It’s been more than two years since blackout posts, infographics, and articles in support of the Black Lives Matter movement began inundating social media feeds everywhere. Many were poignant, and shared messages of solidarity following the highly publicized murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, and countless others. But true activism doesn’t end with a couple hashtags (or black squares for that matter).
One of the easiest ways to take a stand against systemic racial inequality and anti-Black racism is to support Black-owned businesses all year round. In short: Put your money where your mouth is. Support Black-owned brands — particularly during Black History Month in February, as well as Black Business Month, which falls during the month of August.
Regardless of the time of year, taking inventory of the businesses you support and shop from is key. Even if you don’t realize it, your values are reflected in the purchases you make every single day. It’s one thing to say, “Black lives matter.” It’s an entirely different thing to show they matter by spending your money within the community.
Many Black-owned brands are being carried at retailers you already shop at, like Target, Ulta, Sephora, and Nordstrom. Thanks to the 15% Pledge — which was created in 2020 by Aurora James, founder of Brother Vellies — big box retailers have been expanding their shelf space to include at least 15% Black-owned brands.
Whether you’re looking for chic ready-to-wear, vibrant cosmetics, or just about anything in between, there are endless examples of Black excellence in the fashion and beauty world. Begin by learning more about — and, ultimately, shopping from — the brands below. Not only will you expand your fashion and beauty repertoire, you’ll also amplify Black artists whose contributions deserve to be celebrated.
BLACK-OWNED FASHION BRANDS
Born from a fire in their New York apartment that nearly destroyed their first collection, Whensmokeclears launched their label in 2016 with a collection of apparel, jewelry, accessories, and footwear. The brand is a reflection of the founders Thermal and K$ace’s daring and uncompromising aesthetic. Now based in Atlanta, Whensmokeclears has become a bold favorite for fashion lovers everywhere.
Not only does this brand have impactful statement bags like the “Protect Black Women” and “Protect Black People” line, but they are also dedicated to giving back. The Los Angeles based brand runs by the purpose: Stronger Threads For A Stronger Community. The company has already donated funds to the Anti-Racism Fund, and according to their Social Impact, they’ve also donated more than 4,000 PPE masks over $61,500 in product, and $18,500 in monetary support to Black-owned organizations.
You might recognize the Hanifa name from an innovative viral video that made the rounds on social media. Designer and visionary Anifa Mvuemba used 3D models to show her Spring/Summer 2020 collection on Instagram Live, singlehandedly demonstrating what the future of fashion in a pandemic-affected world could look like.
If you’re searching for festive footwear that doesn’t sacrifice quality, look no further. This luxury female-led footwear brand, launched in 2015 by founder and CEO Kendall Reynolds, utilizes craftsmanship to set the brand apart. All footwear and accessories are manufactured in Florence, Italy with family-owned vendors to ensure products are handcrafted using only ethically sourced and sustainable materials.
The Grenadian designer, whose full name is Felisha Noel, grew up surrounded by the beauty of clothing. Her mother worked in a Manhattan factory, and she often brought home fabrics for Noel to play with when she was a young girl, inspiring her to pursue a career in fashion.
Born in Queens, New York, LaQuan Smith started his eponymous brand at the age of 21. Both Beyoncé and Rihanna have worn his daringly and elevated designs. Met Gala 2022 host Lala Anthony even wore LaQuan Smith to celebrate American fashion.
Retro-inspired silhouettes are aplenty at Chelsea Paris, a shoe brand started by designer Theresa Ebagua. Her vision? A luxury footwear brand inspired by her African heritage.
Meaning “little courage” in Haitian Creole, Petit Kouraj is the creation of Nasrin Jean-Baptiste. Born in London to Haitian immigrants, Jean-Baptiste has made her mark on the fashion world with eye-catching fringe bags.
In 2006, Haitian-born designer Victor Glemaud launched his independent leisurewear collection, which is rooted in ultra rich knitwear. He was a finalist for the 2017 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, and his designs have been worn by Issa Rae, Michelle Williams, Iman, and more.
Another New York native, Romeo Hunte was born in Brooklyn and launched his brand in 2014. His first celebrity client was Zendaya, and Beyoncé wore his signature buffalo check shawl in a look that quickly went viral.
Telfar, founded by Liberian designer Telfar Clemmens has created the it bag for a generation. That encircled T is instantly recognizable among the fashion set, and it will be an iconic accessory for years to come. While the bag has become so popular it sells out within seconds, it isn’t the only Telfar accessory worth investing in.
