African-American influence in modern fashion

Written by Fashion

With the Fashion Month behind us, this is the time of the year when the industry sets the trends for the spring season, all based on the designs presented throughout September. Regardless of the designer, the house or the quality, all runways were dominated by a notion of ‘bringing back’ the old.

Talking about historical references, it would be impossible not to mention the overwhelming black influence on modern fashion. As a fashion historian, Constance C.R. White puts it:

“Style shaped by the African Diaspora is ubiquitous in fashion today for people of all colours, races and creeds.”

This popularity is partly driven by the desire of the new generation to freely explore and manifest their African ancestry and history. The increased use of those references also corresponds with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. This connection might seem far-fetched as fashion is often seen as something meaningless, however, especially in high fashion, each collection can tell a story and even point out cultural and social issues.

A great example of this is a Haitian-American fashion designer Kerby Jean-Raymond and his brand Pyer Moss. This luxury streetwear label has been on the rise since 2015 and it’s regarded as one of the key new players in the fashion industry. Indeed, this year Pyer Moss has collaborated with the sportswear retail magnate Reebok to create a ‘ready to wear’ collection. This means that tracksuits, sweatshirts and sneakers designed with black influence in mind are coming to our stores.

Source: Flickr

This was the final collection of his three-part series called ‘American, Also’. Jean-Raymond’s designs reframe American history, getting rid of the white-washed narrative, instead of focusing on black cowboys, families and artists. His latest installment was called ‘Sister’ – for Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the true pioneer of rock’n’roll. Pyer Moss pays tribute to the black and female history of music that continues to influence fashion worldwide. The leather jackets, bold floral dresses and oversized suits all share history with Black American creators. Moreover Pyer Moss’s signature bright yellow and orange have influenced others to such a degree that now they’re predicted to be the biggest colour trend for 2020.


Source: Wikipedia

This Fashion Month definitely showed us how much of the 60s and 70s still influences our wardrobes, especially visible at Zendaya’s, the fashion show in collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger. Hilfiger is one of those designers that set the tone for what will appear in retail stores worldwide. Zendaya was heavily influenced by the 70s style of black American actress Pam Grier, known from her role as Tarantino’s Jackie Brown. That’s where the bell pants, jumpsuits, polka dots and long flowy dresses come from. Additionally, there was an impressive amount of black leather designs present: high boots, coats, pants and iconic black berets manifest the continued influence of the Black Panther Party in popular culture. It is important to remember that the growing inclusivity in fashion is the product of decades of resistance achieved through sustained efforts to promote racial diversity and more body positive approach of fashion designers. In particular Pyer Moss and ZendayaXHilfiger remind us of the true Black origins of our modern garments.

For more Black History of fashion check out Newcastle University Fashion Society’s website: nufashion.org!

Last modified: 8th October 2019

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