Prior to the 2020 uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement, which pushed the historically white-centered fashion industry against the wall to resolve the lack of authentic diversity and equal opportunity for Black professionals, there were barely spaces or platforms catered to our community — if any. In the midst of waiting for non-POC colleagues to catch up on all things Black, we took charge by building our own databases and organizations that centered the progression of Black-owned businesses. Since then, Antoine Gregory’s Black Fashion Fair (BFF) has been the helm for championing independent Black designers and exemplifying the diversity of the Black experience.
Last weekend marked one year in business for BFF, and called for a well-deserved celebration that was hosted at NeueHouse Madison Square. By mission: Black Fashion Fair is a conceptual retail, educational and cultural experience aimed toward the discovery and furtherance of Black designers. And within 365 days, Gregory and his team have hit every mark and brought the vision to life.
The initial launch included a fashion story photographed by AB+DM highlighting the beloved Pyer Moss, followed by the organization’s first fashion fair — an online retail shop featuring exclusive products from carefully sourced Black designers and image makers. Additionally, BFF launched an educational initiative with Brooklyn Sewing Academy, made efforts to support Haiti’s recovery, and hosted a number of events celebrating Black culture — including the one-year anniversary that also served as a gathering for the next round of designers (some returning, and some new) involved in BFF’s AW21 Fashion Fair.
As a result of Gregory’s genuine advocacy for Black designers, this class is eager to be a part of the fall fashion fair. “I wanted to be a part of Black Fashion Fair because of its initiatives, but also because BFF is bringing us, as people and creatives, together in a world that loves to take us apart and put us against each other,” says Antoine Manning, designer of Homage Year. “It’s amazing to be a part of something so genuine.”
The platform gives new talent a stage and highlights their brilliance through an understanding lens. Designer Sheila Rashid expressed that she feels seen by BFF as an emerging designer and pointed out “a website and community that spotlights all Black designers is unheard-of.”
This season’s designer line-up includes: Theophilio, Supervsn, Homage Year, Marco Ribero, ONLY MADE, Brandon Murphy, Luxe Livingston, NICOLE ZÏZI STUDIO, Menyelek, L’ENCHANTEUR, Ryan Knew, The Ekhator Label, Against Medical Advice, RENOWNED, Sunni Sunni, Sheila Rashid, RICHARDANDGRACE, Pierre Blanc, and MARYIMAJ. And as a continued effort to carry a seasonal library book, photographer Joshua Renfroe will provide a special edition of his book ‘Black Boy Fly’ as a BFF exclusive.
In celebration of BFF’s AW21 Fashion Fair, a few of the designers reflect on what it means to them to join the platform.
“Black Fashion Fair is shaping up to be an incredibly important space within the fashion sphere, built for us by us.” —Rayne Schlöss, ONLY MADE
“This opportunity, to me, means a great deal because coming from a Rastafarian household, I was always raised to embrace my Blackness.” —Menyelek Rose, MENYELEK
“Being woven into this league of extraordinary talent fortifies the breadth of genius emerging among Black designers.” —Donté Livingston, Luxe Livingston
“Coming from Houston, Texas presents challenges and so it’s an honor to participate in BFF as they enable global opportunities.” —Josh Allen, RICHARDANDGRACE
“Black Fashion Fair signifies an alliance and empowerment of Black people. What drew me to BFF is their equal appreciation towards craftsmanship, textiles, and building our community.” —Nicole Zïzi, NICOLE ZÏZI STUDIO
“Having B|M|C in their line-up this season feels special because I know my footwear offering is going to reach a special curation of people that will connect with what I designed.” —Brandon Murphy, B|M|C
Black Fashion Fair has created a safe, valued space and become a confidant to the Black fashion community. Ahead, a peek into the AW21 collection curated by founder Antoine Gregory.