Owning a business is no small feat. According to psychologists from Gallup, a global analytics and advice firm, it requires an “appetite for risk, creativity, and determination.” The list of requirements is even longer for Black-owned brands because of a lack of access to resources due to centuries of systemic inequity.



 

In 2020, the Federal Reserve System conducted a survey with small business owners. The results showed that while most small business owners were facing financial challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, Black business owners were impacted the most, at a rate of 92%, compared to white business owners, of which only 79% were impacted. While there are a multitude of reasons for this reality, systemic racism is certainly a cornerstone.

“Getting dressed and going shopping became a revolutionary act, not only for myself but also for my community.”

It is encountered in every step of the journey: loan denial for businesses in co-ethnic markets, exclusion from business networking opportunities, and yet, in spite of all this, many Black business owners take the leap.

Because of their persistence, the teenage version of me grew up seeing people of shared ethnicity designing clothing lines and gracing the covers of fashion magazines. Getting dressed and going shopping became a revolutionary act, not only for myself but also for my community.

Today, I long to see more Black designers become eco-friendly and transparent about the working conditions of their makers. It is no secret that doing so can cost a business a great deal of money. However, it is also no secret that fashion is a $2.5 trillion industry. If consumers purchase from brands or labels with aligned values, then it is possible that equity might one day be achieved.

“These eight companies are already leagues ahead of most thanks to their classification as small and mid-sized enterprises, as well as their willingness to engage in conversations around supply chain ethics and transparency.”

Remake is on a mission to hold the fashion industry accountable, and in moving towards this effort, transparency is key. For this reason, we’ve highlighted eight star players in sustainable fashion, both celebrating their leadership and noting what next steps are for the brand to become even more accountable. It’s important to remember that these eight companies are already leagues ahead of most thanks to their classification as small and mid-sized enterprises, as well as their willingness to engage in conversations around supply chain ethics and transparency.

So without further ado, here are 8 Black-Owned brands that are leading the way when it comes to small brands making waves in fashion.

Brother Vellies

Brother Vellies is a brand with a powerful purpose. Founded in 2013 after an inspiring backpacking trip, Aurora James set up shop at maker’s markets with the intention of preserving African artistry. Collections feature fashion-forward styles like feathered pumps and fringed boots, and are designed in New York and produced in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Haiti, Italy, Mexico, Morocco, Kenya and South Africa. By supporting artisans across the diaspora, James has found success in reimagining luxury through an offering of unique designs steeped in culture and community.

 

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Christopher John Rogers

Iridescent tops. Rainbow sweaters. Voluminous dresses. Christopher John Rogers is bringing the drama to fashion. His namesake label was established in 2016 to engage those who are unafraid to “take up space” and has quickly become the go-to for the bold and the beautiful. Its technicolor designs have gained the support of some of the industry’s best dressed icons like Lizzo, Rihanna and Zendaya.

 

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Telfar

Teflar has a mission that everyone can get behind: “Not for you–for everyone.” The label, founded in 2014 by Teflar Clemens, is known for creating collections that sell out in seconds. Its gender-fluid accessories are embraced by an environmentally-friendly, luxe-loving community who value accessibility without having to compromise on quality. Teflar has shown the industry that it is possible to do it all.

 

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Thebe Magugu

Home, and the joy it evokes, is what Thebe Magugu celebrates. Inspired by his South African roots, the eponymous brand was created in 2016 to blend tradition with modern design. From structured knits to printed shirts, the ready-to-wear brand reflects a land rich in beauty, history and possibility.

 

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WALES BONNER

In 2014, Wales Bonner was launched as an examination of the transatlantic link between England and the Caribbean. The founder, Grace Wales Bonner, references her extensive research of African culture and identity in every design. This manifests as award-winning collections of “soulful tailoring” most notably worn by Meghan Markle.

 

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Hope for Flowers

In 2019, after designing for more than 30 years, Tracy Reese decided to bring Hope for Flowers into the world. The brand is one of her most recent contributions in restoring the health of people and the planet. By designing more ecologically and slowly, the brand is providing a more sustainable alternative to fast fashion. Despite being a relatively new brand, Hope for Flowers is outpacing its counterparts in sustainability, especially when it comes to governance. It has committed to producing small runs, using natural fabrics, creating economic opportunities for women in underserved communities, hosting free arts programs and endorsing labor legislations.

 

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lemlem

Beauty and quality are intrinsically linked at lemlem. It is a woman owned resort wear brand dedicated to keeping the art of weaving alive in Ethiopia, Kenya and Morocco. Founded in 2007 by model Liya Kebede, the brand offers vibrantly colored accessories, ready to wear and swimwear made by local artisans and garment workers. The company also has a give back program that donates 5% of sales to the lemlem Foundation in support of maternal and women’s health outreach education.

 

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Riot Swim

Riot Swim is a woman owned swimwear and athleisure brand helping people feel comfortable and confident in their skin. Its figure-flattering silhouettes are designed with many kinds of bodies in mind. It uses primarily recycled materials to achieve its signature “silky feel” that is offered in a variety of melanin-friendly colors.

 

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Being aware of the who, what, when, where, why and how behind the brands or labels you choose to wear plays a major role in assessing and creating an industry dedicated to sustainability. All clothing tells a story. When buying from a Black-owned brand or label, you are telling the world that you invest in a business that is likely to have overcome challenges based in racial bias and inequity because you value its designs and want to see a more just industry.

Visit Remake’s Brand Directory to find other sustainable brands

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