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Nine black fashion designers to watch at New York Fashion Week

Telfar Clemens, Carly Cushnie and Romeo Hunte among those presenting their autumn/winter 2019 lines.
Image: Telfar Clemens, Carly Cushine and Romeo Hunte.
Telfar Clemens, Carly Cushnie and Romeo Hunte.Getty Images

The fashion industry has seen progress when it comes to inclusivity on runways, but behind the seams, it’s a different story. While the runways of the New York Fashion Week in September featured more models of color compared to any other year, according to The Fashion Spot, that pales in comparison to the number of black designers who have shown their designs during the event.

Still, New York Fashion Week attracts an array of established and emerging talent. For black designers, it’s a chance to incorporate their identities and experiences into their collections, and unveil their creations to a global audience. Over the years, fashion lovers have come to know, respect and covet ensembles by fabric vanguards such as Pyer Moss, Tracey Reese, Patrick Robinson and Dapper Dan.

NBCBLK looks at a few black fashion designers who will no doubt grab headlines this month during New York Fashion Week.

No Sesso

Designer Pierre Davis of clothing brand No Sesso.Courtesy No Sesso

For Los Angeles-based label No Sesso (Italian for “no sex/gender”), diversity is an essential narrative entwined throughout its collections. The emerging agender fashion brand makes garments accessible to all, with vibrant pieces that challenge gender norms. According to the Council of Fashion Designers of America, No Sesso’s debut this month will make history as its co-founder, Pierre Davis, will be the first trans woman designer to show on the official calendar during New York Fashion Week.


Carly Cushnie prepares backstage for the Cushnie Et Ochs collection during New York Fashion Week on Feb. 10, 2017 in New York.Nicholas Hunt / Getty Images For New York Fashion Week file

After rebranding in 2017 following the exit of co-founder Michelle Ochs, designer Carly Cushnie has seamlessly taken on the reins of both creative director and CEO of her new namesake label, Cushnie. The collection still keeps true to the clean and sophisticated take on femininity that has garnered a legion of fans and a celebrity following that includes actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Kerry Washington and former first lady Michelle Obama. But, it’s the designer’s take on denim in her Spring 2019 show that has many wondering what her fall collection will include.

Romeo Hunte

Kyle James and Romeo Hunte seen attending a pop-up event by New York based designer and artist Romeo Hunte at Wolfe and Badger in Westbourne Grove on Feb. 16, 2018 in London.J. Almasi / GC Images file

Romeo Hunte is no stranger to bridging creativity and functionality. Known for his outerwear, Hunte’s pieces offer a fresh take on modern streetwear classics. Clothes are reconstructed with bold accents and bright colors, providing both utility and comfort. It’s no wonder that he’s made fans out of the likes of actresses Halle Berry and Zendaya and singer Beyonce, with whom he collaborated in 2015.

Victor Glemaud

Designer Victor Glemaud attends Nordstrom SPACE Holiday Pop-Up at Nordstrom Local Melrose on Nov. 08, 2018 in Los Angeles.Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images for Nordstrom file

The Haiti-born designer focuses on knitwear, a niche he began exploring in his youth by cutting up and reassembling his father’s sweaters. Glemaud, who started his label in 2006, is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology and worked as a fashion publicist before taking the role of studio director at Paco Rabanne and working with Tommy Hilfiger. Glemaud’s line fuses classic silhouettes with unexpected details in pungent hues that still evoke a cut-and-sewn aesthetic.

LaQuan Smith

Designer Laquan Smith poses backstage at his Presentation September 2016 during New York Fashion Week on Sept. 14, 2016 in New York.Robin Marchant / Getty Images file

Over the past few years, LaQuan Smith has steadily become a household name. His sleek, sexy and glamorous designs were worn by Beyoncé for the On the Run II tour, and last year he dropped a successful capsule collection for ASOS. Yet, Smith, who spent his early years learning sewing and pattern making from his grandmother, has become that rare designer who can do both red-carpet stunners as well as head-turning, moderately priced ready-to-wear garments.


Designer Telfar Clemens, backstage after the show at New York Fashion Week on Feb. 10, 2017 in New York.Gonzalo Marroquin / Patrick McMullan via Getty Images file

Telfar Clemens, who started his eponymous label in 2005 as a teenager, has made a huge impact on the fashion community. His collection’s tagline, “not for you - for everyone,” has made many take notice, allowing more sartorial conversation around gender fluidity in garments. It also summarizes his brand’s aesthetic: clothes that are functional with a modern sensibility. Clemens won the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2017.

Christopher John Rogers

Designer Christopher John Rogers poses during the Christopher John Rogers New York Fashion Week Spring Summer 2019 Collection Fashion Presentation in New York on Sept. 6, 2018.Jonas Gustavsson / Sipa USA via AP file

Christopher John Rogers is quickly becoming a designer to watch. The Baton Rouge, Louisiana, native and Savannah College of Art and Design graduate debuted his Spring 2019 collection last season to great acclaim. With a palette of brightly colored, feminine garments that echo his southern upbringing, Rogers’ intention is clear: to create a world of whimsy with his clothes.

Lukhanyo Mdingi

Designer Lukhanyo Mdingi.Courtesy Lukhanyo Mdingi

Lukhanyo Mdingi is one of a few designers helping to put South Africa’s fashion scene on the map. With pieces that celebrate considered design with sustainable textures, his awe-inspiring looks tell complex stories that bare simple elegance, soulfulness and a connection to his ancestral roots.

Studio One Eighty Nine

Actress Rosario Dawson, left, and Abrima Erwiah from Studio 189, talk after their spring 2019 collection was modeled during Fashion Week in New Yorkon Sept. 10, 2018.Richard Drew / AP file

After winning last year’s CFDA + Lexus Fashion Initiative, Studio One Eighty Nine founders Abrima Erwiah and Rosario Dawson have proven that fashion can be mission driven. With stores in New York and Accra, Ghana, the company produces African-inspired clothing by working with artisanal communities that empower women, support job development and create educational opportunities in Africa.

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