Where would menswear be without black, British designers? It’s a question you probably haven’t asked yourself, but it is one that definitely needs answering. Joe Casely-Hayford has played a decisive role in making London the fashion power house it is now - he was one of the first black, British designers to achieve any mainstream success. Of Ghanian descent, Casely-Hayford was the first artist to have a capsule collection made with Topshop. Lou Reed and Princess Diana were fans of his work, and he eventually became the creative director of heritage tailoring company Saville Row.
When Virgil Abloh was announced as Louis Vuitton’s menswear artistic director, the fashion world applauded the French house for their act of diversity; it was an act, however, that should have happened long before 2018. Abloh was not the first black designer to be appointed as head of a French Maison - Ozwald Boateng was named creative director of Givenchy in 2003. The Briton, with Ghanain heritage, had built a reputation as one of the finest tailors in the fashion world, and although his clothing do not have the same impact as they did in the diaspora of early 2000s, his appointment was a massive step in the right direction for Givenchy.
In a year where statues of ex-slave owners have fallen, and riots have revolutionised people’s perceptions of society, our attitudes towards the creative industries need to change. Black, British designers have continued to break boundaries with their contemporary takes on ready-to-wear - incorporating African/Caribbean heritage into numerous garments. So, in light of London’s SS21 fashion week and Black History Month, we wanted to write about a few of our favourite black, British designers, who continue to be some of the most exciting and ground breaking of their generation.
If you don’t know Martine Rose, you definitely know her clothes. The designer has garnered a cult following for her name-sake brand, which looks to South London's subcultural movements as inspiration. SS21 was a big collection for Rose, who's subversive style is re-writing the rule book for men's and women's fashion. From football to 1970s gay clubbing culture, this season clashes modern tailoring with the various fields addressed in her collection. She will continue to challenge, tackle and succeed - so keep an eye on her future work.
Priya Ahluwalia uses her Indian-Nigerian dual heritage to make nostalgic collections under her namesake brand. The designer was the joint winner of this year’s prestigious LVMH prize, and her SS21 “liberation” showcase justifies such a prestigious W. Naija inspired zigzag crews, textured polos and two piece track sets are just a few of the highlights from the brand's latest collection, which you can pre below, or here.
Saunders’ gender bending aesthetics have challenged the industry since her 2018 fashion week debut. Putting men in crop tops, and women in denim wrangler jackets, the label's revelatory outlook on clothing hasn’t gone unnoticed. SS21 was a BIG show for the South Londoner, and her ‘Ideal Man’ collection didn’t disappoint. Experimenting with fluid cuts and proportions, this season sees Saunders really pushing the boundaries of gender with, reference to her Jamaican heritage. Watch the video below.
Not only is Ross the protégé of Virgil Abloh, he is also the founder of luxury label A-Cold-Wall. Collaborating with Kanye, Nike and Off-White are just a few accolades resting on his shoulders, and his execution of technical tailoring has only got better. The utilitarian feel that comes with the brand revolutionised streetwear a few years ago and the label’s tactical out look on fashion is persistently copied everywhere - from the hight street, to high end.
Growing up in Germany, and then moving to England as a teenager, Eastwood Danso has had a fruitful career in fashion despite his young age. The 21 year-old launched his label whilst doing A Levels; even amidst the chaos of education, the designer had so many ideas he wanted to showcase. Mentored by Samuel Ross, Danso is now co-signed by Nike, has an on going collaboration with Converse and completed his London fashion week debut last year. Not bad for someone who whimmed a DM into the inbox of ACW’s director a year or so ago.
JEHU-CAL EMMANUEL ENEMOKWU (JEHU CAL)
Jehu-Cal has turned the name he was mocked for into a global brand. The designer started his ‘streetwear’, for better use of the term, label with no experience, and now people are lapping up the label's graphic designs with growing intrigue. Using eco-friendly inks and sustainable fabrics not only justifies the price points, they also ensure that NO dolphins are killed in the making and distribution of his products. Collaborations with Nike and pop-up spaces with Ejder are just a few highlights that have defined Enemokwu's career thus far, so keep your eye on any future movements for the artist.
GRACE WALES BONNER
Grace Bonner made her Paris debut this season, graduating to the premier league of high fashion like many other British designers in recent years - namely Kiko Kostadinov. Bonner is another artist exploring the disillusioned relationship between British and Caribbean culture; her SS21 film does this beautifully so. Dancehall tailoring references, and a steezy Adidas Originals collaboration are just a couple elements that turned our heads, but with such cultural dexterity in the collection, we think you should pre the film for yourself below.
WRITTEN BY LIAM CATTERMOLE