WBM Summer Series Educating Yourself On Black Designers With Professor Adrienne Jones

September means different things for different people around the world. For the fashion world it ringings in the biggest event of the year– Fashion Week, beginning with New York.

But a few weeks back many students have made it back to school virtually if not physically.

2020 has not been a good year with the challenges we have been facing from a global perspective. Sad to say it has brought to light the ugliest things we face in our society. And the disparaging treatment of Black and Brown people around the world. And to our disappointment that has also impacted the fashion industry.

In doing my research, I felt so many emotions, pride, joy, in seeing the many talented designers that have created, and dressed some of the most respected figures in history and they were Black designers. There are so many that it would takes so many volumes of books to celebrate them.

But for the purpose of this article, I am going to name a few based on time period that are worthy of investigating:

1818-1907 Elizabeth Heckley

1898-1981 Anne Lowe

1905-2001 Zelda Winn Valdes

1907-1974  Mildred Blout (Hat, millinery)

1917-1982 Art Smith (Jewelry) 

1946-2006 Jay Jaxson

I wanted to go as far back as I could find, and I knew that I was missing more. So my curiosity got the best of me and I had to interview legendary fashion Professor, at Pratt Institute, Adrienne Jones.

“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.” Adrienne Jones

Adrienne Jones is a respected figure in the fashion world on so many levels. She holds the honor of being the first Black woman to achieve a full-time tenured status at Pratt Institute while teaching in the Fashion Design department for over 25 years.

She is the creator of the Black Dress Exhibition, a project that celebrates Black Designers in the fashion space. Along with her team, Rachelle Etienne-Robinson, co-curator Paula Coleman, artist Carrie Mae Seems (video), and consultant, Walter Greene. These powerhouses did something that had not been done on this scale and the rest is history with more to come.

Why would a bridal magazine need to discuss Black Designers? Well quite simply, one of the most respected women, what America might consider royalty, the wedding of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy’s dress was created by a Black woman, Anne Lowe.

So given that bit of information, there is absolutely no way we could overlook those who are currently working tirelessly to bring to light so many amazingly talented designers that you may not know that are available to create the most exquisite gowns for you for your upcoming nuptials. Some are Yemi Osunkoya founder of Kosibah, Amsale, Dominique Galbraith of Dauxilly, Andrea Pitter-Campbell of Pantora Bridal, Carly Cushnie of CUSHNIE, Esé Azénabor, Cynthia Grafton-Holt Couture, Nardos Imam of Nardos Designs, and Nneka C. Alexander of Brides by NoNA to name a few.

We are proud to know that there are so many Black designers and other people of color that can’t wait to create for you, but it is not only our privilege to share with you the wonderful designers that exist. We wanted to share with you the faces behind the scenes of educators such as Adrienne Jones who is making it her mission to nurture these up and coming talent.

Bravo Adrienne Jones, and your amazing team for building a legacy that will be inclusive of all the greatest.

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