything from apparel to accessories and swimwear. 5% of all purchases are donated to the lemlem Foundation which helps women artisans in Africa thrive by connecting them to healthcare, education, and job opportunities.

Lisou is a London-based fashion brand specializing in beautiful silk pieces with a twist. Head designer Rene Macdonald grew up in Tanzania but moved to the UK at a young age and frequently traveled back and forth to visit family. That experience helped form her creative point of view as a stylist, avid vintage collector, and fashion fan. All products are designed in London and finished in Portugal.

Maki Oh is a womenswear brand that fuses traditional African techniques with detailed contemporary construction. Founded in 2010 by Maki Osakwe, the collection features prints that are rooted in centuries-old Nigerian textile traditions. Her designs have been worn by a range of celebrities including Michelle Obama, Lupita Nyong’o, Solange Knowles, Thandie Newton, Azealia Banks, and more. 

Founded by LA native James Flemons in 2013, PHLEMUNS is a thoughtful fashion label focusing on the fluidity of old and new, the usefulness of playful proportions, and the careful balance of unisex androgyny. The assortment of masks is also a must-see.

Off-White was founded in 2012 by Virgil Abloh and is described by the designer as "the grey area between black and white”. Virgil was born in Chicago to immigrant parents from Ghana. His mother was a seamstress who taught him how to sew. In 2016, Off-White opened its first concept store in Tokyo and went on to win the British Fashion Award for Best Urban Luxe Brand the following year. Today, Off-White has over 45 independent stores and the line is carried by a variety of high-end retailers including Selfridges, Harrods, Nordstrom, and Le Bon Marché.

Founded in 2013 by Kerby Jean-Raymond, Pyer Moss is described as part “art project”, part “social experiment”. The brand aims to use its voice and platform to challenge social narratives and evoke an on-going dialogue. Pyer Moss is focused on creating collections each season that carefully combine storytelling, activism, theater, and social commentary, while also collaborating with other artists and brands that resonate with seasonal themes.

Romeo Hunte is a lifestyle brand that is edgy yet sophisticated, with a balance of feminine and masculine. Raised in Brooklyn, Romeo grew up surrounded by stylish women who heavily influenced his love for fashion. He later studied design at the Fashion Institute of Technology and launched his own womenswear label in 2014, adding menswear in 2018. His designs have been worn by Zendaya, Beyonce, Victor Cruz, Hailey Baldwin, and more. In addition to apparel, accessories, and outerwear, the collection also includes an assortment of unisex face masks.

The K Label was launched in 2015 by designer Karice Leila. The UK-based label features premium womenswear essentials that are perfect for day-to-night dressing. Key items include corset hoodies and paneled jogger pants. Prior to launching her label, Karice worked for a variety of brands in the fashion industry including River Island, Karen Millen, and Vivienne Westwood.

The Oula Company is a womenswear brand based in Seattle that focuses on African, Asian, Indian, and Latin American textile and craft traditions. Founded by Dr. Erika Dalya Massaquoi, The OULA Company provides editorial coverage of emerging artisans and designers, while supporting nonprofits that incorporate the ideas of education, innovation, and integrity. Garments are made in the USA using textiles that are responsibly sourced from around the world.

Tongoro was founded in the spring of 2016 by designer Sarah Diouf. The label is 100% designed and produced in Dakar, Senegal, and features easy to wear apparel, accessories, and jewelry. Tongoro sources all materials on the continent and works to create new pathways for Africa-based manufacturing and social and economic development for artisanal workers in Western Africa. Tongoro has been worn by a wide range of celebrities including Iman, Naomi Campbell, Alicia Keys, and Beyonce. Watch Tongoro’s Made in Africa documentary here.

Grace Wales Bonner launched her eponymous label in 2014, following her graduation from Central Saint Martins in London. Originally established as a menswear brand, Wales Bonner later expanded into womenswear. In January 2019, Grace Wales Bonner presented her first institutional exhibition, A Time for New Dreams at London’s Serpentine Galleries. She is an associate lecturer at Central Saint Martins, London, and has lectured at Parsons School of Design, New York City. Stockists include Dover Street Market, Net-A-Porter, and MatchesFashion.

William Okpo is a women's wear collection designed by sisters Darlene and Lizzy Okpo. Daughters of Nigerian immigrants, Darlene and Lizzy were inspired by their parent's sense of personal style and the juxtaposition of American cultural sensibilities. William Okpo is for women who celebrate their cultivated sense of style.

Zelie for She is a womenswear label designed to be an unapologetic expression of authenticity and individuality. Each collection has a different story and is designed and produced in limited quantities in LA by designer Elann Zelie. Check out the Essence of Heritage Collection here.

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