Founded in 2013 with the goal of keeping traditional African design practices and techniques alive while also creating and sustaining artisanal jobs, Brother Vellies is home to luxury accessories you won’t find anywhere else. Consider anything from BV an instant conversation-starter.
The brand’s founder, Kerby Jean-Raymond, has long been an advocate for fighting police brutality. He's the genius behind the viral "They Have Names" shirt that lists Black victims of state-sanctioned violence. Pyer Moss has brought cultural pride to the runway with every collection, including his Spring/Summer 2020 show which featured a 90 person gospel choir and his Fall 2021 haute couture show that paid homage to Black inventors.
Christopher John Rogers
Christopher John Rogers stunned with his 2022 Met Gala look for Sarah Jessica Parker, which was a tribute to the hidden figure in fashion history, Elizabeth Keckley. The designer has also dressed the likes of Michelle Obama, Rihanna, Lizzo, Gabrielle Union, and Tracee Ellis Ross, just to name a few.
Founder Jazmin Veney got her start in fashion after relocating from Baltimore, Maryland to New York City to attend LIM College. ARCH started out of her Harlem apartment in 2018, with a dream to create a brand for Black women to take up space with bright, statement making shoes.
Orijin Culture pays homage to the Afro-centric styles of the late ‘80s and 90s, with inspiration from artists like Queen Latifah, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and depicted in films like Spike Lee’s School Daze. Since the brand’s establishment in 2004, the leather bags have become widely recognizable and a fashionable symbol of the Black diaspora.
Lukafit founder Mbali Z. Ndlovu wanted to create a community of self-care, providing exercise apparel for women of color. Their squat-proof leggings were created intentionally to support curves, that won’t gap at the waist (there’s a hidden adjustable drawstring to prevent gapping), or let you down when you’re working on your Megan Thee Stallion knees.
This family owned business donates 3% of profits to Sister Mentors, which is dedicated to supporting the next generation of women of color leaders. CoziRose has options for pierced, and non-pierced ears, with unique designs that are sure to be conversation-starters.
Jasmine Elder founded Jibri in 2009, creating fashion forward pieces for curvy women sizes 10-28. One of their most popular designs, the slouch pant, over-accentuates the hip with an exaggerated drape, rewriting the script of plus-size women needing to make themselves appear smaller. The designer also created the dress that was illustrated for Vanity Fair’s commemorative cover of Breonna Taylor in 2020.
Zelie For She
Plus-size womenswear line Zelie for She was founded in 2012 by Elann Zelie, with the intention to provide fashionable clothing for fuller sizes. Each collection is designed with a story in mind, from travel to friendship, and empowerment. The brand started being carried at Nordstrom in 2021, making it more accessible for fashionistas of all sizes to support Black-owned businesses.
Beyonce Knowles, Gabrielle Union and more notable celebs have been spotted wearing styles from Salone Monet’s range of inclusive nude footwear. The designer began her eponymous brand after discovering a disappointing lack of color equity when it came to “nude” footwear. To find your perfect pair, utilize the Choose Your Shade finder on the brand’s website.
Marrisa Wilson NY
Founded in 2016, Marrisa Wilson NY is characterized by cool, relaxed styling blended with funky textiles and artwork developed in-house. The label’s namesake is a first generation Guyanese American designer born and raised in New Jersey. Soulful sounds, vibrant artwork and installations, and eclectic interior spaces also heavily influence the brand’s ethos.
Sami Miro Vintage
Sami Miró Vintage, founded in 2016 by Sami Miró, is dedicated to providing eco-conscious, high quality pieces using deadstock fabric and vintage materials. Her unique, celeb-loved designs are designed, sourced, and produced all locally in Los Angeles.
Jam + Rico
Founded in 2016 by Lisette Scott, Jam+Rico creates unique and bold accessories inspired by the Caribbean islands. Each collection is inspired by the founder’s experiences, so you can shop the Puerto Rico collection, Aruba, Jamaica, and Cuba collections.
Love, Vera is aimed at increasing diverse representation in the lingerie industry. No matter your hair texture, skin tone, body shape, gender presentation — they want to see all Black women represented in fashion.
Cee Cee’s Closet NYC
From silk-lined headwraps, satin pillow cases, waistbeads, and clothing, Cee Cee’s Closet meets every fashion girlie’s needs. Sister-owned, Uchenna and Chioma Ngwudo work with tailors in Nigeria to create authentic pieces that reflect their African heritage.
