8 Black British fashion designers you need to know (and celebrate)

As Black History Month draws near and London Fashion Week comes to a close, it’s the perfect time to highlight Black British fashion designers that are making waves and creating their own fashion lanes.  Representing a range of categories from menswear to urban-luxe womenswear, these talented black designers work hard to overcome the notorious racial barriers within the fashion industry. Here’s our roundup of eight Black British fashion designers you need to know (and celebrate!)

Martine Rose

London-based designer Martine Rose has become a cult favourite in menswear design since 2007.

Photo source: The Business of Fashion

The self-titled label draws inspiration from elements of the early 90s-era rave and hip hop culture, and proposes a transgressive range of reinterpreted menswear staples. The influential subcultures prevalent during Martine’s upbringing in South London are also heavily showcased in the label’s aesthetic.

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Wear it your own way. 📸 from our Spring Summer 20 showroom. #martinerose #martineman

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Grace Wales Bonner

Grace Wales Bonner is a designer who has used her work to addresses the politics of identity, sexuality, and race through her collections well before it became a fashion trend.

Photo source: The Face

In 2014 she founded the London-based label Wales Bonner, originally specialising in menswear. Bonner has since expanded her label, creating pieces for high profile individuals including Meghan Markle who made her post-baby debut in a clean, perfectly tailored white trench-inspired dress by Wales Bonner. Bonner has used her label to redefine notions of black masculinity and Britishness, whilst embellishing community into her work, connecting with creatives across the African diaspora.

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@fernandocabral07 wears Autumn Winter 19 for @matches_man Photographer @geordiewood Stylist @schilvers3 #mumbojumbo

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Bianca Saunders

As a distinctive new voice in the menswear arena, Bianca Saunders is a London-based label daringly exploring the breadth of streetwear-inspired fashion.

Photo Source: Document Journal

With her deconstructed shapes and innovative designs, Saunders uses fashion as a platform to challenge stereotypes of what menswear can be. Inspired by her British-West Indian heritage, Saunders uses the mediums of garments, sound and film to create cultural exchanges- simultaneously referencing classic streetwear and avant-garde couture.

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Close Up| SS20 | #biancasaunders

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Tolu Coker

British-Nigerian Fashion Designer, Textile Designer and Illustrator Tolu Coker creates unisex designs focusing on deconstruction and sustainability.

Photo Source: Swatch Art Peace Hotel

Successfully building up her experience through stints at Maison Margiela, J.W. Anderson and Celine, Coker has created an eclectic label that showcases her multi-disciplinary practice, merging artisan craftsmanship with innovative technology.

A-COLD-WALL*

Samuel Ross founded A-COLD-WALL* as a self-funded label inspired by the British class system that reflects on Ross’s personal story: growing up in Brixton in a working-class neighbourhood and studying design.

Photo source: HYPEBEAST

His collection merges British working-class uniforms with elements of Savile Row tailoring.  Since launching the label in 2015 Ross has gained a loyal following and steady growth, landing him global stockists including Barneys New York, GR8 in Tokyo and Selfridges in London. Ross uses a direct approach to his fan base, carefully evolving his label on his own terms. In 2018 he unveiled an A-COLD-WALL* womenswear line.

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A-COLD-WALL* x @diesel Lookbook. Photography by Rob Rusling.

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Fortie

Essie Buckman is the London-based fashion designer behind the urban-luxe womenswear brand Fortie Label.

Photo Source: SHOWstudio

Born in America, raised in London and originally from Ghana (where she lived for four years) Essie Buckman used her varied upbringing and clash of cultures to inspire her work and brand aesthetic. Her designs are frequently inspired by the strength of the women in her life as well as inspirational women in history. Buckman challenges gender norms playing on hard and soft whether it be through her bold use of color, textiles & fabrication, styling as well as selected casting. Her aim is to use fashion as a stage to make bold social statements, providing a voice for the minority.

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@fortielabel on @abamufasa

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Duro Olowu

Duro Olowu is a Nigerian-born, London-based fashion designer. Olowu grew up living in both Nigeria and London and his immersion in multiple cultures is manifested through his well known innovative combinations of patterns and textiles.

Photo Source: NY Times

From an early age, his enthusiasm for fashion was inspired by the unusual mix of fabrics, textures and draping techniques of the clothing worn by the women that surrounded him. In 2004, Olowu launched a women’s wear label under his own name, and his first collection was an instant hit with fashion editors and buyers worldwide and an international sell out in its worldwide stockists at the time, including Barneys in New York, Harrods in London and Maria Luisa in Paris. It featured the now signature “Duro” dress, hailed by both British and American Vogue as the dress of the year in 2005. That same year, he won the ‘New Designer of the Year Award’ at the British Fashion Awards, the only designer to have ever done so without a catwalk show.

Mowalola Ogunlesi

Menswear designer Mowalola Ogunlesi grew up surrounded by designers. Her grandmother started a womenswear brand in the 80s, in Nigeria, which her mother worked on, and her father specialised in traditional Nigerian menswear.


Photo Source: Dazed Digital

In 2017 she debuted her graduate collection titled ‘Psychedelic’ at Central Saint Martins. Taking inspiration from 70s and 80s Nigerian rock music, the low-slung, hand-painted tight leather trousers, high cut jackets, flashed an ample amount of nipple and well-oiled torso. Her pan-African approach to design is all about a celebration of the black African male: his culture, sexuality, and desires. The Nigerian-born, Surrey-raised designer has designed clothes for the likes of Skepta and the Nigerian football team after gaining notoriety with her first collection. The Mowalola brand celebrates what the designer has called ‘fluid masculinity’.

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@shanellenyasiase 💎 in @interviewmag September issue photography @thurstanredding styling @matttholmesss

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