Fashion

NYFW Isn’t Dead. These Black Culture Highlights Prove It.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 08: Models walk the runway for The Brand Label during BIG MOTION an HBCU Runway Presented by UPS and NYFW: The Shows on September 08, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for IMG Fashion)

As the Unbothered inbox filled up with New York Fashion Week (NYFW) invites for the Spring/Summer 2024 season, we intentionally sought out the shows and presentations that highlighted Black designers we love, especially the ones who may not always get the love they deserve. To echo our good sis Issa Rae, as always we’re  “rooting for everybody Black.”

It was incredible to see NYFW include more diverse creatives in its lineup. UPS was an official sponsor for NYFW and they presented $150,000 to three HBCU alumni who started Black-owned brands to put on the fashion show of their dreams. Black-owned showrooms highlighted clothing, shoes, and jewelry brands across the diaspora, giving consumers and department markets an up-close look at each designer and their incredible creations. 

The cost to put on a full-length runway show can be upwards of $400,000, so some designers opted for a lowkey cocktail hour or digital lookbook to showcase their upcoming Spring/Summer collections. Here are the NYFW moments that stood out to us.

The Showrooms That Showed Off Emerging Black Designers

Lindsey Peoples and Sandrine Charles of Black in Fashion Council and Amira Rasool of Folklore held their annual showrooms which spotlighted emerging Black designers. The BIFC discovery showroom was held in Spring Studios (the main attraction during NYFW) where they showcased 10 brands: Ciara Chyanne, Fumi The Label, Kaphill, Khoi, Kilentar, Korlekie, Lurelly, Onalaja, Tejahn Burnett, and Tia Adeola. Folklore showroom took place in SoHo where 15 designers across Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, and the US shared their unique designs to potential consumers and market buyers. Their presence at NYFW reflects the growth of their brands and the continued commitment to diversity within the industry.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 08: (L-R) Designers, Nola and Shaq of The Brand Label, Chelsea Grays and Undra Celeste walk the runway during BIG MOTION an HBCU Runway Presented by UPS and NYFW: The Shows on September 08, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for IMG Fashion)

The HBCU Designers’ Fashion Show Did Not Disappoint 

For this year’s UPS x NYFW fashion show, the BIG MOTION showcased The Brand Label, Undra Celeste New York, and Chelsea Grays. The UPS initiative to drive diversity forward did not fall short as the company invested $150,000 in small business funding for the three brands to unveil their new runway collections. The show was hosted by Lala Anthony and packed with fashion experts and creatives showing support to the brands. Their designs did not disappoint, and whispers of ‘oohs and aahs’ were heard throughout the crowd. This was another testament to what can happen when you invest in Black creatives. There is no limit to how grand their creations can be.

The Brand & Creative Collabs Actually Aligned

Oftentimes when we see brands partner with a fashion expert or creative, we question what the true intentions are behind the collab and if it was truly a collaborative effort. But this year, we were pleasantly surprised by some of the partnerships. 

Reputable celebrity stylist Jason Bolden unveiled the refreshed designs behind JC Penny’s private label brands J. Ferrar and Worthington. Prior to the collection being released, Bolden told us about how he would style some of the pieces on his clients interchangeably regardless of gender. The pieces worked for everyone while staying true to the ethos of each brand. “I appreciate how JC Penny allowed me to have free range to create and design these collections and truly trusted my expertise and knowledge,” Bolden shared. 

Journalist and style tastemaker Elaine Welteroth also applied her style expertise to her partnership with Rakuten, a site that lets you shop for your favorite brands and receive cash-back rewards. As a new mom, Welteroth expressed that she is in a new era of dressing. “The pieces I buy are an investment, I want to be able to rewear them all and for them to last me through my lifetime, and although we’re no longer in quarantine and sweats, I want to give people options [and] ways for them to elevate the pieces they’re buying,” Welteroth said. Her collab featured monochromatic styling, leather on leather, and trendy feminine menswear. 

Designer Presentations Felt Like Intimate Kikis 

The best part about this fashion week was how much more intimate it felt.  Anifa Mvuemba of Hanifa opted out of doing a traditional fashion show, instead showcasing a few pieces from her latest collection (it dropped September 6th) during a cocktail hour. This gave attendees a chance to be in the room with the designer while also getting a closer look at her new designs. Mvuemba even dressed fashion influencers Tenicka B, Skylar Marshai, Blake Newby, and Asia Milia, just to name a few, in her newest knitwear designs. 

Edvin Thompson of Theophilio released his digital lookbook Out of Many, One People where he expressed that the collection is a continued celebration of identity, a companion to his previous collection. Tia Adeola tapped into her creative bag by making a film that showed off her Spring/Summer 2024 collection paired with an intimate dinner with guests. Ogemdi Obiwuru, the designer of OSSO, shared that his collection would be released soon digitally and that it’s been exciting to see more denim and minimalistic styling this season.

The recent conversations debating whether or not NYFW is dead are dismissive of the amazing work Black designers and creatives have done this season and will continue to do. These brands shined in the traditional and non-traditional realm of what NYFW is; it’s important that we continue to foster intentional collaborations and celebrate Black talent. We out here!

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