Black History Month: Fashion Designers
February is known for several things: Valentine’s Day, false spring, and of course, Black History Month. It’s no coincidence that many of the best unsung fashion designers were overlooked due to their race, and it's time that their names become more familiar within our world of fashion. So, here are just three of the many names to give you some vintage fashion vibes all year round.
Anne Lowe – Born in Clayton, Alabama in 1898, Anne Lowe’s love for fashion was cultivated in humble beginnings. As a girl, she learned to sew from her mother and grandmother while working in her family’s custom dress shop. A move to Florida at the age of 18 led to her becoming a dressmaker for weddings and debutante balls, and with growing success, she knew New York was next. She felt that once there she could finally “make dresses for society people, [her] dreams would be fulfilled.” And true to her “fashion” she accomplished just that. On September 13, 1953, the New York Times would cover the wedding of none other than John F. Kennedy to Jacqueline Bouvier, a portrait of Jackie in her famously beautiful dress gracing the front page. What was missing, however, was any mention of the talented designer, Anne Lowe. Lowe still achieved great success and was a true fashion pioneer, staying humble and working out of her own modest Harlem apartment. Her fashion is timelessly beautiful and deserves to remain inspiration for the classiest of looks.
Scott Barrie – Born Nelson Clyde Barr in 1946, this next important fashion designer is from Philadelphia. Unlike Anne Lowe, Scott Barrie did attend a college of art, as well as the Mayer School of Fashion in New York during the 1960’s. He established himself on New York’s Seventh Avenue in the late 1960’s and was known for his sexy, jazz inspired styles. His designs were often sleek and form-fitted, often daring to push slits too high or a bold sway in the fabric. His athletic line, Barrie Sport was extremely influential in the 1970’s. With today’s growing athleisure style, perhaps his styles are worth a revisit.
Patrick Kelly – Originally from Vicksburg, Mississippi, Patrick Kelly became the first American to be admitted to the Chambre syndicale du prêt-à-porter des couturiers et des créateurs de mode, a highly revered (obviously French) governing body with the fashion industry. He learned to sew in grade school (only the coolest boys do) and when older, moved to Atlanta to pursue a career in design. Working at a thrift shop to support himself, he would modify dresses and coats. An eclectic approach which would later become his signature. Making a name for himself in New York, and later Paris.His work celebrated black folklore, was high energy, and had a modern, pop sense. His fashion reign was most successful during the 1980’s, and many of his designs would fit in with this 80s/90s revival happening today.
Though these fashion designers were often discluded, doubted, or even forgotten, they nonetheless helped create the ever growing world for inclusive fashion today. Their bold and beautiful designs demanded to be worn and appreciated by all fashionable people, even still today. Keep your eye out for current fashion designers making history today, such as Virgil Abohl, Christie Brown, Tracy Reese, LeQuan Smith, and many others whom you may have worn already. Get to know the name on your tag and never dismiss the struggle it might have taken to place it there! Happy Black Fashion History Month.
Written by: Camryn Thane
Edited by: Andi Perkins