For many in the Black community, as well as beyond it, this Black History Month hits a little different — it’s happening in the midst of heightened racial tensions in the United States, catalyzed in 2020 by the unjust killing or George Floyd and the resulting Black Lives Matter protests that spread across the country.
Still, it’s a time for positivity, and Black creatives across the fashion industry are celebrating the community’s manifold contributions.
To get some insight into what Black History Month means to them, as well as get the scoop on some of the most loved Black-owned products on the market right now, WWD spoke to 31 Black editors, stylists and other industry players. Here’s what they’re saying — and what they’re buying.
Ben Oni Rings
For Jazmin Veney, CEO and founder of footwear store Arch NYC, the meaning of Black History Month has evolved over the years.
“As an adult, Black History Month has begun to mean so much more now than it ever did. Black History Month is every month for Black people. We are constantly highlighting our history, the people still making history, and the people who are moving the culture forward. February is our spotlight moment to [continue] amplifying these voices to an audience whose attention we may not normally have, in hopes that they continue to listen every month of every year going forward. This year it should not go unrecognized, unmentioned, or not celebrated by anyone because of the impact race and Black lives have had on our world in the last year — it is clear that more conversation is needed and this is the month to gain more understanding. I use Black History Month as a time to reflect on the great people who have come before us to make it possible for me to be in the position I am in today while also using my platform to be someone that impacts the future.”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “My favorite Black-owned items right now are the rings from Ben Oni jewelry!”
De Lovét Handbags
Reflecting on what Black History Month means to her, Vogue commerce writer Alexis Bennett said, “Growing up, I always looked forward to Black History Month because it was the one time that the private schools I attended would acknowledge a small part of my culture’s history. Of course, in my household we celebrated Black culture 24/7, 365, but it was nice to see other cultures taking a moment to recognize the achievements of Blacks in this country. While I’m grateful for the 28 days set aside to highlight our accomplishments, I’d love for everyone to keep that same energy of support for the Black community long after February has come to a close.”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “I’m soooo in love with De Lovét’s designer handbags. I have the Swati Firestone in white, and it’s divine.”
Paris of the West Union Jacket
For Bryant Von Woodson II, a junior account executive at Chapter 2 Agency, February isn’t the only time for celebration.
“I celebrate Black History Month every day. Every morning when I wake up and look in the mirror, I see the reflection of a Black man from Detroit and I am reminded that I am my ancestor’s wildest dreams. For me, Black History Month isn’t only about honoring past innovators and creators, but also about celebrating individuals who are creating history today.
Black History Month reminds us of the progress we have made, but also of the work that still needs to be done in this country. In reflection on the year 2020, it is clear that there is still work to be done for the Black and brown citizens in this country. It is important that the acknowledgment of Black lives isn’t limited to one month but that Black people’s lives are recognized daily.
For me, Black History Month is appreciation, optimism, progression and empowerment for all things Black. Maya Angelou said it best, ‘I come as one but stand as 10,000.’ Her powerful words make me think of the Black women and men who have endured, persevered and died for me in order for me to dream and achieve my wildest dreams.”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “With a love for French culture, my favorite Black brand item is the Paris of The West Union Jacket from retailer Detroit is the New Black.”
Joie in Life Sweatsuit
Stylist Bryon Javar uses history as a guide to the future — in life and in his work.
“Black History Month means celebrating Black excellence as well as significant movements and people who have helped push the culture forward. But, it also means looking back and using history as a guide to help curate how we want to shape the future. One of my favorite quotes is from Michelle Obama, who said, ‘History has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own,’” he said. “So, as a stylist with that sentiment in mind, I tend to focus on those trailblazers who came before me in the style world, like Ty Hunter, June Ambrose, Misa Hylton, and Tameka Foster, and learning from their fearlessness in order to achieve milestones in my career. It is because of them that I’m able to have certain opportunities and that fact isn’t lost on me. To me, Black History Month is a time to give credit where credit is due.”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “My favorite item is this unisex sweatsuit from joieinlife.com.”
Sunni Sunni Reese Boot
For photographer and director Christian Cody, Black History Month is a time for Black pride.
