While fashion industry has made slow strides on diversity, equity and inclusion, history has proven that inaction does not lend itself to progress. Instead of waiting for change to come, we may have to be the change we want to see.
Since its launch in August 2020, Fashionable Black Council has been at the forefront of empowering and platforming black fashion professionals. Founded by The Cut editor-in-chief Lindsay Peoples and public relations expert Sandrine Charles, BIFC was created to “represent and ensure the advancement of individuals of color in the fashion and beauty industry.” The collective launched its first Discovery exhibitions in September 2020.
During New York Fashion Week Spring-Summer 2023, the Black in Fashion Council took over space on the sixth floor of Spring Studios, giving 10 black designers an opportunity to showcase their work. This season, featured brands included Ajovang, Atelier Ndigo, Harbison, Izayla, Jessica Rich, Kwame Adusei, Madame Adassa, Muehleder, Sammy B Designs and Vavounne.
For its third NYFW appearance this year, BIFC kicked off the week with a breakfast and partnered with Mailchimp, the first sponsor of BIFC Discovery Showrooms, on a limited capsule collection and pop-up shop featuring Izayla, Kwame Adusei, Muehleder , Atelier Ndigo and Sammy B. After breakfast, the designers got to see the showroom highlighting their work for the first time.
“The Black in Fashion Council is excited to continue to help elevate emerging designers to receive the visibility and access they need and deserve, and we’re always looking for new opportunities to further their excellence,” Lindsay Peoples and Sandrine Charles, co-founders of the Black in Fashion Council, said in a statement.
Izayla’s designer, I’sha Dunston, has wanted to be a part of the Black in Fashion Discovery Council showcases since learning about the collective in 2020. She crossed paths with BIFC Executive Board member William Taswell after of an emerging black designers event at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles. From there, he brought her to the earring. As the 26-year-old designer makes her mark on the East Coast, she brings her flair to Fremont, California.
“Izayla is advanced contemporary women’s clothing. We are based in Los Angeles and the three pillars of the brand are empowerment, integrity and representation of women,” said Dunston. “My philosophy is that I want to grow up with my wife. It’s a journey. We are always evolving. We are not the same woman as we were a year ago.”
Dunston founded Izayla five years ago and has a clear and distinct vision for the brand. The motif of the collection is transition; from muted, tailored pieces fit for the working woman to soft feminine palettes in the resort collection preview, Izayla is for every woman on the go.
Similarly, Harbison Studio, founded by Charles Elliot Harbison, offers a pragmatic approach to femininity. The North Carolina State University student and Parsons School of Design graduate used sustainable resource techniques—or leftover materials—in this collection.
Harbison’s spring-summer 2023 collection was inspired by his affinity for night gardens and their fluorescent nature, as well as his mother’s style. Oscillating between dark and light color palettes, his unique use of glass, jewels and textures throughout the collection is a testament to his craftsmanship.
“Harbison is really about modern femininity, really epitomized by my mother growing up. I call it utilitarian femininity,” he said. “I was thinking about daywear that works beautifully at night, colors and details that are optimized for nighttime. We’re looking at rhinestone embellishments, more electric locks and things of that nature.”
Chicago-based designer Adreain Guillory of Ajovang and Jamaican-born designer Marsha Vacirca of Madame Adassa drew inspiration from the story.
Playing with tulle, unique peekaboo skin exposure and the illusion of weight, Guillory’s collection was an ode to whimsy, magic and romance. Using browns, blushes, blacks and blues, his collection references the 1976 production of The Slipper & the Rose, a retelling of the classic Cinderella story. A recent graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, no one would know that this is only Guillory’s second collection.
Madame Adassa is a luxury ready-to-wear and haute couture line for women. Made in Los Angeles, the line pays homage to Vacirca’s heritage through clothing that speaks to the “rooted yet adaptive” woman. Aptly titled ‘Summer Reign’, the spring-summer 2023 collection features golden yellow tones, botanical and floral elements, as well as crinkled taffeta and versatile materials such as 100% Italian silk.
The collection’s standout piece was inspired by the Queen of Dahomey, the historical female warrior who “The King’s wife“is based on us.
“What I set out to do with this collection was just highlight women, so it’s an empowering collection of women in terms of our resilience and our ability to overcome whatever is thrown at us,” said Vacirca. “So I chose Queen Dahomey as the entry to the collection. It is a hand painted canvas dress with all bead work on the sides. It’s a collaboration with Los Angeles-based realism artist Jade Yasmeen.”
Kumasi-raised Ghanaian designer Kwame Adusei infuses his heritage and sharp West African tailoring into every piece he makes. Now based between Accra and Los Angeles, the 35-year-old designer prioritizes functionality and creativity in his outfits, be it denim skirts or leather vests. From sexy slits and cutouts to pocket dresses and a deconstructed look in a blazer, Adusei is fusing genderwear with West Coast style and his international vision.
“To me, the Kwame woman or the Kwame person is someone where I am: on the brink of achievement. You’re still on the move, you’re still on the move. He or she actually wants to be seen and represented, but they also want to look sexy. “When it’s time to run, you have to be ready,” he said.
With a storefront in Los Angeles, items from his line, like his sleeveless leather jacket, have already been noticed and bought by celebrities – notably including Beyoncé. Thanks to BIFC’s strong presence in New York, it hopes to continue to grow and expand.
For now, Adusei is leaning into custom clothing and design, but his vision for his namesake line — and fashion in general — is bigger.
“What I really want to do is bring back the idea of a good fit when it comes to clothing. Let’s not buy clothing because it says like a big brand on it. Let’s buy clothes because we want to know that we actually value the way it fits,” Adusei said. “We value fiction. We value a story — and everyone has a story, but let’s buy clothes because of the way they make us feel.”