The impact of Black history, culture, and creatives on fashion today cannot be understated. From the rise of hip hop fashion through styling icons like Missa Hylton, to the innovative remixing of Dapper Dan, back to the bold political sentiment of zoot-suits, and Black couturiers like Ann Lowe, Black people have and continue to shape fashion. Unfortunately the contributions of Black creators and tastemakers are often overlooked, suppressed, and/or not properly credited. Although there are more Black industry leaders today than ever before, it is still not enough (considering "before" meant none, the standard wasn't set very high). Moving forward, it is vital we acknowledge past wrongs and amplify the voices of the Black community, especially during Black History Month. One of the easiest way of doing this? Giving a follow to the many influential Black figures in fashion on social media. Here, find Black supermodels, designers, business owners, and style icons who are changing the industry.
Precious Lee is a trailblazing curve model with a fierce passion for racial equity and multi dimensional personal style. Grungy one day and in bubble gum pink latex the next, Lee can make it all work. This eclectic taste and Lee’s unparalleled determination are what have made her the leading Black curve model of high fashion, a category that didn't really exist in the luxury space before Lee. She has starred in campaigns for Versace, Christian Siriano, Tommy Hilfiger, Area, and more. On Instagram, you can expect to see the IMG-signed model's editorial work as well as her off-duty moments.
Elaine Welteroth is an award-winning journalist, New York Times bestselling author, producer, judge on Project Runway, talk show co-host, and to top it all off is impeccably stylish. Her six year tenure at Teen Vogue, first as the first-ever Black beauty editor and later as the youngest-ever editor-in-chief was only the beginning for Welteroth. Her debut book More Than Enough was an instant best-seller in 2019 and received an NAACP Image Award in 2020. She was appointed Cultural Ambassador for Michelle Obama's When We All Vote initiative. The multi-hyphenate has also written for the hit show Grown-ish and has appeared on-camera as an expert and advocate for social change for a variety of media outlets including ABC News and Netflix. Currently, she is a co-host of The Talk, CBS’ Daytime Emmy Award-winning talk show about current events, pop culture, family, celebrity, and trends, alongside Sharon Osbourne, Sheryl Underwood, Carrie Ann Inaba, and Amanda Kloots. With her background in fashion publishing, you can often see the changemaker wearing popular Black designers like Pyer Moss and Christopher John Rogers.
Adut Akech’s path to fashion superstardom began in Narus, South Sudan, where she was born before moving to a Kenyan refugee camp, and then to Adelaide, Australia, where she grew up with her five siblings. She walked her first runway in Adelaide at the age of 13 for her aunt’s clothing line, three years before securing a two-year contract with Saint Laurent. This was the first of many big name jobs for Akech who has starred in campaigns and walked the runway for Valentino, Alexander McQueen, Givenchy, Kenzo, Prada, Lanvin, Loewe, Miu Miu, Tom Ford, Bottega Veneta, and many, many more. In 2019 she won the Model of the Year award at The British Fashion Awards in London and one scroll through her inspiring, editorial photoshoot-filled Instagram will tell you why.
Anok Yai was enjoying the homecoming weekend at Howard University in Washington when photographer Steven Hall snapped a street style photo of her. The photo skyrocketed her into the stratosphere of professional modeling within days. A biochemistry student born in Cairo, Egypt, Yai had no plans at the time of modeling, but can now be seen in Givenchy, Saint Laurent, Estee Lauder, and many other prominent campaigns. Yai is still committed to her STEM studies and encouraging young women and girls of color to pursue careers in STEM as well. She is also outspoken about the importance of recognizing colorism and creating more visibility in the media for dark-skinned Black women.
You may be familiar with celebrity stylist Law Roach from his time as a judge on America's Next Top Model or new judging gig on HBO Max’s Legendary. Aside from being a TV personality, the self-proclaimed “image architect” is responsible for Celine Dion’s fashion transformation and Zendaya’s countless iconic red carpet looks and magazine covers. Roach has also acted as the creative mastermind behind the styling of Anya Taylor-Joy, Naomi Osaka, Kerry Washington, and Tom Holland.
Jason Bolden is best known as an American fashion stylist, but he is also a hugely successful entrepreneur, creative director, and interior designer. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Bolden began his fashion career working in luxury retail for brands like Oscar de la Renta, Chloe and Gucci. His passions quickly took him to New York City where he opened a vintage store called The Garment Room, in SoHo. Bolden’s clean aesthetic and closely curated store drew the attention of designers with whom he soon began consulting. The store led to Bolden dressing celebrity friends for appearances and ultimately a profession as a fashion stylist for clients including Yara Shahidi, Mindy Kaling, Taraji P. Henson, Amandla Stenberg, Zazie Beetz, Sasha Lane, Ava DuVernay, Wiz Khalifa, and Tika Sumpter, just to name a few. Bolden is also the co-founder of JSN Studio, a residential and commercial interior design firm as well as luxury staging and product design studio.
Chrissy Rutherford is a seasoned fashion and social media expert with over 12 years of industry experience. In June 2020 while everyone was on their coach in quarantine, she co-founded her current business venture called 2BG alongside fellow editor Danielle Prescod. The pair provide consultation and advice for fashion and beauty brands as well as influencers on how to implement anti-racist communication strategies. When she’s not working with 2BG clients, Rutherford is also a contributing editor at Harper’s Bazaar. In 2019 she was nominated for ASME Award for social media and on her own Instagram advocates for mental health awareness, often opening up about her own struggles with anxiety.
