While the fashion the industry has made slow progress on diversity, equity and inclusion, history has shown that inaction does not lend itself to progress. Instead of waiting for change to come, perhaps we need to be the change we want to see.
Since the launch in August 2020 has Black in Fashion Council has been at the forefront of empowering and platforming black fashion professionals. Founded by The Cut editor-in-chief Lindsay Peoples and PR expert Sandrine Charles, BIFC was created to “represent and ensure the advancement of black individuals in the fashion and beauty industry.” The collective launched its first Discovery Showrooms in September 2020.
During New York Fashion Week Spring-Summer 2023, the Black in Fashion Council occupied space on the sixth floor of Spring Studios, giving 10 black designers an opportunity to showcase their work. This season featured brands including Ajovang, Atelier Ndigo, Harbison, Izayla, Jessica Rich, Kwame Adusei, Madame Adassa, Muehleder, Sammy B Designs and Vavounne.
For its third appearance at NYFW this year, BIFC kicked off the week with a breakfast and partnered with Mailchimp, the first sponsor of BIFC Discovery Showrooms, on a capsule collection and limited edition 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 gain the visibility and access they need and deserve, and we are always looking for new opportunities to promote their excellence,” Lindsay Peoples and Sandrine Charles, co – the founders of the Black in Fashion Council, said in a statement.
Izayla designer I’sha Dunston has wanted to be part of the Black in Fashion Council Discovery Showrooms since learning about the collective in 2020. She crossed paths with BIFC Executive Board member William Taswell after an upcoming Black designer event at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles. From there he brought her into the fold. As the 26-year-old designer makes her mark on the East Coast, she brings her Fremont, California flair with her.
“Izayla is advanced modern women’s clothing. We are based in Los Angeles and the three pillars of the brand are women’s empowerment, integrity and representation, said Dunston. “My philosophy is that I want to grow with the woman. It’s a journey. We’re always evolving. We’re not the same woman we were a year ago.”
Dunston founded Izayla five years ago and has a clear, sharp vision for the brand. The collection’s motif is transition; From muted tailored pieces fit for the working woman to soft feminine palettes in the resort collections 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 and Parsons School of Design alumnus used sustainable deadstock – or leftover materials – sourcing techniques 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. He alternates between dark and light color palettes, and his unique use of spheres, jewels and textures throughout the collection is a testament to his craftsmanship.
“Harbison is really about modern femininity, really shaped by my mother’s upbringing. I call it utilitarian femininity, he said. “I thought about clothes during the day that work beautifully at night, colors and details that are optimized for the night. We’re looking at embellishments with rhinestones, more electric color blocking and things like that.”
Chicago-based designer Adreain Guillory of Ajovang and Jamaican-born designer Marsha Vacirca of Madame Adassa drew inspiration from storytelling.
An ode to whimsy, magic and romance, Guillory’s collection played with tulle, unique peekaboo skin exposure and the illusion of weight. Using brown, blush, black and blue tones, 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, one would not know that this is only Guillory’s second collection.
Madame Adassa is a luxury ready-to-wear and haute couture line for women. Created in Los Angeles, the line pays tribute to Vacirca’s ancestry through clothing that speaks to the “rooted yet adaptable” woman. Aptly titled ‘Summer Reign’, the Spring-Summer 2023 collection features golden yellow tones, botanical and floral elements, as well as curled taffeta and versatile materials such as 100% Italian silk.
The prominent part of the collection was inspired by Queen Dahomey, the historical female warrior who “The female king” is based on.
“What I decided to do with this collection was just highlight women, so it’s a female empowerment collection in terms of our endurance and our ability to overcome anything that’s thrown at us,” Vacirca said. “So, I chose Queen Dahomey as an introduction to the collection. It’s a hand-painted canvas dress with all hand beading on the side. It’s a collaboration with Los Angeles realist artist Jade Yasmeen.”
Kumasi-raised Ghanaian designer Kwame Adusei infuses his heritage and sharp West African tailoring into every piece he creates. Now living between Accra and Los Angeles, the 35-year-old designer prioritizes both functionality and creativity in his clothes, whether it’s denim pants or leather vests. From sexy slits and cutouts in dresses with pockets and a deconstructed version of a blazer, Adusei combines gender-fluid clothing with West Coast style and its international vision.
“To me, the Kwame woman or the Kwame person is someone who is where I am: on the verge of making it. You’re still on the move, you’re still on your way. 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 store in Los Angeles, items from his line, such as the leather biker jacket with ruched sleeves, have already been noticed and bought by celebrities – notably including Beyoncé. Thanks to BIFC’s strong presence in New York, he hopes to continue to grow and expand.
Right now, Adusei leans toward custom gear 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 clothes because it says like a big brand on it. Let us buy clothes because we want to know that we actually appreciate the way they fit us,” Adusei said. “We appreciate the fabrication. We appreciate a story — and everyone has a story, but let’s actually buy the clothes because of the way they make us feel.”