“To me Black History month is both celebration of countless Black stories, advancements and legacies that we’ve come to know or never heard of, but also it’s [an] annual declaration of pride for the Black American experience and culture that has not only persevered through many traumas but has thrived. Despite our many hardships, struggles and pains we have brought so much into the world and that should be celebrated.”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “My favorite item right now from a B.O.B. [Black-owned brand] would be the Reese square toe boot from Sunni Sunni.”
Bryan Gonzales Trucker Hat
Deslyn Pierrot, a designer for brand Des Pierrot, wants Black History Month to be a celebration of the community’s contributions.
“Black History Month is a time that we, as Black people, get to learn more about our culture as well as educate others and make more people aware of our history. We rejoice and celebrate how far we’ve come but also recognize that we have a long way to go. I feel blessed that I can play a part in this revolution and inspire other young Black brothers and sisters. Black people should be celebrated every day for all they have contributed.”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “My favorite item is this trucker hat that I have had for about a year now. I got it from one of my favorite designer’s, my brother Bryan Gonzales; I know the hat is my favorite because I actually wear it almost every day. I can’t help it. I’m usually very conscious of wearing the same thing so often but, but then again it reminds me that is what fashion is, about having that freedom and full confidence in wearing something you are comfortable in and not caring about grabbing it again when you step out.”
Maison Quiquine Buff Scrub
In Theophilio designer Edvin Thompson’s words, “Black History Month is a reminder to unapologetically celebrate our Blackness. Champion the Black heroes of the past, and present; they created the hero in all of us.”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “My favorite item from a Black brand is Buff Scrub by Mimi Quiquine [of the Maison Quiquine] skin care and wellness brand.”
Stylist Gabriella Karefa-Johnson doesn’t think celebrating Black history should be relegated to a single month.
“As someone who stands proudly in my Blackness and celebrates Blackness every day, I have always had a complicated relationship with Black History Month. The reality is, we should spend every day reflecting on the myriad of ways that Black people have shaped every facet of culture and society at large — this admiration, and appreciation, should not exist in a silo. Not to mention the fact that a month is not nearly long enough to understand the complexity of the history of Black America,” she said. “On the other hand: I will [take] any chance I can get to honor Black history, Black genius, Black love, Black pain, Black art, and Black culture. I love us.”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “There are too many Black brands making beautiful things for me to pick, but I am truly in love with Ope Omojola’s Octave Jewelry line filled with otherworldly earrings hand-carved and cut from the most beautiful natural materials on earth.”
Kubra Kay Purifying Cleanser Duo
If you ask makeup artist Jaleesa Jaikaran, education around Black history will be key to progress.
“Black History Month is a time to celebrate the magic of Black people and honoring the challenges we face, as a Trinidadian-raised Black woman, there is immense importance on continued education on the challenges that have and are still to be overcome,” she said.
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “My favorite Black-owned product right now is from Kubra Kay skin care, Purifying Cleanser Duo. Besides the product being amazing for all skin types, Khadidja Toure is a young Black woman entrepreneur who is making moves in the beauty industry, and ethically sources all her ingredients for Kubra Kay.”
The Templars Club Body Candles
Stylist James Carroll says Black History Month is a mission.
“Growing up, Black History Month felt like a month-long party and celebration learning primarily about my people, our journey and our contributions to the world around us. It was the time of the year I saw my people being represented in almost every facet of daily life. From learning about George Washington Carver’s [peanut innovations] at snack time to hearing and seeing the news stories about Flo-Jo during gym class. As an adult, I began to see Black History Month much differently. It was a month when, in fact, it should’ve been a year-round celebration. Now Black History Month means a month-long mission where we are amplifying our voices, highlighting our community, our culture and promoting equality.”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “The Templars Club Body Candles. A celebration of Black women’s bodies and a symbol, to me, of how they’ve been lighting the way for our people for hundreds of years. Their sacrifice, their diligence and resilience. There would cease to be life without them and in this case cease to be light as well!”
Redoux Turmeric Botanical Bar
This year, beauty writer and creative consultant Janell M. Hickman-Kirby, says Black History Month is more important than ever.