Parron Allen is the namesake brand of Brooklyn-based designer Parron Edwards-Stimola. His tag-line of “clothing that starts conversations” is the perfect way to sum up his designs, especially with the Coco-Llaborator tee, pointing out famous designer Coco Chanel’s Nazi ties. The brand is relatively new, founded in 2021 but has already made a splash.
BLACK-OWNED BEAUTY BRANDS
At a young age, Cashmere Nicole watched her aunties sell Avon products with shades that were never deep enough for their skin tone. Nicole set out to change that. Her brand, Beauty Bakerie and its inclusive range of cosmetics can be found both online and in Target.
Former beauty executive Sharon Chuter is the woman behind Uoma Beauty. The cosmetics brand, created to celebrate Blackness and Chuter's Nigerian heritage, had one of Ulta’s largest launches in 2019.
Mented — short for pigmented — was created by KJ Miller and Amanda E. Johnson. They set out to fill the gap between what the beauty industry considered a nude lipstick and what actually was a nude shade for Black women. Since their initial launch of six nude lippies, the brand has grown to include blushes, brow pencils, and foundations.
Pat McGrath Labs
Black Girl Sunscreen
Shontay Lundy created Black Girl Sunscreen when she couldn’t find a product that didn't leave behind a white cast, which Black women have been speaking out about for ages. Now, her brand is being carried in Target and has grown to include a wider range of SPF coverage options.
Founded by Rachel James, Pear Nova is a luxury line of nail polishes that are vegan, cruelty-free, and 5-free. With a fashion and merchandising and beauty background, James wanted to create a product that blended her two passions.
Epi.logic was created by oculofacial plastic surgeon Dr. Chaneve Jeanniton, founder of Brooklyn Face & Eye. After working with a diverse clientele, she began Epi.logic, which combines effective, simple ingredients with industry research for products that provide “skin logic for all.”
Briogeo founder Nancy Twine started her hair care line after being inspired by the natural beauty recipes she and her grandmother once created together. Upon discovering that natural brands on the market weren’t giving her what she needed, Twine took her grandmother’s recipes and got the job done herself.
Founded by sister duo Whitney and Taffeta White in 2015, Melanin Haircare is committed to making safe and effective products that promote natural hair and scalp health. From the clarifying yet non-stripping shampoo to the multipurpose oil blend, the brand’s products are known for keeping curls happy, healthy, and hydrated.
Looking to treat your skin to some extra nourishment? Check out hanahana beauty. The skin care brand’s shea butter formulas smooth parched skin and smell delicious, plus they’re committed to improving the shea trade for women in Ghana.
Bread Beauty Supply
Bread Beauty Supply is simplifying natural hair care routines with genius sets and products that will make wash days a breeze. Founder Maeve Heim created a line of “essentials” for women with any and all types of hair — chemically-treated, natural, or somewhere in between.
OUI the People
OUI the People addresses some of the most frustrating shaving issues — ingrown hair, razor burn, and dry skin to name a few — by making soothing, sensitive skin-friendly body products. Their sensitive set is the perfect product duo for anyone who’s ready to retire her drugstore razors.
EADEM is a skin care brand that loves, celebrates, and caters to melanin. The brand launched in 2021 and in just a few weeks, their Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum sold out. If you suffer from hyperpigmentation, or just have a stubborn dark spot or two, this serum is made for you.
Lavender Clouds & Poetry
These dreamy fragrances connect nature and beauty scents that have been meticulously formulated. Lavender Clouds & Poetry will have you smelling wonderful, all while supporting the Cultural Connections Institute — a program that facilitates both language and cultural learning for immigrants.
People of Color
Founder Jacqueline Carrington created People of Color after seeing a lack of melanated skin tones in nail polish advertisements. On their website, you can find salons that exclusively carry the nail polish, which is non-toxic, vegan, and cruelty free. The bright, highly-pigmented colors have names that exude cultural pride, like “Brown Sugar Babe” and the “Take Me To Carnival” bundle. You can also shop them at Urban Outfitters and Lord & Taylor.
Makeup brand Juvia’s Place was founded in 2016 by Nigerian entrepreneur, Chichi Eburu, with the purpose of creating makeup for all skin tones. What was previously available were muted colors that made darker skin tones look lighter or have a grayish hue. The eyeshadow palettes are some of their bestsellers, with highly pigmented colors that keep their brightness on all skin tones. You can find the brand online as well as at Ulta and Target.
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