Now It Can Be Told: “Black Fashion Designers” At The Museum at FIT

Without dwelling too deeply on the root cause (for the moment), it’s very rare to find black fashion designers represented in a great many of the recent costume exhibitions at museums great and small across the United States. At this moment, if you want to see a decent and wide-ranging look at black fashion designers, you would have to visit the recently opened National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., where designs from Tracy Reese,  other black fashion designers and other creative men and women are on permanent display. The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (The Museum at FIT, Seventh Avenue at 27 Street, New York City 10001-5992), since 1975, has continuously work to create exhibitions, programs, and publications that are both entertaining and educational. Black Fashion Designer is eye-opening, entertaining and above all else, quite educational. It’s a good start.

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Mimi Plange, dress, Spring 2013, USA, Gift of Mimi Plange, 2016.49.1

Black Fashion Designers, opening December 6, 2016 (Fashion & Textile History Gallery, December 6 – May 16, 2017) at The Museum at FIT, examines the significant, but often unrecognized, impact that designers of African descent have had on fashion. The exhibition features approximately 75 fashions by more than 60 designers. Although there have been exhibitions (few and far between) on individual black designers, this is the first major exhibition in many years that highlights the global history of black fashion designers from the 1950s to the present. All of the objects on display are part of the permanent collection of The Museum at FIT.

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Patrick Kelly, dress, Fall/Winter 1986, France, Museum purchase, 2016.48.1

Black Fashion Designers opens with a fall 1986 evening dress by Patrick Kelly, embellished with vintage buttons. Buttons were a recurring motif for Kelly, whose grandmother would mend the family’s clothing. Alongside it is a fall 2012 ensemble by Nigerian-born, British designer Duro Olowu, whose knowledge of international textiles and affinity for mixing prints is evident in an intricate lace cape.

The introductory section of the exhibition also includes a beautiful wedding gown by society dressmaker Ann Lowe, who is best known for designing Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding dress. Lawrence Steele, a Milan-based African-American designer, is represented by a stunning black evening dress accented with Swarovski crystals. Lagos-based designer Amaka Osakwe was inspired by the rich history of Nigerian story-telling when creating her contemporary, cut-fringe dress. Another highlight is Laura Smalls’s red-and-white floral print dress—famously worn by First Lady Michelle Obama when she sang with rapper Missy Elliot on James Corden’s carpool karaoke.

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Ann Lowe, wedding dress, 1968, USA, Gift of Judith A. Tabler, 2009.70.2

Black Fashion Designers is organized into eight themes, beginning with “Breaking Into the Industry,” which examines black designers working in New York. During the 1950s and early 1960s, Arthur McGee and Wesley Tann challenged discrimination in the industry. Other designers followed in their footsteps, playing a major role in building New York as a fashion capital. During the 1970s and 1980s, for example, Willi Smith built a large, international fashion house from his quirky twists on classic sportswear, seen in a multicolored, striped ensemble. Today, Tracy Reese is an indispensable mainstay. Her multicolored striped gown shows her feminine and elegant style.

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Lawrence Steele, dress, Spring 2002, Italy, Gift of Lawrence Steele, 2016.62.1

The next theme, “The Rise of the Black Designer,” focuses on the period from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, when disco music and dance clubs inspired fashion. Stephen Burrows’s gold evening pajamas and Scott Barrie’s black-and-red silk jersey wrap dress, defined the era’s glamorous, body-conscious style. The fashion and mainstream press of the 1970s celebrated black designers such as Burrows and Barrie, in contrast to today, when only one percent of the designers shown on VogueRunway.com are black. Continue reading