“Black History Month holds significant importance to me this year because it’s a moment for us to reflect on where we are — and optimistically, where we are going. Twenty-twenty was such a tumultuous year and unveiled so many inequalities across the board, from health care to basic civil rights. While it feels overwhelming at times, Black people are so powerful and continue to rise despite all of the obstacles thrown our way. To me, BHM [Black History Month] is a testimony to our resilience and continuous contributions that move society forward.”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “It’s really had to pick because one aspect of my job is testing numerous products daily. Right now I’m really enjoying Redoux Tumeric Botanical Bar, it smells incredible and never dries out my skin. I met the founder, Asia Grant, during a Building Black Bed-Stuy block party and have been a fan of her (and her product) ever since!”
Goddess Herbals Cactus Ginger Tea Mask
Cosmopolitan magazine beauty director Julee Wilson says Vice President Kamala Harris has elevated this Black History Month.
“Black History Month is a very short, yet sweet, reminder to the world of how dope Black people, Black culture and our countless contributions are to the world. It never ceases to amaze me what we have accomplished despite what we have been through and what we continue to deal with. This BHM is going to be extra lit now with the confirmation of our first Black vice president, Kamala Harris. Plus, she’s my Alpha Kappa Alpha soror. Skeeee weeeee! The Black excellence is so just inspiring. I adore soooo many Black-owned brands.”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “I recently fell in love with Goddess Herbals, an all-natural beauty brand. My favorite product at the moment is the Cactus Ginger Tea Hair Mask.”
Gallery Dept. Jeans
Black History Month, according to p.r. professional Julian Spencer, should serve as a good gut check for the fashion industry on its progress with diversity.
“Black History Month is an important time to celebrate the lives and the work of those who have ushered the present generation to this point. While Black lives and experiences deserve to be celebrated consistently throughout the year, having a dedicated month is important because it forces people of all races to step out of their comfort zone, that is the status quo, and acknowledge the contributions that Black people have made for our country. History is often written from a singular perspective, so a lot Black people themselves do not know their own history as it was not taught in institutions that were built without them in mind. I think this month encourages learning and acknowledgement in which we strive every day to make consistent, as people need to realize that minorities should not be categorized. Actively work every day to make sure that all perspectives are taken into consideration. Actively make sure that minorities are represented at your company. Actively make sure that you support minority designers, and not only the large houses. We all have to make sure that we are doing the work.”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “My favorite item by a Black-owned brand, would be jeans by Gallery Dept. The designer, Josué Thomas, is based in L.A.”
Mateo New York Secret Diamond Initial Necklace
Photographer and model agent Kadeem Johnson knows it’s worth celebrating Black History Month every day.
“For me Black History Month is a time that we, as a community, celebrate what it truly means to be gifted and Black. Highlighting all of our people’s accomplishments from the past and present. It’s still odd to me that it is compacted into one month…So my brothers and sisters worldwide remember to celebrate us and our achievements every day, now more than ever!”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “I have a lot of favorite Black-owned designers but I like Mateo New York’s Secret Diamond Initial necklace.”
Vaughn Spann Art
This Black History Month, Kevin McIntosh, Jr., founder of consultancy KMJR Studio Worldwide, wants to celebrate creators.
“While Black history is 365 days a year, and not just a month, I am thankful for the month and what it represents. A moment for the world to know and understand the greatness that my people have contributed to society. We are creators, innovators, change agents, movers and shakers and so much more. But most importantly we are love and there is nothing like being Black.
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “I’m quite intrigued with the artist Vaughn Spann and [have] been keeping my eye on one of his pieces to purchase, they’ve been moving quite fast but until I purchase one I’m very into the [above] print I just purchased.”
par Bronte Laurent Silk Tops
Multihyphenate Kimora Lee Simmons has stressed the particular importance of Black History Month in 2021.
“This year, Black History Month brings with it a heightened urgency. The BLM movement has brought our fight for racial justice to the foreground — it’s a part of our everyday conversation right now, and I hope that doesn’t change. We need to be talking about Black pioneers who paved the way, and those who are fighting for representation today.”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “There are a lot of talented up-and-coming Black designers being showcased and platformed in this moment. And they’re making dynamic pieces. I really like the silk charmeuse tops par Bronte Laurent is doing right now.”
