Phalanx of black designers
by Nayon Kim
“Black Fashion Designers” exhibition is being held at The Museum at FIT from December 6, 2016 to May 16, 2017, open to the public for free. There are more than 60 designer’s garments displayed chronologically from the 50s to today manifesting black designer’s power in this century which has been gone out to the world recently. Several individual exhibitions of black designers have been held, but this is a rare chance to look at several black designers at once.
Black designers have suffered difficulties and been categorized as a minority in the industry. Not many black designers have earned global prominence, even nowadays, and have been underestimated or even narrowing their access to opportunity.
The exhibition is resonating with several keynotes which are separated into nine themes. “Breaking into the Industry, The Rise of the Black Fashion Designer, Eveningwear, Street Influence, Activism, Menswear, Black Models, African Influence, and Experimentation.”¹ Denying the misconception of black designer’s obsession with their own “Black style,” the exhibition indicates the multifarious concepts of black designers. Their ability to speak through garments is clear and full of potential.
The title of the exhibition was quite curious at first not for the contents but why the promoter wanted to stress the “Black designers” which can be provocative. Maybe it signifies that inequality is still existing in this century. No exception for Black models also. There are many houses which evade working with black models.
Among great ensembles between various categories, I was drawn by many rising designers in the inner room of the exhibition. Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow, designers of Public School who won the CFDA/Vogue Prize in 2013 and especially Grace Wales Bonner, who won the honorable LVMH young designer prize² last year is a great example for the new generation. Reputable prizes are already appreciating their power at an early age. Wales Bonner has demonstrated black men’s gentleness and classy outlook through her collection. She challenged people’s prejudice about black men as offensive and shabby. I surmise Wales Bonner will be the next Demna Gvasalia who leads the fashion trend.
Racial issues are existing in every industry, and this is a valuable exhibition which boosts the shift towards recognition of social attitudes about ethnic diversity. Black designers are full of energy, and they are proud of their race. They deserve their outstanding achievement legitimately.
Wales Bonner, spring 2017, England. (The Museum at FIT 2016. Museum purchase.)
Public School, Fall 2016, USA. (The Museum at FIT 2016. Gift of Public School NYC.)
(1) “Black Fashion Designers.” http://exhibitions.fitnyc.edu/black-fashion-designers/
(2) Susanne Madsen. “Grace Wales Bonner: setting menswear’s new agenda.” Dazed. June 15, 2015. http://www.dazeddigital.com/fashion/article/24391/1/grace-wales-bonner-state-of-grace
(1) “Black Fashion Designers.” Black Fashion Designers. Accessed February 22, 2017. http://exhibitions.fitnyc.edu/black-fashion-designers/.
(2) Madsen, Susanne. “Grace Wales Bonner: setting menswear’s new agenda.” Dazed. June 15, 2015. http://www.dazeddigital.com/fashion/article/24391/1/grace-wales-bonner-state-of-grace