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Since the racial justice movement of 2020 in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, there has been considerable momentum within fashion and footwear to not only find ways to support Black Lives Matter and other racial and social justice causes, but to also look within the industry at the ways in which it has not provided an equitable and fair landscape for minorities.
2020 and 2021 saw a blossoming of support and visibility for Black fashion designers and creatives, with the launches of the Black in Fashion Council, the 15 Percent Pledge, the Black Fashion & Beauty Collective, the Kelly Initiative, plus additional pushes from organizations such as the CFDA’s IMPACT program. Established brands also began to ramp up their own diversity, inclusion and equity programs, with the appointments of chief diversity officers and other DEI executives at Gucci, Chanel, Nike, Kering and Prada (many of which were appointed in early 2020, after a series of racially insensitive missteps from some brands in 2019).
With the January 2021 inauguration of Kamala Harris as the first African American, Asian American and woman vice president in U.S. history, Black American fashion took center stage on a national and global level, with both the VP and former first lady Michelle Obama wearing looks by designer Sergio Hudson on Inauguration Day. Since then, Black fashion has continued to flourish. In July 2021, Pyer Moss founder and creative director Kerby Jean-Raymond showed his debut couture collection as the first Black designer to do so.
There have been big wins within the Black fashion community over the past few years, but across the footwear and fashion industries there is still much work to be done. Studies have shown that not only have have African American businesses have been hit the hardest by Covid-19 store closures, but they’ve also historically struggled with securing capital as a result of discriminatory lending practices and lack of ties with big banks. And in the fashion industry specifically, which has profited off appropriating Black culture for decades, Black leaders, executives and decision makers are still not equally represented, especially at the top. The death of Off-White designer, Louis Vuitton artistic director of menswear and all-around creative force Virgil Abloh in November has left a huge hole in the top tier of the industry, with LVMH still pondering his replacement and the future of the expansions that he and the conglomerate had planned and announced in July 2021.
Here, a curated and updated round up of Black-owned fashion and shoe brands you can shop, from the big designers to lesser-known labels that are emerging in a changing fashion landscape. The list is not exhaustive, but it offers a starting point for exercising buying power to keep Black-owned companies thriving and moving forward in the fashion and footwear industries.
UK-based handbag label LarAllan was founded in 2019 by Nigerian-born Lara Olutunbi, who decided to follow her passion for design after initially pursuing a career in finance (she ended up studying Fashion, Fabrics and Interior Design at Central St. Martens in London). The brand, whose moniker is a blend of her and her late father Allen’s names, offers luxury statement bags that take inspiration from furniture, everyday items and various objects including the fabric and leathers used in the collection. Each piece is designed to celebrate women, a theme that’s most evident in a series of designs that depict images of colorfully-dressed female figures from diverse backgrounds.
Notable celebrity stylist and designer Jason Rembert debuted his first women’s collection during New York Fashion Week in February 2019 to a packed house. Although not available to shop online, his garments are accented by the use of bold colors and eye-catching embroidery — and seen on plenty of his clients and other celebrities, like Issa Rae, Billy Porter, Tiffany Haddish, Chrissy Metz and Taraji P. Henson.
Founded by Toronto-native Aurora James in 2013, Brother Vellies creates eco-friendly footwear and accessories for women. The one-of-a-kind pieces are handmade by artisans around the globe using traditional African design practices and techniques, from wicker mules to fur-embellished sandals and handbags featuring Kenyan hardwood chain links. Recently, James founded the 15 Percent Pledge, an inclusion initiative that is calling on large corporations to buy 15% of their products from black-owned businesses; so far, Sephora has signed on.
Shop here: Brothervellies.com.
From Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 26-year-old designer Christopher John Rogers debuted his eponymous label at New York Fashion Week in February 2020. The collection, complete with bright colors and bold, statement-making silhouettes, is available to shop at Net-a-Porter.com. Since 2016, the designer has sold made-to-order designs from his Brooklyn studio, and even created custom looks for Michelle Obama and Lizzo.
Shop here: Net-a-Porter.com.
Launching the Pyer Moss brand in 2013, 2019 FN Achievement Awards Person of the Year Kerby Jean-Raymond has used his platform and designs to celebrate black culture and raise awareness about social issues like racism, police brutality and gun violence. His looks for men and women include everything from comfy sweatpants and tees to sweeping gowns, as well a sporty line of sneakers in collaboration with Reebok (each capsule has sold out within minutes and commands high resale prices). The pieces have become favorites of entertainment’s biggest names like Rihanna, Janet Jackson and Tracee Ellis Ross.
Shop here: Pyermoss.com.