The 2014 CFDA Fashion Awards Winners

JOSEPH ALTUZARRA NAMED WOMENSWEAR DESIGNER OF THE YEAR

RIHANNA NAMED FASHION ICON OF THE YEAR

AWARDS SHOW TO BE WEBCAST ON CFDA.COM ON TUESDAY, JUNE 3RD AT 11AM

House Photography:  BFA: www.bfanyc.com

Last night, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) paid tribute to the winners and honorees of the 2014 CFDA Fashion Awards in collaboration with Swarovski at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center. Film director and screenwriter John Waters was the host for the evening. For the thirteenth year in a row, the evening was generously underwritten by Swarovski. Highlights of the evening included a live tribute featuring sixteen models of color in Diane von Furstenberg dresses paying homage to Founder’s Award honoree Bethann Hardison for advocating diversity on the runways and Michael Kors leading the In Memoriam segment in which he honored the passing of Annabel Tollman, L’Wren Scott, and Art Ortenberg over the past year.

2014 CFDA Fashion Awards - Award Presentation with hos John Waters

2014 CFDA Fashion Awards – Award Presentation with hos John Waters

Nominees, honorees, and winners were determined by the CFDA Awards Guild which is comprised of CFDA members, leading fashion journalists, stylists, and top retail executives. Ernst & Young, LLP was the official accounting firm of the Awards.

Tonight, we celebrated creativity, experience, and conviction by honoring the diversity and vibrancy of individuals who define the influence of the fashion industry,” said CFDA President Diane von Furstenberg.

ACCESSORIES WINNERS - THE ROWMARY - KATE OLSEN & ASHLEY OLSEN WITH PRESENTER KERI RUSSELL(Center)

ACCESSORIES WINNERS – THE ROWMARY – KATE OLSEN & ASHLEY OLSEN WITH PRESENTER KERI RUSSELL(Center)

Dao-Yi Chow, James Marsden, Maxwell Osborne

Dao-Yi Chow, James Marsden, Maxwell Osborne

Lupita Nyongo, Joseph Altuzarra

Lupita Nyongo, Joseph Altuzarra

The evening’s Womenswear Designer of the Year honors went to Joseph Altuzarra for Altuzarra, presented by Lupita Nyong’o. The award for Menswear Designer of the Year was presented to Maxwell Osborne & Dao-Yi Chow for Public School by actor James Marsden. Mary-Kate Olsen & Ashley Olsen for The Row took home the Accessories Designer of the Year Award, presented by actress Keri Russell.

Sebastian Stan, Christopher Peters, Nadja Swarovski, Shane Gabier, Greta Gerwig, Tim Coppens, Irene Neuwirth

Sebastian Stan, Christopher Peters, Nadja Swarovski, Shane Gabier, Greta Gerwig, Tim Coppens, Irene Neuwirth

Greta Gerwig and Sebastian Stan presented the three Swarovski Awards, which honor and recognize emerging talent. The Swarovski Award for Womenswear was given to Shane Gabier & Christopher Peters for Creatures of the Wind. The Swarovski Award for Menswear was presented to Tim Coppens. The Swarovski Award for Accessory Design went to Irene Neuwirth. Recipients in each category will receive generous financial support from the company as well as exposure to the company’s vast and innovative crystal products and applications for fashion.

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Rihanna was presented with the Fashion Icon award by Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour who praised the musician for her ability to tell captivating stories through the boldness and beauty of clothes. Rihanna thanked members of the audience: “the designers, the models, and everyone else who has inspired me.

The CFDA believes in designers at every stage of their career.  Last night we recognized a broad range of talent and influence from student scholarship winners and emerging talent to industry icons,” added CFDA CEO Steven Kolb.

It’s been an honor to partner with the CFDA in celebrating the very best in American fashion for thirteen incredible years, and the creativity of the award winners never fails to amaze.  We are especially pleased to support the industry’s next generation through the Swarovski Awards. It’s a privilege to help these dazzling young talents evolve and realize their visions as they take the next steps in their careers,” said Nadja Swarovski, Member of the Swarovski Executive Board.

The Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Tom Ford by Richard Buckley for his consistent, creative influence on fashion.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT HONOREE TOM FORD

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT HONOREE TOM FORD

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