The category is: Fashion. From the streets to the runways, our style has long influenced international style. Luminaries like Virgil Abloh, Olivier Rousteing, Tracy Reese, Law Roach and crossover queen Rihanna have all had a transformative impact on how the world views black style, but there are far more making major style statements as they run red carpets and luxury houses alike. While we’re still seeking more proverbial seats at the table, the encouraging news is that at no time in history have there been more black tastemakers rising to the forefront of fashion, taking the reins of our own fashion labels, creating iconic accessories, and polishing celebrity images to perfection. In short, we’re refashioning our own destinies...and as always, we’re doing it in style.
Creating iconic fashionable moments is Jason Bolden’s contribution to the ever-changing world of fashion.
For years, Jason Bolden curated ensembles for close friends, his palate for clean but luxurious aesthetics inspiring those around him. In 2011, he styled his first celebrity client, Gabrielle Union, and the St. Louis, Mo. native has been a catalyst for change in the fashion game ever since, leading with the philosophy that fashion should be inclusive as well as glamorous.
In addition to creating some of our favorite looks on the red carpet, Bolden recently also became one of Netflix’s #StrongBlackLeads alongside husband and business partner Adair Curtis. In the network’s series Styling Hollywood, the duo balances life and a successful interior design business while Bolden dresses a stylish roster of celebrities including Yara Shahidi, Ava DuVernay, Eve, Storm Reid and Janet Mock.
Shiona Turini’s exquisite eye for design is what makes the fashion maven one of the industry’s most sought-after stylists.
Fashion is something former editor-turned-stylist Shiona Turini knows inside and out. The Bermuda-born fashionista first made her mark in the industry as an accessories editor at W Magazine after starting as a public relations expert for the publication. Her multifaceted industry experience soon allowed her to shift gears from styling music videos to designing costumes for movies like Queen and Slim (yes, that iconic zebra-print slipdress was her idea). Turini’s influence even caught the eye of execs at Mattel; this year, she styled a series of black Barbie dolls to commemorate the first black Barbie, originally launched in 1980. Her cutting-edge take on couture continues to earn her respect in the fashion world and beyond.
For over a decade, Carly Cushnie’s refined designs have graced some of the most stylish women in the world.
With iconic women like Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, Lupita Nyong’o and Ava DuVernay wearing her chic silhouettes, Carly Cushnie is redefining luxury womenswear. A former CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist, the London-born designer was appointed to the CFDA’s board last year after successfully reinventing the 10-year old Cushnie et Ochs label into a solo eponymous brand following the departure of longtime partner Michelle Ochs in 2018, making Cushnie one of few black women to helm her own luxury label. The risk in going solo was high, but the fashion world has responded with praise as her elevated, sensual and increasingly inclusive aesthetic continues to delight both fashion insiders and the legions of women who adore her clothes.
From his nonconformist, cool kid aesthetic to the status bag commonly known as the “Bushwick Birkin,” Teflar Clemens’s designs remain ahead of the curve.
Telfar Clemens is a self-taught fashion and accessories designer whose edgy but accessible designs have quickly elevated him to one of the most-worn designers of his generation. Take, for instance, the “Bushwick Birkin,” the nickname given to the Telfar tote that has become ubiquitous within the fashion industry, rivaling status bags from legacy luxury labels. It’s an accomplishment few designers will ever achieve, but with no formal training, the Queens, New York native has been an innovator in the fashion industry for over 15 years. The Liberian-American’s eclectic blend of genderless shapes and designs earned him the coveted CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Winner Award in 2017, and last year his cult-favorite bag earned him a nomination for the Accessories Designer of the Year Award.
Duro Olowu’s signature style is inspired by both his Nigerian and Jamaican roots and curatorial eye.
Richly-patterned fabrics and textiles are at the core of Duro Olowu’s awe-inspiring designs. Dubbed “The Prince of Prints,” Olowu’s love of art allows him to understand the intricacies and creativity it takes to create unforgettable, elegant pieces for women. From an artistic standpoint, the women who wear his clothes are his muses; and it’s evident by the way he incorporates timeless silhouettes into his designs rather than concerning himself with the latest trends. But Olowu’s latest project isn’t on the runway; the designer and art connoisseur curated the exhibition Seeing Chicago, currently on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. There he combined an array of multimedia platforms with selections from his own collections to create a titillating experience for museum-goers.