Also a celebrity favorite, Jerry Larenzo’s Fear of God is known for its elevated men’s streetwear staples (think oversized silhouettes and mixed media finishes) and buzzy sneaker collaborations. Lorenzo was named Designer of the Year at the 2021 Footwear News Achievement Awards and this year he will debut his first collection as creative director of basketball for Adidas.
Shop here: Fearofgod.com.
From statement pieces to wardrobe staples, Sergio Hudson‘s ready-to-wear label for women is sultry, elegant and a little bit androgynous, too. With a track record of dressing high-profile names like Beyoncé and Regina King, and a fall ’20 NYFW week debut to boot, he’s shows no signs of slowing down.
Shop here: Sergiohudson.com.
Rihanna’s LVMH-backed Fenty label may have been put on hold for now, but the star’s lingerie label has become true mass fashion powerhouse. After a round of Series B funding in February 2021, Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty brand hit a $1 billion valuation and in August, Forbes reported that Rihanna was worth an estimated $1.7 billion. Last month, the brand announced it would be opening stories in five U.S. cities in 2022.
Shop here: Fenty.com.
Just a few years after founding his eponymous label, multi-hyphenate Heron Preston has earned a notable following for his luxury streetwear pieces for men and women. The designer, who is also an artist, content creator and DJ, is inspired by sustainability and technology in his collections.
Shop Here: Heronpreston.com.
Offering red-carpet worthy looks without the high-end price tag, designer Jessica Rich’s footwear line proves you don’t have to spend a fortune to look like a movie star. Even celebrities with deep pockets, like JLo and Cardi B., wear them. Sky-high pumps and PVC stilettos start at just $99, while the brand’s most recent debut includes a line of equally affordable men’s styles.
Shop here: Jessicarich.com.
A new sneaker brand making waves, LØCI was founded in April 2021 by London-based entrepreneurs Emmanuel Eribo and Philippe Homsy with a mission to create 100% vegan sneakers. All aspects of the shoes are sustainable and animal-friendly, with features like bamboo linings and uppers made of ocean-bound plastic. (According to the brand, each pair — handmade in Portugal — removes 20 plastic bottles from oceans and landfills.) In its efforts to help achieve a greener future, LØCI also donates 10% of profits to English organizations — including Mission Blue, See Turtles and British Divers — who work to protect and conserve sea life.
Since opening business, the brand has also partnered with Nikki Reid on a special collection of vegan styles for men and women.
Shop here: Lociwear.com.
Virgil Abloh’s hit brand Off-White has had a lasting influence on fashion, almost single-handedly bringing the buzz of streetwear to high fashion. The brand’s high-end handbags, sneakers and signature industrial belt style are still influencing all levels of fashion, even and especially after the death of Abloh in November.
For those who love classic footwear silhouettes with a subtle dose of edge, check out Titi Adesa‘s line. Her understated looks feature cant-miss twists like smooth leather pumps with laser-cuter details and elegant mules with contrasting mesh. They’re hand-crafted in Milan, so you can rest assured you’re paying for top quality. Plus, you’ll be supporting a brand with a philanthropic mission. Through resources like educational sponsorship and mentorship, the Tita Adesa Foundation aims to bolster young women in under-served African communities who aspire to be designers.
Shop here: Titiadesa.com.
Tiannia Barnes‘ Italian-made label features contemporary heels, flats and sandals. With an ethos for empowering women, the brand includes two aptly named collections, called Freedom and Inspire, that are complete with bold accents like clear stiletto heels and bright fringe. She also sells a signature tee in which a portion of the proceeds are donated to local and national charities.
Shop here: Tianniabarnes.com.
It-girls can’t seem to get enough of Merah Vodianova‘s elegant sandals, and it’s not hard to see why. The British designer has a knack for minimalist silhouettes with wispy stiletto heels and dainty ankle straps to help you shoppers nail the barely-there look.
Shop here: Merahvodianova.com.
Created by husband and wife duo Leslie and Justice Bessent, luxury brand Agnes Bethel offers a range of statement-making heels that pay homage to the founders’ heritage. All of the brand’s pairs are limited edition and sold in batches of 75 or less, with each cap signifying an important event or special connection to the family. Among the standout designs are a towering mule with a Strauss crystal anklet and a peep toe heel done in “African yellow” with pops of red and leopard print.
Shop here: Agnesbethel.com.
Former dancer Amina Abdul Jillil kick-started her shoe designing career in 2012, launching a line of bold silhouettes for brides and the everyday, modern woman. Her collection is full of standout details like glittering bow embellishments and chunky hardware.
Shop here: Aminahabduljillil.com.
