Author, media icon, cultural storyteller, and Howard University professor Mikki Taylor went straight to business in Essence Fashion House’s conversation Black Luxury: The New Face of High Fashion.
In this conversation, Tia Adeola, a designer, and Sherri McMullen, the founder of the retailer Shop McMullen, came together to discuss the ways in which the Black community sustains Black luxury fashion. They also emphasized the importance of acknowledging this support from non-Black luxury fashion enthusiasts.
At New York Fashion Week last year, Adeola made her runway debut. In addition, the multifaceted designer created a film on the Spring/Summer 2021 collection called “Black is Beautiful” or “Le Noir Est Beau” in French. The film was nominated in five different categories at the International Fashion Film Festival.
McMullen is a fashion trailblazer as she helps put Black luxury designers on the map. She is dedicated to working with Black designers through her latest venture, Beyond M. The incubator program sets up emerging BIPOC designers for long-term success.
So, how has Black luxury evolved since McMullen began working in fashion and how are designers like Adeola helping it evolve?
“When I think about Black, Black is synonymous with luxury,” McMullen said. “I don’t necessarily separate the two. When I started my business McMullen 16 years ago, I found that there was a void in the market. I had spent years buying with these big companies and corporations and I wanted to create something for myself and my city in Oakland. What I found is that big box retailers did not have Black and Brown designers on their shelves. But we know that Black designers and creatives exist because we create so much. You find that so many designers are looking at Black culture, Black people, everything that we do, and they’re inspired by us.”
There has always been a lack of credit given to the Black community when it comes to trendsetting anywhere in the world. Adeola, who is from Nigeria, did not hesitate to bring the culture with her when she came to America.
“When I had the opportunity to enter the Western world, so to speak, I wanted to take my beliefs and spread them with everything I do,” Adeola said. “From the sensing, to the cars, to the empowering; everything for me represents Black luxury. There aren’t many like me. I take this duty very seriously and I feel like I’m here to continue to push and knock on those doors to try to open up the space for the people coming after me.”
Collectively, Taylor, McMullen, and Adeola concurred on the importance of dispelling the notion that Blackness and luxury are disconnected. Equally critical is the ongoing commitment to mutual support and the redistribution of resources, as this will propel the Black community toward greater success.