The Museum at FIT Honours Black Fashion Designers



A new exhibition dedicated to designers and models of African descent has recently been launched in New York.

On December 6, the Museum at FIT in New York opened ‘Black Fashion Designers’, an exclusive exhibition which celebrates the work of pan-African designers and their impact on the fashion industry through the decades.

In a journey from the 1950s to the present, the exhibit includes 75 pieces divided in different categories, such as eveningwear, street style, and social activism.

‘Black Fashion Designers’, the Museum at FIT, New York City


From Zelda Wynn Valdes and Anne Lowe, who designed Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding dress, to Wesley Tann and Willi Smith, respectively the first African-American designer to open a fashion salon on Seventh Avenue in NYC, and the founder of ‘street couture’, in addition to some of today’s prominent designers such as Public School, Tracy Reese, Ozwald Boateng and Grace Wales Bonner, winner of the LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers.

A section will also be dedicated to black models and famous events such as the Ebony Fashion Fair and the Battle of Versailles Fashion Show held in 1973 which saw African-American models under the spotlight.

‘The Battle of Versailles’, 1973
‘The Battle of Versailles’, 1973

This is an important event in a world where diversity is unfortunately still a problem. Not many black designers and models get recognition, and lots of the ones included in this exhibition are still unknown to the world. But some things are slowly changing. Balmain’s creative director Olivier Rousteing, for example, is one the most successful designers of the moment and his creations are very popular with A-listers.

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 09:  (L-R) Kim Kardashian, Olivier Rousteing and Kendall Jenner attend the Vogue Foundation Gala as part of Paris Fashion Week  at Palais Galliera on July 9, 2014 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Julien M. Hekimian/French Select/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Kim Kardashian;Kendall Jenner
Olivier Rousteing with his ‘Balmain Army’

Ariele Elia, assistant curator of Costume and Textiles and organiser of the exhibition, told Vogue: “Designers would be described as black, but then their clothes wouldn’t be described.” Curatorial assistant Elizabeth Way continued: “‘Black’ doesn’t tell you anything about a designer. The exhibition is really about a diversity of perspective.”

We really hope that this will help in promoting more diversity in the fashion industry and honouring many talents for their work. Hopefully, in the future they will be celebrated everyday alongside others, instead of being snubbed or judged for the colour of their skin.

‘Black Fashion Designers’ will run until May 2017; after that, the pieces will be part of the museum’s collection.

For more information:

Have you visited the exhibition or are you planning to? Let us know by commenting below or tweet us @santmagazine.

Words: Ammy Putzu

Hashtags: #exhibition, #museum, #FIT, #NewYorkCity, #black, #fashion, #designers, #diversity

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