With a focus on minimalism, intricate details and innovative constructions, Portuguese model-turned-designer Armando Cabral makes timeless men’s shoes for every occasion. Choose between styles like loafers, derby shoes, boots and sneakers, all made by Italian artisans with premium leather.
Shop here: shop.armando-cabral.com.
For a range of cool, performance-ready basketball shoes, gear and apparel, look no further than Chicago-based label BALL’N. Since getting its start nearly 30 years ago, the brand has been backed by some of the biggest names in the game, including Los Angeles Laker forward Ron Artest and Michael Jordan (the latter who wore custom jerseys from the brand during the 1994 Pippen Summer Classic). The styles are available to shop via the company’s Facebook page, with prices topping out at $100 and inclusive sizes offered up to 3X in apparel.
Shop here: m.facebook.com/ballnbasketball.
Hairstylist and entrepreneur Cedrick McDonald turned shoe sketching into an actual line of exotic-skin-accented heels in 2017 and even received a patent for his snakeskin soles, where the animal print is silk screened onto the bottoms and decorated with Swarovski crystals.
Shop here: Exotics by Cedrick.
In 2019, fashion veteran Trace Reese put the brakes on her fast-producing fashion brand to create a new label founded on eco-friendly design practices. Called Flowers for Hope, the Detroit-based line for women uses sustainable materials, ethical production, and handwork to reduce its environmental impact.
Shop Here: Hopeforflowers.com.
Texas flair meets fine Italian craftsmanship in Kamica Hampton‘s line of luxury stilettos. Produced in Houston, the bold looks include everything from authentic snakeskin pumps with cutouts and contrasting bow details to tall caged styles done in smooth, supple leather.
Shop here: Khampton.com.
Nigerian-based brand Keexs pays homage to its roots with a collection of high-quality sneakers. Among the socially-conscious designs, you’ll find low-tops artfully illustrating Zambia’s efforts to put the first African man on the moon or “Black Power” slip-ons inspired by the city of Lagos. What’s more, the brand also hosts crowdfunding campaigns, in which it pledges to donate up to 10% of every purchase to projects aimed at alleviating poverty.
Shop here: Keexs.com.
Launching in 2019, emerging luxury label DeBosè offers Italian-made shoes with MoTown-era influences. Its debut collection includes a gender neutral sneaker, featuring a mix of bold colors and flowing shapes inspired by the elaborate apparel and jewelry trends from the time period. In addition to dropping a boot collection, the brand also plans to collaborate with new and local artists to support under-the-radar talent.
Shop here: Debose.com
Designed in Los Angeles and sourced and manufactured in Florence, Italy, Kendall Miles’ luxury footwear styles boast fine craftsmanship. The opulent designs, which first dropped in 2015, include finishes like supple leather, exotic furs and eye-catching metallic accents.
Shop here: Kendalmilesdesigns.com.
New York-based designer Laquan Smith started his own line at just 21 years old, and his unique creations have been worn by Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian. From shoes to apparel, they’re characterized by strong, sultry silhouettes with features like body-hugging fits, daring cutouts and lots of patent leather.
Shop here: Laquansmith.com.
Cornering the market on plus size footwear for women, Eleanor Anukam carries flats and pumps in sizes 9 to 13. Born in Texas and raised in Nigeria, Anukam (who wears a size 12 shoe herself) uses her worldly experiences to inform her design aesthetic. Even actress and LGBTQ advocate Laverne Cox is a fan.
Shop here: Eleanor Anukam.
The brainchild of co-founders Yossi Shetrit and Davidson Petit-Frere, Lavati makes classic chelsea boots and sleek sneaker styles for men. Prior to its launch in 2016, the brand built a cult following by outfitting some of Hollywood’s coolest guys, teasing its launch on Instagram and allowing fans to partake in lotteries for a chance to win one-of-a-kind pairs.
Shop here: Lavati.com.
Sustainable label Lemlem was founded by supermodel and actress Liya Kebede in 2007. It sells boho-inspired home goods and apparel and accessories for men, women and kids made by local artisans in Ethiopia. For every direct sale made, 5% of it will go to benefit the Lemlem foundation — the brand’s non-profit arm which aims to connect female artisans in Africa to healthcare, education and job opportunities.
Shop here: Lemlem.com.
After designing for major footwear labels like Roberto Cavalli, Vince Camuto and Steve Madden, Michael Grey birthed his own footwear line in 2016. Dubbed Michael Gray Footwear, it includes a capsule of minimalist women’s sandal styles handmade in the designer’s New-York based factory.
Shop here: Mgsandalfactory.com.
