Photo: Carrie Mae Weems, Designer: Tracy Reese, Model: Nykhor Paul, Red Model Management Styling: Ty-Ron Mayes

Photo: Carrie Mae Weems, Designer: Tracy Reese, Model: Nykhor Paul, Red Model Management Styling: Ty-Ron Mayes



Black Dress is an illustrated platform of achievement of Blacks in the fashion industry.  Making it in the fashion business presents a challenge for all involved, but there has always been a lack of representation of Black designers in the fashion industry.  The goal of the initial exhibit was to commemorate and celebrate the contributions of ten Black contemporary fashion designers.  

Historically, black fashion was rooted in the tailors and dressmakers who often created the finest gowns and suits for politicians, members of high society, and the like.  Only a few of these pioneers received recognition, such as Elizabeth Keckley, dressmaker to Mary Todd Lincoln; fashion designer/costumer Zelda Wynn Valdes, who designed the iconic Playboy Bunny outfit, and dresses for actresses like Dorothy Dandridge, Marlene Dietrich, and Mae West; and Ann Lowe, who designed the wedding dress for Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.

Fashion by its essence is volatile, dictated by rapidly changing styles and fads. Today, designers without huge investments of capital have many options to help to level the playing field such as Kickstarter campaigns, networking on the Internet, cyber boutiques, and even reality television.  Now, Black designers are emerging on the scene with greater visibility than ever, carving out a career with their own brand, and building a client base away from Madison Avenue and closer to home in places like Harlem, Brooklyn and beyond. 

The Black Dress exhibit allows communities to experience the innovative artistry of Black designers, stylists, models, and writers, whose brilliance has played a substantial part in the development of one of the world’s largest industries.  The exhibit not only exhibits their creativity – but it provokes awareness on their triumphs and accomplishments as working professionals in the fashion industry.  The exhibit will give a visual platform to the roles and significance of Blacks in the fashion industry.  This project will provide a forum for conversations between those that have cultural similarities and experiences and those with an appreciation for this art form. 

The Black Dress exhibit is an unprecedented endeavor to coalesce a diverse array of contemporary design styles that inform and educate audiences on the commemorative work of Black designers.   This exhibit not only serves as a response to the underrepresentation of Blacks in mainstream fashion industry, but it also provides a dynamic display, visibly emphasizing and celebrating the works emanating from the Black fashion community of the 21st century.