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A celebration of black history and fashion

We should first examine the origins of black history fashion month. The first Black History Week took place in 1926 under the name Negro History Week and was organized by Harvard-educated historian Carter G.

At Kent State University, Black United Students and Black Educators took this idea and extended it to encompass the full month of February, which coincides with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas (leader of the New York and Massachusetts abolitionist movements). The president has proclaimed February to be black history fashion Month in honor of African Americans, how they have fought and continue to fight for freedom through hard work and activism

Dashikis, a loose-fitting cotton garment with a colorful print, are typically what most people think of when they think of African clothing. Is there any information about where these prints came from? Africa Prints are wax prints derived from hand-drawn, hand-blocked, and hand-dyed batik patterns dating from the 8th century. They are industrial versions of these ancient patterns. Islanders on Java didn’t refine the technique until much later in the 13th century.

These prints were created by two English wax companies, ABC (which relocated to Ghana) and Vlisco (which was based in the Netherlands), which found a market for them in West Africa around 1867. A number of African vendors have made the prints popular over the years by assigning meaning and value to them. They are called “Mama Benz” because they spend their earnings on fancy cars. Fashion designers on the global stage continue to incorporate African prints in their designs as a sign of pride in the U.S.

Besides head wraps, head ties, and headscarves, which are worn both on a day-to-day basis and for ceremonial purposes, African dress is also characterized by head wraps. Different parts of Africa call these headdresses by different names. Gale, for example, is a West African identity, while duku and doek are styled in Southern Africa.

Find out how to tie 10 different variations of head wraps by watching this YouTube video. Religious symbols and political commentary are often incorporated into African clothing patterns. Colors play an important role in interpreting meaning as well, with red meaning death, green meaning fertility, white denoting purity, and blue meaning love. The agbada is the traditional dress of women in West Africa, while the kanzu is the traditional dress of men in East Africa.

Gomesi and kanga (colorful cotton fabric with a border around the body) are the preferred clothes for women.

African American Design Pioneers

First African American fashion designer and first black designer to own a shop in New York City, Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes opened her store on Broadway in 1948. The designs she created have been worn by a number of famous entertainers, including Dorothy Dandridge, Josephine Baker, Marian Anderson, Ella Fitzgerald, Mae West, Ruby Dee, Eartha Kitt, and Sarah Vaughan. Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes was born in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania on June 28, 1905.

The seamstress studied the techniques of her grandmother, as well as her uncle’s tailor shop. Her first job was working at a high-end boutique as a stock girl, and she eventually became the first black saleswoman and tailor at the store. During the Korean War, Valdes worked as an assistant for her sister Mary Barbour, who was 32 years older than her. In 1948, she opened her New York boutique on Broadway and West 158th Street.

Chez Zelda was the name of her store. Several celebrities and high-profile women soon came to Valdes’ boutique.  Mary McLeod Bethune, an educator, and activist who founded the NAFAD in 1949, elected Valdes president of the New York Chapter of the National Association of Fashion and Accessory Designers (NAFAD). As a result, Playboy Bunny’s original design had taller ears, and it lacked a bow tie, collar, and cuffs that became a trademark of the movie. Valdes designed the playboy bunny costume for Hefner.

In 1958 Life Magazine described Valdez as the “Black Marilyn Monroe.”  Known for working for top designers such as Prada and Alexander McQueen, Scottish supermodel Eunice Olumide are a broadcaster and curator. The Olumide Gallery in London is run by her fashion label. As part of her broadcasting, arts, and charity contribution, she received an MBE in 2017. Our Scotland: A Changing Nation exhibition is currently showing Eunice’s MBE on loan from National Museums Scotland. 

She specializes in modern and contemporary textiles and fashions from 1850 to the present of National Museums Scotland. In this role, she is responsible for the museum’s contemporary and modern fashion collections. A touring exhibition of Body Beautiful: Diversity on the Catwalk curated by Georgia is currently on display at The Civic in Barnsley.  Search for Jay Jaxon on Google. Before recently, he was primarily known for being a Black designer.

When Rachel Fenderson made him the subject of her master’s thesis, she found out that there were things he did that were never acknowledged-and the gap in history was caused by this. Her work would have been lost had she not put it together. Throughout his career, he produced a great deal of work. Mal Burkinshaw is a Professor of Design at the Edinburgh College of Art. Mal was previously Program Director for Fashion and led the Diversity Network, disseminating best practices related to diversity and engagement with audiences.

In 1998, Tracy Reese founded her eponymous brand, which made its debut on the contemporary fashion scene. Reese founded Detroit-based Hope for Flowers, an ethically diverse and size-inclusive clothing line that builds of her already diverse brand. We chose to include this designer here even though we are celebrating African American designers. Let me introduce you to Ozwald Boateng.

Boateng was the first tailor to present a collection during Paris Fashion Week, thanks to his Ghanaian parents. His retail business opened in 1994, and he was the first-ever black tailor to do so, as well as the youngest person to open one in London. As a result of Boating’s achievements and his commitment to global development, Harvard University presented him with the prestigious Veritas Award in 2014.

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