Black Fashion Designers is an exhibition that examines the impact of African American and African designers on the fashion industry. It will be on display in the Fashion & Textile History Gallery at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City from December 6, 2016 through May 13, 2017.
Black fashion designers began to gain recognition during the late 1940s, even while still segregated within the fashion industry. A section of the exhibition devoted to black designers breaking into the industry features work by New York-based Zelda Wynn Valdes and Ann Lowe, who created custom-made gowns for society women and celebrities. They represent the transition from nineteenth-century dressmaking traditions that encompassed countless, unnamed black dressmakers, to the modern conception of a fashion designer. Designers such as Arthur McGee, Wesley Tann, and Jon Weston worked for New York manufacturers before establishing their own businesses. For example, Weston, an FIT alumnus, started his ready-to-wear company in the mid-1960s, stating, “I’d gone as far as I could go on Seventh Avenue; it wasn’t growing with me.”