DMT Beauty Transformation: Black Queer People In Fashion To Support During Pride Month — & Beyond
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Black Queer People In Fashion To Support During Pride Month — & Beyond

June 12, 2020DMT Beauty

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This year, Pride month — which marks the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, when Black LBGTQ+ activists like Stormé DeLarverie and Marsha P. Johnson led demonstrations in NYC after the police raided Greenwich Village’s Stonewall Inn — intersects with a moment in history when the racist treatment of Black people in America is finally getting the widespread attention and action it deserves. Now it’s more important than ever to tell the often untold stories of Black queer designers, models, stylists, and more who’ve shaped the fashion industry. It’s also time to address present-day issues head-on: Many Black and queer people working in fashion are still subject to inequalities like pay discrepancies, tokenization, and difficulties getting coverage for their work in a landscape that more often than not favors whiteness, as well as people who identify as cis and straight. 

When talking about Black queer people in fashion, it's important to acknowledge people who paved way like Willi Smith, the Philadelphia-born designer credited for introducing streetwear to the runway. The Philadelphia-born designer, who passed away in 1987 from AIDS-related causes, was also the youngest designer to be nominated for a Coty Award in 1971, a feat he accomplished five years before launching his own label, WilliWear. Created with friend and business partner Laurie Mallet, the brand quickly became a favorite of everyday people in New York due to its affordable price point and cool, sporty aesthetic. According to the CFDA, in 1986, WilliWear was grossing over $25 million a year and sold in over 500 retailers. At the time of his death, Smith was widely regarded as the most successful Black designer in fashion

Today there are many prominent and successful Black LGBTQ+ people in fashion. From Ama Elsesser, the Savage x Fenty model who in January announced that they were non-binary to CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund winner Christopher John Rogers, ahead, a list of Black queer people in fashion to follow and support this month and beyond.

Ama Elsesser

IMG model and younger sibling of CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund judge Paloma Elsesser, Ama Elsesser is a force of their own. At just 21-years-old, Elsesser has already been featured in Jonah Hill’s cult-favorite film Mid-90s, starred in a campaign for Rihanna’s lingerie line Savage x Fenty, and modeled alongside Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, Slick Woods, and Luka Sabbat in an UGG campaign. In January, they came out publicly as non-binary, and just last month starred in Calvin Klein’s star-studded Pride campaign, for which they told Refinery29 that their goal in modeling is to “create space for more marginalized queer people of color.”

Christopher John Rogers

In his 26 years, Baton Rouge-born Christopher John Rogers has already dressed Michelle Obama, won the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award, and presented three collections during New York Fashion Week — the latest of which was his most impressive to date and resulted in the designer twirling on the runway to the sound of a standing ovation. "The next big goal for the brand is to continue to exist,” he said in an interview preluding the show, but, from where we’re sitting, that was just Rogers being humble.

Jason Bolden

Ever wondered how celebrities like Alicia Keys, Yara Shahidi, Zazie Beetz, and Cynthia Erivo always look so perfectly put together? Nine times out of ten, it’s because Jason Bolden, the co-founder of JVN Studio and a renowned celebrity stylist, picked out their outfits. In addition to dressing your favorite A-listers for the red carpet, Bolden also stars on the Netflix home design show Styling Hollywood and was included on Hollywood Reporter’s ​Top 25 Most Powerful Stylists for the last three years.

Kenneth Nicholson 

Given that he’s already dressed the likes of Lil Nas X and Parker Kit Hill for Out Magazine, it’s no surprise that designer Kenneth Nicholson is garnering massive attention. The LA native has a knack for creating feel-good clothing, be it because of the bright and warm color schemes he chooses or the romantic fabrics and silhouettes that can be found in his collections.

LaQuan Smith

31-year-old Queens native LaQuan Smith founded his eponymous label in 2008, debuting at NYFW just two years later to a crowd that included Vogue’s then-Editor-at-Large Andre Leon Talley. His designs have since caught the attention of Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Kim Kardashian West, as well as fine winery Moët Chandon, which tapped Smith for its annual Nectar of the Culture program. As for the pieces he creates, expect clothing designed especially to make women feel empowered and sexy, like mini dresses that accentuate curves and leather pants.

Nicole Zïzi Studio

Sustainability and inclusivity are at the core of every piece of clothing designed by Nicole Zïzi. “As a nod to circularity, I aim to protect our communities while simultaneously I am always keeping in mind the way each design affects our environment as a whole," she wrote on her website, which serves the fashion community with gender-free sportswear, including utility jackets, graphic T-shirts, and accessories.

Pierre Davis, No Sesso

Pierre Davis’s genderless fashion label No Sesso — which in Italian translates to “No Sex/No Gender” — made its NYFW debut during the fall ‘20 season, making Davis the first-ever trans person to present at the biannual event. Founded in 2015, the LA-based brand is centered around community and inclusivity. “It’s a lifestyle that encompasses fashion, our parties, embroidery workshops, or just hanging out and feeling that sense of community,” Davis told the CFDA. A favorite of Kelela, Erykah Badu, and Kelsey Lu, No Sesso is quickly becoming the brand to watch in 2020.

James Phlemuns, Phlemuns

Another favorite of Lil Nas X, Phlemuns is an L.A.-based gender-inclusive fashion label founded by James Flemons. And the Grammy-Award-winning musician behind “Old Town Road” isn’t alone — Kelsey Lu, Paloma Elsesser, and Paramore’s Hayley Williams are fans of Phlemuns, too.

Uzo Ejikeme and Stoney Michelli Love, Stuzo Clothing

Founded in 2010 by Panamanian graphic designer, actor, and photographer Stoney Michelli and Nigerian activist and artist Uzo Ejikemo, Stuzo may be a gender-free clothing brand based in L.A. but it is inspired by New York’s bustling atmosphere.

Telfar Clemons, Telfar

CFDA-winning Liberian-American fashion designer Telfar Clemons is most notable for his iconic Shopping Bag, a simple square tote that makeup artist Xya Rachel referred to in a now-viral tweet in 2019 as “The Bushwick Birkin” due to its cult status in the Brooklyn neighborhood. But that’s not all Clemons is known for. His use of classic American typefaces, paired with his unique take on simple sportswear, has made him beloved by all — in Bushwick and beyond — with fans including Solange Knowles, Kelsey Lu, and A$AP Ferg.

Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

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Eliza Huber, Khareem Sudlow

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