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 sustainable 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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Next steps for Brother Vellies: Sustainability is at the core of Brother Vellies — it is transparent about its mission of keeping artisans in artisanal jobs. However, the inner workings of the supply chain are a bit vague, and the company could take a next step towards detailed transparency. The brand states that raw materials are, in part, sourced from farmers. How much of this is completed within their production base is not known, nor is the material breakdown of the company’s products. In addition, the same is true of working conditions. Since the brand promotes handmade art, there should be more data to support a positive working environment. Brother Vellies is a much needed presence that, with more transparency, can renew the meaning of industrial craft.

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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Next steps for Christopher John Rogers: With fabrics like alpaca, shearling, silk and wool being used heavily throughout its supply chain, Christopher John Rogers could take a next steps towards transparency by giving complete insight into how it secures its materials. This means listing its raw materials suppliers, posting a buyer’s code of conduct and announcing support of any animal welfare policies to rule out cruelty. The label could improve its messaging to make its stance in sustainability just as loud as its designs.


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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Next steps for Telfar: The company’s impact could be magnified by building a more transparent supply chain. A source claims that drops include anywhere from 3,000 to 7,000 bags. Any plans for degrowth or growth should be on public record by the label to define its position on environmentalism. Its global footprint — from design to production — could also be traceable. Overall, the label has proven how powerful culture can be in fostering an inclusive community, which would be amazing to see in its supply chain practices.

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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Next steps for Thebe Magugu: In just one glance, the brand’s commitment to timeless quality is made evident. However, taking a closer look, it is currently harder to see how the same extends to its operations. The brand could change this by applying its design approach to a sustainability strategy — setting and sharing goals that intersect with environmental and social justice.


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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Next steps for Wales Bonner: The label is certainly on the right track, but there is still a road ahead. Diversity is the focal point of collections, but it is not clear how and if that extends to the labor force. There is no published information about worker’s rights or regulations internally or externally. There are also no sustainability targets set. The importance of carbon emissions, water quality or any other environmental concerns to Wales Bonner has not yet been made apparent. Hopefully, the label will continue to examine its strategy to include more specifics on its supply chain.

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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Next steps for Hope for Flowers: Where the brand lags is in its transparency around worker’s pay and policy as well as how raw materials are procured and purchased. Once that information is supplied, Hope for Flowers will fully bloom in its sustainability journey.


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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Next steps for lemlem: lemlem is mindful of the materials it sources, designing with mostly natural fibers like cotton and recycled fibers like polyester and nylon sourced in collaboration with Repreve® and Econyl® respectively. Although the brand has noted its certification programs and steps for responsible production, it should provide more visibility into its auditing and sourcing to substantiate its claims. With more clarity on sustainability across its supply chain, lemlem can further its environmental and social impact.

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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Next steps for Riot Swim: While Riot Swim is notably working toward a cleaner and more inclusive supply chain, there are more steps the brand could take to further its leadership. Riot Swim has yet to provide a public list of its supplier bases or any policies that regulate them. This leaves a lot of room for interpretation on important details like how workers are treated and where materials are sourced.

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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