Because there’s no beginning without an ending, Janus, the mythical god for whom January is named, has two faces, one looking back and the other looking forward. As we take on 2022, let’s review the top Black style moments of 2021.
In many ways it was a rough year, due to COVID, yet a lot happened last year that was notable, delightful and just plain inspiring. We weren’t able to include everything on our list.
We established some criteria for the moments that rose to the top:
- Did they move the needle?
- Did it say something about Black culture, economics or diversity?
- What did it say about Black style past, present or future?
- Was it original?
- Did it blaze a trail?
- Was it memorable?
- Is it sustainable?
Some of my picks, like Kerby Jean Raymond’s work, popped up more than once. Others, like vice president Kamala Harris’s on the cover of Vogue, checked numerous boxes. Here are:
THE TOP 22 FASHION MOMENTS IN AFRICAN-AMERICAN STYLE IN 2021
1. Zendaya emerges as the indisputable queen of style
Throughout 2021 Zendaya gave us red carpet fevah with glam-slam covers from Elle to Interview, powered by the symbiotic collaboration with stylist and imagemaker Law Roach.
2. Pyer Moss creates a couture show
Kerby Jean Raymond, owner of Pyer Moss, becomes the first Black designer and among only a handful of Americans, to be invited by the Chambre Syndicale in Paris to present an haute couture collection.
3. Virgil Abloh, Louis Vuitton’s first Black creative director and the cofounder of influential Off-White brand, dies
4. Black designers set the pace for shows off the beaten track
Madam CJ Walker’s mansion, loaned by Sundial founder and Essence owner, millionaire Richelieu Dennis, becomes site of historic Pyer Moss show. Hanifah Mvuemba shows her highly-anticipated collection in D.C. at the National Portrait Gallery.
5. Nike buys NFT virtual fashion agency that scored big with non-fungible token sneakers
The agency, RTFKT (pronounced artifact), did a virtual sneaker drop that reportedly netted $3 million.
6. Lewis Hamilton wears African-American designer Kenneth Nicholson’s gender fluid designs to the MET gala and hosts 10 black creators there. Tickets to the Metropolitan Museum of Art gala cost $35,000 each and tables, $200,000-$300,000 a pop.
7. Michelle Obama turns it up at President Joe Biden’s inauguration
It was perhaps the most fashionable Inauguration ever – Dior, Prada, Christopher John Rogers. Then Michelle O walked out and stole the whole – the whole- show. The aubergine high-waisted pants and coat, a modern power look, chosen by her stylist Meredith Koop, fit like a glove and was designed by African American designer, Sergio Hudson, who scrambled to keep up with orders after the inauguration.
8. Rihanna and her beau ASAP! Rocky attend the MET gala looking like a duvet and a blanket
They are wearing two of the hottest labels in fashion – the well-known Balenciaga (her) and the unknown ERL (him) Eli Russell Linnetz, collaborator of Kanye West and Lady Gaga. A few days ago Linnetz was named to rebrand GUESS, WWD reported.)
9. Several talented fashion journalists swept into influential positions and became “firsts”
Lindsay Peoples Wagner, former top editor at Teen Vogue, was named EIC of New York Mag’s The Cut. Jessica Cruel, who’s worked for Popsugar, SELF, Refinery 29 became, EIC at Allure.
10. A record number of Black designers presented collections during New York fashion week
Showing IRL or virtually: Among the notables were: Frederick Anderson, Victor Glemaud, Kevan Hall, Kenneth Nicholson, Marissa Wilson, Charles Harbison, Omar Salam of Sukeina, LaQuan Smith, Carlton Jones and Sergio Hudson
11. Several Black creators, the most ever, are recognized with prestigious industry awards
The Council of Fashion Designers of America, awarded Christopher John Rogers with top Womenswear Designer of the year, Telfar Clemens won for Accessories, Grace Wales Bonner for International Menswear designer and Edvin Thompson of Theophilio snagged top Emerging Designer, Aurora James picks up the Founder’s Award Fashion Group International gives Epperson its Rising Star Award and uberstylist Law Roach wins its Night of Stars Gala Provocatuer Award. Roach also took the top spot on Hollywood Reporter’s closely watched, annual Most Powerful Stylists list.
12.Kamala Harris & the Vogue cover
Vogue scores then bungles celebration of the first Black, female, Indian to become Vice President of the United States. Although she graced the cover, not all were happy with the execution Calling it “disrespectful” and forcing Anna Wintour to defend her choice.
13. Vogue’s Amanda Gorman cover
Another month, another cover. Anna Wintour outdid herself with this featuring a beautiful chocolate- skinned, poet laureate swathed in a fabulous, authentic Kente from Louis Vuitton by Virgil Abloh (menswear). Gorman’s cover was refreshing and what everyone needed during these times.
14. Lil Nas X pushes the envelope with his homoerotic style and performance on a memorable SNL (Saturday Night Live) appearance.
15. Black women’s Cornrows takeover in luxury advertising and on the runways
16. The reemergence of groundbreaking Nineties Black-owned brands
Puffy bought back Sean John. Kimora Lee relaunched Baby Phat with Macys. Cross Colors relaunched at Nordstrom and April Walker took her place as first lady of hip hop fashion including sued LVMH for copying her designs for their varsity jackets, a key style and revenue driver for menswear.
17. First black to head a European luxury fashion house , Olivier Rousteng, celebrates 10 years at the helm of French luxury brand, Balmain
18. The Crown act, to prevent discrimination of black men, women and children based on their hair, advanced to 14 states
The CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) bill and Dove continue its promotion of celebrating natural hair
19. Kerby Jean Raymond & Francois-Henri Pinault, CEO of Kering which owns Gucci, form “Your Friends in New York” to support the development of Black-owned design companies
And Kendra Bracken-Ferguson launched Brain Trust Founders Studio to support Black beauty founders.
20. Issa Rae’s “Insecure” signs off. (tear drop)
But a slew of other shows sweep in vying for viewers by highlighting Black style – beauty and fashion – including “Harlem” with Meagan Good, “The Kings of Napa” and “Our Kind of People”.
21. Black entrepreneuers create ecommerce platforms to sell black-owned beauty and fashion brands
Emmy winner and Beyonce stylist Zerina Akers launches Black-Owned Everything . Tori Nichel, a designer and brand marketer launches Maison Black. Nyakio Grieco, owner of Nyakio Beauty, teams up with Patrick Herning, founder of 11 Honore, to launch Thirteen Lune, an ecommerce platform or Black and Brown-owned beauty brands.
22. A Black-owned public relations business, for the first time, becomes one of the most important marketing agencies in fashion
Though it serves a diverse clientele in fashion and lifestyle, the Hinton Group, led by Nate Hinton, has represented and produced shows for many notable Black designers