Black Fashion Fair, a digital directory of black designers launched by Antoine Gregory, is bringing his project to print.
What started in 2016 with a Twitter feed by Mr. Gregory listing many “black designers you should know” has given way to a robust online library of independent designers and black-owned brands, as well as a marketplace where people can buy directly from ‘them.
Today, Black Fashion Fair released its first print product, a nearly 200-page book that spotlights designers past and present and explores the influence of black people in fashion through essays , interviews and photographs, ahead of New York Fashion Week. (Shows start Feb. 11.)
“I wanted to give a real take on the world of black fashion, style and culture as it currently exists,” Mr. Gregory, 28, said in a video interview from Long Island, where he lives. “I put value on black things, value on black designers, and it does it at the highest level.”
As the fashion industry continues to confront its systemic racism, a number of organizations, including Black in Fashion Council and Your Friends in New York, are working to ensure that black designers get their due. This includes boosting independent businesses and promoting more inclusive casting on runways and in advertising campaigns.
Fashion magazines in particular have been singled out for not including black designers or black culture on their pages, and the change has been gradual. Mr Gregory, who is also a stylist, consultant and brand director for fashion brand Theophilio, said he wanted to create something that would challenge the gatekeepers of the industry. He sees this as distinct from the current rush in the fashion industry, which he has described as a “force” seizure of black talent.
“There are no more excuses. I think we have too much access around the world, we have too much access to the internet and to each other to say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know’ or ‘I couldn’t find it,’ Mr Gregory said. . “There are so many ways to experience all of this talent coming to light.”
Mr. Gregory grew up in Brooklyn and was inspired to start his archival project while a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, where there was no program for black designers at the time. Through Black Fashion Fair, he has organized various community events and created educational initiatives, including a partnership with the Brooklyn Sewing Academy.
Elizabeth Way, Associate Curator of the Museum at FIT and co-curator of the exhibition “black fashion designers“, wrote in an email that Black Fashion Fair “is an invaluable resource for students learning all aspects of the fashion industry and fashion history, and for BIPOC people who aspire to careers in fashion. Knowing that people like you have succeeded in the industry before you is a powerful motivator in a field still plagued by systemic discrimination.
Mr. Gregory’s print publication, “Volume 0: Seen”, features designs by Pyer Moss of Kerby Jean-Raymond, Sergio Hudson, House of Aama and Edvin Thompson of Theophilio, who was named Emerging Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Its pages feature black photographers, including Aijani Payne, Amber Pinkerton, Quil Lemons and Ahmad Barber and Donté Maurice, who are collectively known as AB+DM.
Mr. Barber, 31, said fashion shoots often require him to realize the vision of a set of magazine editors; here, the photographers had the opportunity to bring all their ideas to each shot.
“It was super freeing to be able to have a project like that,” Mr. Barber said in a video interview. “If we hadn’t photographed them in this post, who knows if not only us, but other creatives might have seen their work printed in this way.”
Starting February 7, the book ($95) will be sold on the Black Fashion Fair website and at the Mulberry Iconic Magazine store in Manhattan.
Unlike most fashion magazines, it contains no advertising, thanks to the support of Warby Parker, the eyewear brand.
Neil Blumenthal, Warby Parker Founder and Co-Chief Executive, said in a statement that “It was an honor to partner with Black Fashion Fair on their first magazine. Every page is an inspiring testament to their commitment to the community. and creativity.
Among the articles in the publication are behind-the-scenes photos of Anifa Mvuemba’s runway debut in Washington, DC, for her fashion brand Hanifa; an essay on the importance of Vibe magazine and how it historically highlighted the “richness of black style”; and a fashion series featuring Joan Smalls draped in custom Theophilio.
“I think when we don’t own our own stories, people can really create a very specific, very weaponized narrative about black culture,” Mr. Thompson, the 29-year-old designer of Theophilio, said during a telephone interview. “I think over the past couple of years the entire creative industry has had so many conversations and I think the launch of Black Fashion Fair: Vu is the perfect time.”
One of the things Mr. Gregory is most proud of, he said, is capturing the most popular designs and trends in the black design scene today in the book, such as the first Brandon Blackwood’s ready-to-wear collection and Pyer Moss’ first couture collection.
“It had to be the most amazing thing I’ve come up with to make it worth it,” Mr Gregory said. “And it’s kind of scary because you see magazines every day that don’t have the type of content that this has, but these are global issues.”
The post, he added, will not be the last of its kind.
“If I can put all these amazing people into one physical thing, we can have it forever,” he said. “That was my goal with this, to do something that we can have forever.”