As Gucci’s Vice President of Brand and Culture Engagement, Antoine Phillips diligently works behind the scenes to welcome more diverse perspectives to the luxury label’s table.
The fashion industry has a habit of superficially addressing issues regarding race and discrimination; Antoine Phillips is addressing them head-on. His public relations background helps him navigate a brand’s image, but it’s his outspoken advocacy for diversity and inclusion within the image which has allowed him to create more spaces for minority tastemakers in the industry. With only four months under his belt as the new VP of Brand and Culture Engagement, Phillips was one of the masterminds behind the announcement of the Gucci Changemakers Program, the almost-century-old brand’s reparative and ongoing global initiative that provides scholarships, funding and new programs within underserved communities to promote diversity and inclusion.
Nikki Ogunnaike’s indubitable influence and skills as a writer and editor have earned her a prominent position as GQ Magazine’s deputy fashion director.
Nikki Ogunnaike’s relaxed style and easygoing demeanor give no indication that the editorial genius has broken barriers and shaped culture—at the same damn time. Ogunnaike’s social media influence and her love for J.Crew’s gear spawned a major national campaign for the clothing company in 2017. Meanwhile, the Nigerian-American’s tenures at Instyle and Glamour prepared her to take on a new domain: menswear. In October 2019, she transitioned from style director at Elle to her current role as deputy fashion director at GQ Magazine.
Apuje Kalu is a master storyteller in the world of style.
Apuje Kalu doesn’t just put beautiful outfits together; he conceptualizes a fashion fairytale. Both a creative and consummate professional, Kalu uses his stylist’s sensibility to create a narrative for his clients—which include Trevor Jackson, Yvonne Orji, Jay Ellis and Stephan James—basing his choices not only the occasion and current trends but the nuances and quirks of his clients’ personalities. The result? Some delightfully unexpected fashion moments. Employing his engineering background as well as his impeccable style, the Nigerian-American FAMU grad meticulously pays attention to every detail, down to the accessories; after all, as Kalu told digital men’s lifestyle magazine Luxurious Prototype in 2012: “Engineering is about shapes and movements, and so is clothing.”
For Kimberly M. Jenkins, fashion isn’t just about what’s trending.
Kimberly M. Jenkins’ academic approach to fashion sits at the intersection of race, class, history and industry, “exploring how politics, psychology, race and gender shape the way we ‘fashion’ our identity.” After graduating from Parsons School of Design in 2013, Jenkins introduced a well-received course, “Fashion and Race,” at her alma mater in 2016, later becoming an assistant professor at the acclaimed Pratt Institute. In 2019, the academic began working with Gucci as an education consultant, assisting the label’s efforts to effectively address diversity and inclusion within its ranks. By examining the psychology behind fashion as well as teaching others how to identify racialized bias, the esteemed lecturer is helping to deconstruct discrimination and racism in one of the world’s most lucrative industries.
Designer Mimi Plange incorporates nods to Africa in her sophisticated ready-to-wear collections.
The amalgamation of Mimi Plange’s Ghanaian heritage, global influence, and architectural education all inform her approach to contemporary luxury womenswear. Her eye-catching designs have been worn by Michelle Obama, Rihanna and Janelle Monáe, among others. Plange, who was named the 2011 Designer of the Year at Mercedes-Benz Africa Fashion Week and won then-New York Mayor Bloomberg’s Design Entrepreneurs Award in 2012 also lends her wisdom and voice to up-and-coming designers of color. In 2019, when Google teamed up with Brandice Daniels, founder of Harlem’s Fashion Row for its first-ever HFR x Google Fashion Summit. Plange was front and center to support and offer priceless advice to the next generation of fashion designers.
The Glow Up 50 is presented by Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker. Watch Self Made on March 20, only on Netflix.