K.ngsley Fist Tank
Black History Month comes with its own darkness and light for many, and Kingsley Gbadegesin, designer of brand K.ngsley, says it’s about honoring both.
“Black history is both pain and promise. It is hope realized, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles overcome. It charts the path of the bold dreamers and truth-tellers who had every reason to crumble under the weight of the world but chose to reach for a brighter day. It’s a time to honor those who we may never meet, but who stood up and spoke up and demonstrated and marched for us — bloody, beaten and bruised — for a better and more just future we might claim as our own one day.
Just like the movements of our history, in the footsteps of giants like Mastha P. Johnson and Madam C.J. Walker, strong Black women and strong Black trans women are often leading today’s movements. With every action and protest, big and small, we carry forward their legacy. And when it comes to the every day, I like to believe that in simply existing as all we are — in all our queerness, and femininity, and transness, or truth — we are claiming the freedom that our ancestors could once only dream of. Our history is a history of building new societies and new possibilities against all odds, on little more than hope. And as much as our history has been written over centuries, it is being written right now.”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “As a Black, queer, femme person who started a brand this past year, my favorite item from a Black designer at the moment will shamelessly be one of my own. It’s our ribbed cotton FIST tank in white. Once you put it on, it takes on a life of its own, and it’s so good to see the confidence it gives people; it simply brings me so much joy.”
Christopher John Rogers Inauguration Coat
Larissa Muehleder, designer for the brand Muehleder, is taking this month to focus on pride.
“Black history may be highlighted this month but it is celebrated every day. Black people continue to shape and influence every industry across the board as an example of our unwavering strength and relentless drive to have our voices heard and our wildest dreams realized. This month we remember the legends that came before us and celebrate those making us proud this very moment!”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “My favorite piece right now is a brilliant purple coat designed by Christopher John Rogers for Madam Vice President Kamala Harris’ inauguration. What an honorable, historic moment.”
Khiry Jug Earrings
As Mateo NYC founder Matthew Harris succinctly puts it, “Black History Month is one of the most important time of the year. To me it means a time to observe and honor the many brave men and women who have fought for equality and freedom. A fight that seems to never end.”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “Favorite item from a Black-owned brand at the moment are the Jug Earrings by Khiry.”
For stylist Mecca James-Williams, Black History Month is an opportunity for truth telling.
“Black History Month means telling our real history, owning our own narratives, and trailblazing our legacies to every mountaintop through all the adversity. As the late Whitney Houston said, ‘We need a longer month.’ We need the whole year!”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “This Telfar shirt truly embodies the Black community and our spirit of connection, community and celebration.”
Maison Quiquine Truth Serum Face Oil
Knowledge, according to Mimi Quiquine, makeup artist and founder of the brand Maison Quiquine, is key to liberation.
“Knowledge is ultimately power. Dedicating time to delve into our history will liberate us. Our history goes way beyond what is taught in the ‘history’ books in school and, for that matter, it’s important that we do our own research. Realistically, Black history shouldn’t be thought about just 28 days a year. However, relentlessly submerging ourselves in culture and history during this month is undoubtably beneficial. I’m hoping this is a starting point for practices that we will put in place all year round.”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “My favorite item from a Black-owned brand right now is Maison Quiquine — Truth Serum Face Oil.”
Phlemuns 2 in 1 Polo Dress
A time for discovery is one way Vogue market editor Naomi Elizée would describe Black History Month.
“When I think about Black History Month, I have very mixed emotions. On one hand, it is a beautiful time of remembrance, celebration and appreciation of African American culture. It is a time where I have learned about the major contributions to American culture and history by people who looked like me, allowing me to feel more seen and heard. Black History Month allowed me to discover who I am and the many complexities to what ‘being Black’ in America is.
And yet, I am met with the reality of the fact that confining the history of Black people to the shortest month of the year diminishes the significance of our contributions while allowing the greater truth to be erased and misconstrued. Black history is American history and should be celebrated and taught year-round. Regardless, every day is Black History Month for me.”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “2 in 1 Polo Dress from Phlemuns.”
Aziza Handcrafted Palm Cuff
For freelance beauty writer and creative director Noel Cymone Walker, Black History Month is about bringing positive vibes.