Heavily influenced by the founder’s Egyptian heritage, Negash teems with references to ancient royalty (the brand’s name, which is of African Amharic and Tigrinya origin, translates literally to “heir to the throne.”) Alongside apparel and sneakers for men, women and kids, the brand also carries a diverse selection of goods including games, health supplements and wall art.
Shop here: Negash83.com.
A former Major in the U.S. Army, Natasha Norie Standard decided to trade her time on the front lines for a career as a footwear designer. Called Norie Shoes, her line features a range of comfort-driven, Italian-made styles for women, including high heel sandals, ballerina flats and sneakers. As a tribute to the designer’s roots, each shoe is inspired by famous female leaders, from 16th century African queen Amina to more contemporary revolutionaries like the Dahomey Amazon warrior women of 18th century Benin.
Shop here: Norieshoes.com.
In what began as a Kickstarter campaign, Rock Deep now has four stores nationwide. The brand specializes in outdoor and athletic footwear and apparel for men, women and kids, selling options for nearly any activity. According to its website, the label plans to build apparel factories in undeserved areas across America.
Shop here: Rockdeep.com.
Ron Donovan is no newcomer to the world of design, but if you’re not familiar with his work, he’s definitely worth noting. The FGI Rising Star Finalist has over 20 years of experience crafting apparel, footwear and accessories for his namesake label, and may be best known for his handsome men’s dress shoes that can be made to order in sizes up to 16.
Shop here: Rondonovandesigns.com.
Salone Monet is on a mission to make nude footwear more color-inclusive. After leaving a career in political PR to purse footwear design, Monet’s eponymous label now includes a pump, slingback heel and flat style, all available in six neutral shades to fit a more diverse range of skin tones. What’s more, the shoes are sustainably made. Each pair is hand-dyed by local dyers to reduce waste and support artisan jobs in the U.S. Ranging from $285 to $295, the luxe styles have been worn by leading ladies in entertainment including Beyoncé Knowles, Gabrielle Union and Keke Palmer. Monet is also a recipient of ICON360’s A Common Thread Fund and Bethann Hardison Designer’s Hub Grant, awarded in partnership with the CFDA to bolster black businesses.
Shop here: Salonemonet.com.
Another great brand catering to women with large feet, Samanta Shoes offers comfortable and versatile silhouettes available in up to size 14. They’ve been worn by stars like Tyra Banks, Debra Messing and Wendy Williams.
Shop here: Samantashoes.com.
Ethically produced and eco-friendly, Sole Rebels offers made-to-order footwear crafted by artisans in Ethiopia. All styles use 100% sustainable materials, featuring soles made of recycled tires for maximum comfort. The brand also offers vegan options that are equal parts stylish and functional, complete with colorful canvas uppers.
Shop here: Solerebels.com.
Activist Marcia Smith created HGC Apparel (aka Haute Greek Couture) in 2006 with a mission to advocate for and uplift the black community. The brand, which grew from custom designs Smith sold to sororities and fraternities on her college campus, includes a range of t-shirts, hoodies and more featuring poignant messages like “Black By Popular Demand,” and “Stop Criminalizing Black Children.” The designs also include clear 90s influences — from bright color-blocking to bold lettering — as an homage to the decade in which Smith grew up in. Today, the socially conscious label has earned a following among high-profile names like actress Zendaya and Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
Shop here: Hgcapparel.com.
LA-based Aazhia Rhy offers up a range of modern, monochromatic looks for women. Her brand also creates custom garments and affordably priced accessories. What’s more, 100% of proceeds from the sale of its signature “love” tote go towards filling another tote that the brand will personally distribute to the homeless.
Shop here: Tlzlf.com.
One of the nation’s few black manufacturers of handmade luxury Italian leather shoes, goods and accessories for men and women, Tucci Polo has earned international acclaim in just a short span of time. The brand’s pieces have been sported by business executive and high-profile celebrities alike. Showcasing intricate details, every pair of shoes features unique stitching and hand-painting, often with signature color-blocking and ombré finishes.
Shop here: Tuccipolo.com.
In case you didn’t know, Etsy is home to tons of black-owned shops you can support, including categories of home to beauty and fashion. If you’re looking for some stylish jewelry to add to your wardrobe, check out Lingua Nigra on the platform. Its Chicago-based designer Alicia Goodwin handcrafts sculptural necklaces, earrings, bangles and rings, meaning no two looks are the exactly the same.
Shop here: Etsy.com.
Footwear News is a part of Penske Media Corporation. © 2022 Fairchild Publishing, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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Footwear News is a part of Penske Media Corporation. © 2022 Fairchild Publishing, LLC. All Rights Reserved.