How Young Black Entrepreneurs Made A Bold Splash at New York Fashion Week
Amandla Baraka

Diversity in fashion has long been an issue. Until more recently (with the exception of a few) Black models, women of color and curvy women were largely invisible in the fashion world.

They were a rarity on the runway and in fashion spreads, so the alarm was sounded on a number of fashion brands that seemed to hide or all together ignore Black and curvy women.

The stories of underrepresented Black models aren’t the only unsung stories in fashion. There are also Black designers, creatives, stylists, casting agencies, production staff and public relations people who all have a hand in making a fashion show successful —but there are few Black and brown faces in these positions.

Now we’re taking things into our own hands.

During New York Fashion Week four creative businesses, all owned by young black entrepreneurs, partnered together to host a fashion presentation for a Nigerian womenswear brand MAKI OH.

Designer of MAKI OH, Amaka Osakwe is one of the biggest success stories to come out of Nigeria’s burgeoning fashion scene. She sells her collection through multi-brand retailer OXOSI founded by Akin Adebowale and Kolade Adeyemo. The three of them joined forces with Simone Small (Konsèy Creative) and Dionne Cochrane (Cochrane Casting) to host the lively presentation that attracted more than one hundred Black artists, creatives and editors.

The collaboration between the foursome was quite easy. They united over a concern that Black models weren’t given the same opportunities as other models. And although the production was put on by an all-Black cast, their perspectives were far from monolithic. All-together, their backgrounds span six different countries and a variety of professional backgrounds.

The presentation was straight out of a fashion dream.

The beating drums of The OXOSI Fuji Ambassadors (a traditional African band) playing in the back of the room greeted guests all the way at the front door. Twenty-three Black women of all shades modeled the vivacious collection standing on a golden stage that seemed to make their melanin pop.

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For Cochrane, who casted all the models for the show, the experience blew her away. She was overcome with emotion recounting a story about a Black model turned away from a casting because she wasn’t the right “fit”. “I ran after her,” she told ESSENCE, “and told her to keep in touch.” That night, the model stood in formation along with a dozen other Black models who were just the right fit for the MAKI OH show.

My dream “is to one day cast a show representative of all shades and shapes, the whole world in one show,” Cochrane says.  

For these Black entrepreneurs, Black culture, style and aesthetic is much more than a cool trend. But rather it is an experience that can only be imagined and executed by its forebears. They demonstrate that Black designers, creatives and many others in the fashion world have a perspective that is just beginning to be realized.

Check out the best looks from the MAKI OH Collection below.