It was recently announced that Pharrell Williams, the rapper and music producer, will succeed Virgil Abloh, the first Black artistic director at Louis Vuitton, who died of cancer in November 2021 at the age of 41.
Those are some big shoes to fill.
Virgil opened the door, making it possible for Williams to slide in seamlessly and continue his legacy.
His first collection for Louis Vuitton will be revealed next June during Men’s Fashion Week in Paris.
“I am glad to welcome Pharrell back home, after our collaborations in 2004 and 2008 for Louis Vuitton, as our new Men’s Creative Director. His creative vision beyond fashion will undoubtedly lead Louis Vuitton towards a new and very exciting chapter.” – Pietro Beccari, Louis Vuitton’s Chairman and CEO
Record producer, rapper, singer, songwriter, designer and now Creative Director. Pharrell is definitely making history.
So many trends in fashion got their beginning in the black communities.
Some are timeless, some have evolved and all of them are an integral part of the history of fashion, as well as black history.
Trends like Zoot suits with big silhouette and wide lapels, pinstripes, silk shirts, wide hats and brogues made its way into menswear.
It originated in Harlem, New York in the late 1930s and was an adaptation of the London “drape” suit.
Cab Calloway rocked the Zoot Suit like nobody else could.
During the Civil Rights Movement of the ’60s and ’70s the Black Panther Party came into the forefront to promote equal rights of African Americans and challenged police brutality in the country.
The Black Panther Uniform with black leather jackets and slogan tees established its dominance as an integral part of fashion even today.
Activist Angela Davis sported her natural hair, turtleneck sweaters and gold chains that got incorporated in that fashion during that period.
Modern-day streetwear has been heavily influenced and popularized by black culture. Streetwear fashion became prominent in the late 70’s to the early 1980’s, when the hip-hop genre flourished in urban cities of Los Angeles and New York City.
During the 1980s and 1990s, the fashion world was dominated by the hip-hop culture. Bright, primary colors and oversized clothing started to take over.
Oversized layered chains, big hoop earrings and big chunky gold jewelry were made popular by artists such as Run DMC and Salt-N-Pepa.
Hip-Hop and streetwear merged with Luxury in the 2000’s
During this era, streetwear encountered luxury and quickly became a status symbol.
Dapper Dan introduced high fashion elements to Hip Hop with his Louis Vuitton and Gucci prints added to his own creations.
Virgil Abloh, co-creator of Off-White created a stir in the fashion works, becoming the first African-American Artistic Director for the French luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton in 2018.
Off-White brought luxury Streetwear to the forefront where it will remain for many years.
Black history has brought us some of the biggest influence the fashion world will ever see.
For Part Two of my Black History of Fashion series I’m focusing on some models who have stood out to me through the years.
Donyale Luna, cited as “the first Black supermodel”, was the first African-American model to appear on the cover of British Vogue in March 1966.
She was one of the first models to break the racial barrier in fashion.
Beverly Johnson was the first African American model to cover American Vogue in 1974, as well as the first Black model to cover French Elle.
Johnson’s appearance on the cover of Vogue changed the beauty standards in U.S. print media, and inspired lots of American designers to include black models in their runway shows the next year and thereafter.
While she was at the University of Nairobi in 1975, Iman was discovered by the American photographer Peter Beard and moved to the United States to begin a modeling career. Her first modeling assignment was for Vogue a year later. She soon appeared on the cover of some of the world’s most prestigious magazines, establishing herself as a supermodel.
Iman Cosmetics was launched when the supermodel was on set for a US Vogue shoot and the makeup artist didn’t have any foundation for black skin tones
The all-inclusive cosmetics range was launched in 1994, and features difficult-to-find shades suited for brown and black skin tones.
Before she was the iconic America’s Next Top Model judge Tyra Banks was a supermodel herself. She walked in shows from Christian Lacroix to Victoria’s Secret.
She was the first black model to sign a contract with Victorias Secret and was an Angel from 1997 to 2005.
When faced with racial discrimination, Campbell received support from her white friends; she later quoted Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista as telling the brand Dolce and Gabbana “If you don’t use Naomi, you don’t get us.”
In December 1987, she appeared on the cover of British Vogue as that publication’s first black cover girl since 1966.
In August 1988, she became the first black model to appear on the cover of French Vogue after designer Yves St. Laurent threatened to withdraw his advertising from the magazine if it didn’t place Naomi on its cover.
In 1989 she appeared on the cover of American Vogue, marking the first time a black model graced the front of the September magazine, traditionally the year’s biggest and most important issue.
I saved my favorite for last.
Grace Jones. There’s so much that can be said about her.
Model, singer, actress, advocate… Pick one. She excelled at them all.
Jones began her career in New York state, then in Paris, working for brands such as Yves St. Laurent and Kenzo, and appearing on the covers of Elle and Vogue. She was known for her distinctive androgynous appearance and bold features.
You cannot think of the ‘80s without picturing Grace Jones.
These ladies walked straight down the runway and broke down barriers along the way. They are an integral part of Black History in Fashion.
This month I want to focus on the Impact black history has in the fashion world.
This week we’re focusing on five renowned fashion designers and how they left their mark, not only on me, but on the fashion world as well.
Ann Cole Lowe was the first African American to become a noted fashion designer. Lowe’s designs were popular among upper class women for five decades from the 1920s through the 1960s
Lowe designed one of the most famous wedding dresses in history: the ivory silk taffeta bridal gown worn by Jacqueline Bouvier when she married John F. Kennedy in 1953. Unfortunately, Lowe never received the deserved credit from neither the press nor the Kennedy herself because of her race.
Virgil Abloh was the first African-American artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection. Abloh began his own line of streetwear clothing, Pyrex Vision, in 2012, and became the CEO of the Milan based label Off-White, a fashion house he founded in 2013.
One of his most iconic designs was the iridescent Louis Vuitton bag which will forever remain one of my favorite pieces from his collection.
I can’t say enough about this man. He’s been the subject of two of my blogs so far.
A self-taught tailor with a unique style, Dapper Dan introduced high fashion to the hip hop world with his influential Harlem store, Dapper Dan’s Boutique.
I’m truly a lifelong fan of his.
Jay Jaxon was pretty much erased from the fashion historical narrative.
The designer, who rose to the helm of former French fashion house Jean-Louis Scherrer, making him the first Black American couturier in the Paris maisons in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, even designing for Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent and Dior for a time, has largely been “hidden in the fashion and historical narrative,” according to Rachel Fenderson, fashion historian, curator and lead authority on Jaxon.
He caught my attention, however, in the ‘80s.
Annie Lennox’s suit for the 1984 Grammy Awards sent shockwaves through the audience at the show and those watching around the world. Dressed in drag, she morphed into the iconic Elvis, at the hands of Jay Jaxson.
I was immediately a fan.
The most recent iconic black designer to take over the fashion world is Telfar Clemons.
Clemens has received global recognition for designing the Telfar Shopping bag, also called the “Bushwick Birkin,” the brand’s best-selling item.
Can we celebrate these great Designers every month?!! Because they deserve their place in fashion history!