This week’s post has nothing to do with the environment and everything to do with the influence and impact African-American's have/had on the fashion industry. I will not overcrowd this post with thoughts or opinions of my own. I would like to mention if in anyway throughout this post you have questions or concerns regarding anything I discuss please reach out. I am forever learning and I am always open to the thoughts and teachings of others. Because I too "understand that I will never understand, but I stand". This is a time to speak up about the impact African-American culture has on our lives. A time to speak up about everything they have so kindly shared with the world. A time to speak up about how our lives would be so drastically different without their achievements in the music industry, medical industry, environmental industry, DANCE INDUSTRY, (as you'll soon be made aware of) the fashion industry, the list goes on and on.
Without further adieu, here are some of the game changers in the fashion industry (past and present) I have had the pleasure of learning about:
1. Ann Lowe (1898-1981): Ann Lowe grew up in Clayton, Alabama under Jim Crow Law (this is what ensued after the 13th amendment, when slavery was supposedly abolished). Taking after her mother Lowe got into dress making and soon became the the first noted African-American fashion designer. Her work was more heavily favourited among the highest in society. I’m sure you’re familiar with Jackie Kennedy. The dress she wore to marry John. F. Kennedy was designed by Ann Lowe herself.
2. Zelda Wynn Valdes (1905-2001): After starting as a stock girl, then becoming a sales clerk, and soon climbing up to alterations and dress making, Ms. Valdes soon opened her own dress shop call “Zelda Wynn”. She was the first African-American to own a shop on Broadway. Besides her success in dress making she is also credited with something I am sure you are all familiar with...You know the world famous “I don’t know who to be for Halloween” Playboy Bunny costume. Mr. Hugh Hefner himself commissioned Valdes to design the costume that would soon be the first costume to ever be successfully patented under the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
3. Jay Jaxon (1941-2006): Have you ever searched on Google a topic, a name or, anything for that matter and not been able to find something about it on Wikipedia?(Yes I know Wikipedia is an “unreliable” platform if you consider global contribution to be unreliable.) My point is, I have not yet come across a subject that has very little written about it on google. Well, go look up the name Jay Jaxon. This man is a fashion designer icon. He was born in Queens, New York. He was a law student at the time when his girlfriend needed his help altering a dress she had made for an event. He fell in love with the fabrication process and dropped his law school journey. Soon after he pitched his own line to major retailers and was able to use his earnings to pay for his move to Paris. While in Paris he worked with French houses like Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior. Soon after he started working for the French fashion house Jean Louis Scherrer. At this design house he was appointed head designer making him the FIRST AMERICAN couturier not just the first African-American but the first American period. And to top it all off he was 24 years old. Jay Jaxon, a fashion mogul.
4. Kerby Jean-Raymond (current) is Haitian-American and this individual is a force in this industry. Speaking on the subject of Black Lives Matter and with all that is happening and hopefully changing in our world right now. Kerry Jean-Raymond is a fashion designer who is using his talent and work to spread awareness of the BLM movement and civil rights violations. His first emergence happened during the 2016 New York fashion week with his creation of his label Pyer Moss. He presented a number of creations (fashion, video, and art) that were intertwined with references to BLM and police brutality.
5. Olivier Rousteing (I would like to clarify first that Rousteing is African not African-American. But his work falls into American culture therefore, I found it important to talk about his story). He was born in 1986 in Bordeaux, France. He was urged by his parents to study pre-law after high school but after giving it a chance he decided that line of work was not for him. He soon after started his fashion career at the age of 17 working for Roberto Cavalli. After writing to Balmain for a position at the French couture house he was offered a position at the company. After two years of working for the company as the creative director of the women's ready-to-wear line he was offered the head of design position in 2011. Making him the youngest creative director in Paris since Yves Saint Laurent became creative director for Dior in 1957. Rousteing has recently built the Balmain Army, with his goal to create diversity in the industry.
That concludes my insight into the African-American moguls who have helped shape the fashion industry we see today. I understand this post is not a solution to systematic racism, police brutality or the calamities we see time and time again. My hope with this post is to add to the learnings and understandings of why African-American's should no longer be known by the colour of their skin but by the contributions they so kindly bless the planet with.
I urge you to look into anything you find of interest and see what impact African-American's have had in that field of work. I will be forever grateful for the work they share with us despite not always receiving the recognition they so rightfully deserve.
I will leave you with this:
From the second we wake up to the second we lay down at night, how much do we really know about African American influence in our daily lives?