13 POC-Owned Fashion Brands You Should Know About
As someone who has observed the fashion industry’s trends for a long time and as someone with a vague sense of what’s clearly going on in the world around me, it is a no-brainer that POC designers and brands do not get as much airtime in mainstream media compared to their white counterparts. This extends to the worlds of both runway fashion and streetwear. So here, at SUEY, I decided to make my rounds, asking every member of the staff about their favorite POC-owned clothing brands, both high-end and street. Here is our rundown; it’s up to you to check them out.
Brother Vellies is a footwear company that was founded by Brooklyn-based Toronto native Aurora James, who wanted to display to the world her favorite traditional African footwear while creating and sustaining jobs in Africa itself. All of the brand’s products are handmade in South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Morocco, aiming to capture the spirit and indestructible durability of the shoes’ ancestors. You’ll find a ton of options to wear for a million different occasions, this eco-friendly brand’s innovative designs making the company especially noteworthy.
A San Francisco native but a traveler at heart, creative director/stylist/business woman Sami Miro transforms Levi’s into artwork you’ve never seen before. Her brand boasts features by Selena Gomez, Kim Kardashian, Joey Bada$$, Jhene Aiko, and Cordell Broadus, taking vintage clothing from thrift shops to ad campaigns.
Over the past few years, Malcolm X’s daughters Qubilah, Ilyasah, Attallah, Malikah, Malaak, and Gamilah Lumumba Shabazz have developed a fashion line inspired by their father’s social influence on concepts of race pride and black nationalism. Launched at Harlem Fashion Week 2018, they are at the very intersection of activism and fashion, hoping to “give the next generation of young people an opportunity to understand the principles [their] father believed essential to realizing one’s true potential.”
Teni Adeola is only 20 years old and her clothing brand has been seen adorning influencers like Kali Uchis and Diana Veras. A student at The New School majoring in Culture and Media, Adeola’s company designs out-of-the-box skort and pant sets that flutter with your body’s movements. Her clothes are ethereal, photogenic, and dreamy; if you’re looking for pieces that literally embody rays of sunshine and Kali Uchis’ soft croon, stop looking. This is it.
Buki Ade is a Nigerian-American entrepreneur and designer who uses culturally-inclusive designs in her line of swimwear. Her suits have been featured in Vogue, Glamour, and other mainstream style outlets, representing a unique break into the competitive world of fashion and media. Everything is hand sewn, made to accentuate the beauty in wearers’ curves and geometries.
Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow are two NYC-based designers who created their street-savvy menswear brand Public School out of their experience with Sean John, P-Diddy’s streetwear label. Growing up, both men attended New York City public schools, where “you could tell who groups of students were by what they wore,” as Osborne has explained. The brand focuses on fabrics, fit, and attitude, challenging classic silhouettes and striving to find, as their company motto states, “perfection in the imperfection.”
William Okpo is a black women-owned line cofounded by two NYC sisters, Darlene and Lizzy Okpo, when they were only 23 and 19 respectively. The brand’s namesake is William Okpo, their father, who immigrated from Nigeria to New York in 1976. But you won’t find mass-consumed, mass-produced African prints here. The sisters aim to “break the stigma of black designers and African print,” as Darlene Okpo has stated, looking to influence the fashion world with their sharp tailoring, structural details, rich colors, and mixed fabrication and hardware. The beauty in William Okpo lies in the brand’s development through its maturity, making Okpos’ designs uniquely and truly their own.
Siki Im is a South Korean designer who focuses on bringing his philosophical beliefs and outside design experience into his clothing. In his collections, he explores issues such as the interactions between humans and technology, the increasingly important role that clothes have in expressing human emotions, and even the ways in which architecture (Im graduated from England’s Oxford School of Architecture) relates to fashion. He believes that architecture and clothing design are, fundamentally, both about manifesting a concept through spatial awareness given a fixed set of materials; and it shows in his impressive body of work.
Sachin and Babi Ahluwalia met in 1994, and have been designing together ever since. Both hailing from New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, the Ahluwalias use elaborate embroidery and designs in their contemporary womenswear collection, which was founded in 2009. They support and hire Indian artisans and have worked with names like Oscar de la Renta, Caroline Herrera, and Alexander Wang. With the brand’s clean and modern designs, they have clearly struck a chord in leaders of international fashion houses.
When Julian Consuegra was 22 years old, he started the at-first cult label Stray Rats, which has since grown into a fully-recognized brand that has broken into international fashion retailers. Its consistent aesthetics yet constant demonstrations of innovation are what make the brand so great, mixing the history of modern graphic T-shirts with his own ideas, borne out of Consuegra’s knowledge of band tees and punk culture. Now based in New York’s Chinatown, the brand continues with its focus on DIY and skate cultures, maintaining its goal of applying sophisticated design to the superficially “basic” art form that lies in creating streetwear.
FELT, which stands for “For Every Living Thing,” is a leading men’s streetwear brand created by Miami-raised designer Kristian Acosta. Hoodies make up the bulk of Felt’s stock, its designs ranging from what Highsnobiety describes as “Mickey Mouse lookalikes on acid” to varsity-print references to music and sports. Their simple graphics and bold colors hearken back to minimalistic early streetwear, making Acosta’s brand both easy to wear and extremely favored.
Born x Raised goes beyond the limits of what a streetwear line can be. Created while founder Spanto was incarcerated, the brand makes clothes, produces zines, creates videos, and even hosts events like their annual Sadie Hawkins dance while staying real in its desire to support LA’s OG communities and cultures. One of the first graphics Spanto created was a sticker depicting an indigenous American chief encircled by the words “Genocide by Gentrification.” At the hands of great design and fresh threads, Born x Raised continuously fights for “the old Venice,” launching its first full collection in 2012 and garnering attention from fans internationally.
Created by designers Kerwin Frost and Ray Martinez, this clothing brand focuses on the creation of T-shirts, hoodies, and sweatpants. Its contemporary menswear has risen to fame by taking advantage of NYC locale while remaining at the intersection of various cultural movements. Their unique designs, along with features by influencers such as Fathersteve, Sheck Wes, and Luka Sabbat, have made this apparel/DJ collective extremely prominent in the art world.
All photos are derived from each respective brand's Instagram pages.