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The Stereotyping of Black Fashion Designers

For years, urban fashion designers have been pigeonholed as “streetwear designers.” While many of these early, primary black, designers do create apparel for their culture, they are first and foremost fashion designers. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the origins of this stereotype and how it continues to impact urban fashion designers today.

The Origins of the Stereotype

The stereotyping of urban fashion designers began in the early 1990s. At that time, hip-hop music was becoming increasingly popular. As a result, many black fashion designers began creating apparel for this market. However, because hip-hop was seen as a “ghetto” or “urban” form of music, the fashion design industry began to view black fashion designers as nothing more than “streetwear designers”.

The Impact of the Stereotype Today

Unfortunately, the stereotype of black fashion designers as streetwear designers continues to persist today. This is due in part to the fact that many high-end fashion brands continue to use hip-hop culture to sell their clothes. In other words, they are happy to appropriate black culture when it is convenient or trendy but are not interested in promoting black designers themselves.

This stereotype is also perpetuated by the mainstream media. For example, when Kanye West debuted his Yeezy clothing line at New York Fashion Week in 2015, he was widely ridiculed by the media. The fact that he was able to successfully show his collection at one of the most prestigious fashion events in the world was seen as a joke by many media outlets and the fashion industry. This is evidence of how little respect black fashion designers are given by the mainstream fashion industry. 

Despite their talent and creativity, black fashion designers continue to be stereotyped as streetwear designers. This stereotype has its origins in the early 1990s when hip-hop music began to become popular. Today, the stereotype persists because many high-end fashion brands appropriate black culture without hiring black designers themselves. The mainstream media also tends to ridicule black fashion designers, which reinforces this negative stereotype.

Virgil Abloh broke the mold with his iconic brand Off-White. His success with the brand led him to become LVMH’s creative director. Although Abloh received a lot of acclaims there were other prominent Black designers who made a big impact in the fashion industry. Shyne Oliver set the fashion industry on fire with Hood By Air. He has worked with many fashion houses such as Helmut Lang, Diesel, and Longchamp. There have been many collaborations with talented African-American designers and popular brands. Because of the success of Adidas and Yeezy collab, other companies have followed the same model. You see the DNA and flavor of Heron Preston and Pyer Moss in notable luxury companies such as Mercedes, Calvin Klein, and Reebok.