Aurora James got her start in fashion as a journalist working for Jeanne Beker at Fashion Television, but always wanted to be a designer and most importantly, to tell stories. In January 2013, after traveling to Africa in 2011 and spending two years testing designs with different local artisans, she founded her brand Brother Vellies. The goal of the brand is to preserve the African shoemaking craft while creating new jobs for artisans in Brother Vellies workshops, a mission that has expanded across the continent from Morocco to Kenya, to South Africa. In response to the murder of George Floyd and ongoing national protests, James founded the 15 Percent Pledge charity and petition that calls for major brands like Whole Foods, Sephora, Bergdorf Goodman, and more to dedicate 15 percent of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses (15 percent, because Black people make up 15 percent of the population).
Harlem couturier Daniel Day, better known as Dapper Dan, is a sartorial legend at the root of today’s booming luxury streetwear and hip hop-inspired fashion industry, In 1982 he opened Dapper Dan’s Boutique, which would become a destination for custom pieces, reworked, and remade from high fashion goods. A$AP Ferg’s father, Darold Ferguson Sr. worked at the boutique and the artist told The New York Times, “Dap curated hip-hop culture.” And that he did, until a famous FBI raid of his boutique and litigation by luxury brands ran him out of business in the ‘90s. Brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci were upset over his reuse of their logos at the expense of a selection of their celebrity clientele who came to prefer his work over theirs. Day was forced to close his storefront, but continued designing underground for clients like Big Daddy Kane, Eric B. and Rakim, KRS-One, LL Cool J, Jay-Z, and more. Fast forward about two decades and Gucci Creative Director Alessandro Michele came under fire for copying a leather logo-clad balloon sleeve jacket Dapper Dan made for Olympic sprinter Diane Dixon. The ordeal surprisingly resulted in an apology from Michele as well as the release of a collaborative collection: Gucci x Dapper Dan.
Kerby Jean-Raymond is the Haitian-born, Brooklyn-based creator of prolific high fashion label Pyer Moss, Creative Director of Reebok, and founder of the charity Your Friends in New York. In 2014 he won the FGI Rising Star Award for menswear and was a finalist in the debut DHL Exported Prize presented by IMG Worldwide, in 2015 he was named on Forbes' 30 Under 30 list, and in 2020 he was dubbed the CFDA American Menswear Designer of the Year. Jean-Raymond is incredibly outspoken regarding issues of racial injustice in the United States and three Pyer Moss collections—American Also, Normal, and Sister—have all centered around stories of the Black American experience.
Christopher John Rogers
Baton Rouge, Louisiana-born Christopher John Rogers is a Brooklyn based designer dressing Lizzo, Michelle Obama, Rihanna, Cardi-B, and Vice President Kamala Harris. In November of 2020 he was awarded the prestigious CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award, four years after opening his Brooklyn location. Last year was also the first Rodgers’ pieces became available in stores including Net-A-Porter and Forty-Five Ten.
Kai Avent-deLeon is the founder of Sincerely, Tommy, a Brooklyn, New York fashion and lifestyle concept store. Like her shop's offerings, her style is minimal and chic, perfect for the busy lifestyle of living in the city, managing a business, being a mother, and advocating for social justice. In addition to a place to discover a curated selection of independent designers, Sincerely, Tommy is also a coffee shop, eatery, and boutique hostel, all marked with Avent-deLeon's thoughtful imprint.
A veteran of the fashion editorial space, Tamu McPherson is a Milan-based fashion creative who has helmed the blog All the Pretty Birds since 2008. While it started as a street style platform, the site now offers a space to amplify multicultural fashion, beauty, and wellness. Tamu's own social media presence is largely built on her chic street style, backdropped by the beautiful Italian fashion capital.
A newer face on the fashion scene, Salem Mitchell has quickly risen as a star model. After being scouted from Instagram, the Gen Z beauty has appeared in campaigns for Gap and Savage x Fenty as well as music videos with Cardi B and SZA. Best recognized by her prominent freckles, which she used to be bullied for, the model has used her confidence and social media presence to create a career. She is also an advocate of the Black Lives Matter movement and speaks out on issues around cultural appropriation and the beauty standards held to Black women.
The fashion talent behind Beyoncé's wardrobe, Zerina Akers is a leading costume designer and stylist. While you will see some of Queen Bey's looks on her Instagram, you'll also get a number of enviable outfits served by Akers herself. The stylist is tapped into all of the must-know Black designers, many of whom she and Beyoncé champion through their work together. Last year, Akers also launched the Akers & Akers Foundation, a non-profit to help educate and empower young African-American entrepreneurs.
Supermodel Paloma Elsesser has helped make luxury fashion a more inclusive space. The multi-ethnic curve model has Latina, white, and African-American heritage, and she is outspoken about what that means to her. Setting an example for the young women who now have someone they can relate to on the runways, Elsesser has walked for Alexander McQueen, Fendi, Salvatore Ferragamo, and more. She also covered Vogue earlier this year, and discussed how she believes the fashion industry can do better.