Feature Article…February 2018

February 23rd, 2018

Black Designers… Past and Present

In celebration of Black History Month I decided to present four black designers that have made a name for themselves and opened a pathway for other designers to expose their creativity and fashion to the world.

Elizabeth keckley

A former slave turned seamstress to President and Mrs. Lincoln during the Civil War era this woman made a name for herself among the Washington socialites of her time with her keen eye for designing and expert stitching. Elizabeth Keckley was considered the first Black American designer. Elizabeth slowly paved the way for other black designers to express their creativity and show their craft.  

Here is a photo of Elizabeth Keckley, her hand made dresses and a photo of Mrs. Lincoln.

Tracy Reese

Tracy Reese was born in Detroit Michigan and as a child her mother would teach her how to sew and make clothes.  Tracy continued on this path, graduated from high school in 1980 and enrolled in the Parson School of Design in New York where she earned her degree in 1990.  Tracy began to work for icons like Perry Ellis and soon after created her first ready to wear label..Tracy Reese in 1996. 

After her other labels were established such as Plenty( plus size wear), Frock (exclusive dresses) and finally Black Label (evening wear) Tracy received awards including being inducted into the Council  of Fashion Designers of America.  In 2007 Tracy became a board member with the same council, the only Black American at that time.

 Tracy Reese’s collection:

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Patrick Kelly

American born, Paris based Patrick Kelly learned from a young age learned how to sew from his Grand mother and began designing clothing when he was a teenager in Mississippi. Although many of his skills were self-taught he had some formal training.  Patrick moved to Paris, started his own company, and quickly established himself as a reputable designer. Patrick’s clothes were colorful, unusual and often had a Southern influence.  Bright buttons were his trademark.

Kelly was the first Black American to be allowed into the elite Parisian Fashion Designer’s Organization called Chambre Syndicale.  Patrick Kelly passed away January 1990 leaving a vast hole within the fashion world and yet other designers have come forward and are making their mark in the industry today following Patrick’s sense of  fierceness for his work and love of fashion.

Patrick Kelly’s collection:

Maxwell Osborne

Designer and one part duo of the fashion label Public School  Maxwell Osborne grew up in New York city.  His sense of fashion came from being raised in Brooklyn and that had a huge influence in his style and creating PS.  Osborne and Chow (his creative partner) were able to put their street edginess but add a look of sleekness into their clothing which makes this brand a serious force to reckon with today.  

In  2013, Public School was honored with the CFDA Swarovski Award for Menswear and was named the winner of the prestigious 2013 CFDA/Vogue Fashion.  In 2014, Public School introduced the brand’s first women’s wear collection.  It included  ready-to-wear, outerwear, and accessories.

Public School collection:

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For more info on these great designers go to:

The Story of Elizabeth Keckley, Former Slave Turned Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker http://www.smithsonian.com:

Tracy Reese: https://www.cnn.com/videos/entertainment/2018/01/02/american-woman-tracy-reese-michelle-obama.cnn

Patrick Kelly: http://www.bigthink.com: How Patrick Kelly Emancipated Fashion

Runway of Love, Patrick Kelly Philadelphia Museum of Art 2014:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4ZKZ3RZYlc

Maxwell Osborne CFDA Fashion Designer 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ultx8BwTGu0

C. Gibbs


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