“Black History Month means utter celebration to me! We have to give it up to our ancestors who truly came, soared and conquered promoting equality at all costs so we can merely exist in our free expressions today. Every day is a day to give thanks, but having a month solely dedicated to calling attention to Black history that was never correctly taught to us, gives us a chance to continue dismantling and rewriting our days for a better tomorrow.”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “One of my favorite pieces right now is the Aziza Handcrafted Palm Cuff — like who’s gonna f–k with you when you’re wearing a palmed cuff?!”
A-Cold-Wall Welded Rhombus Top Coat
Black History Month, says Saks Fifth Avenue men’s fashion market manager Reginald Christian, should serve as a reminder for inclusivity.
“Black History Month has always felt like a gentle reminder to thank and recognize Black individuals that have contributed to this country, and pushed to create a more inclusive society. Black history is not only important during February, but should also be celebrated and validated every day as Black history is American history.”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “I am currently loving the Welded Rhombus Top Coat from A-Cold-Wall. Samuel Ross’ outerwear has an architectural feel that offers depth and functionality. His designs come in interesting fabrics and silhouettes that do not lose their approachability or coolness.”
Etuoils Rome Beard Oil
Robert “Bobby” West, designer for the brand Bobbyday, is taking this month to give thanks.
“First, I would like to thank our forefathers for blessing me with one month out of the year to celebrate, Blackness in America 👏🏿 Albeit the shortest month…Black History Month celebrates our people, reminds us where we come from, endured and acknowledges our contributions of greatness to this planet from entertainment to science. Black folks are the blueprint to America. ✊🏿
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “My Black-owned brand that I’m shopping at lately is @wheninromeworld on Instagram. I love his beard oil 🖤.”
Billionaire Boys Club Ice Cream Varsity Jacket
For Romeo Hunte, designer of the namesake lifestyle brand, Black History Month is a time to reflect.
“The first thing I do when I think of the meaning of Black History Month is reflect. Reflect on my ancestors, the activists and the icons that paved the way for equal treatment and freedom for all Black people. This past year has shined even more spotlight on the injustices Black people are still facing throughout the United States, proving that the marathon toward equality continues. As a Black designer with influence, I will continue to use my platform to amplify the unheard voices of many, the overlooked, and the underrepresented, especially within the fashion industry, with the intentions to build liberation for our Black community through equity and equality.
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “Oh, definitely my Billionaire Boys Club Ice Cream Varsity jacket. I am a huge fan of Pharrell Williams, the guy is multifaceted.”
Martine Rose Hoodie
Stylist and creative director Shannon Stokes says she’s honoring the efforts of those before us this Black History Month.
“For me Black History Month means a chance to reflect on the great trailblazing people who have come before me. People who for their time made an enduring mark as examples of greatness and triumphs of willpower, talent and spirit. A life in Black is beautiful but never easy, so I think about the struggles that they endured and conquered. While some obstacles could be simply scaled or maneuvered around, it’s the immovable walls that they ran into so that later generations can break through that make me most grateful.”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “I have been obsessed with Martine Rose clothes for several years. But a hoodie from her latest collection is my obsession.”
Ashya Passport Book
Solange Franklin, fashion editor and stylist, is reflecting on history but looking toward the future.
“Black History Month is a time to assess how I can pour into Afro futures: investing in Black business and my own clarity of mind. I then use this state of abundance throughout the rest of the year, embodying the Sankofa bird.”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “For Christmas I purchased monogrammed passport books for my husband, my newborn and myself from Ashya. It was an act of gritty optimism.”
There’s a lot to reflect on when it comes to the past and the progress for the Black community, but conversations about it are important to have, according to Sunni Sunni designer Sunni Dixon.
“Black people have made many strides and successes stamped out through history by destroying our literature, our businesses, and white-washing our very real stories on who we are, how we lived, our experiences and adversities, and the great accomplishments we have made despite them.
Black History Month is a mark in the year where we dedicate February to telling our own stories and truths, recognizing the achievements of Black men, women and children and the hills we’ve had to climb along the way in the past and modern day. However, America continues to reveal its racist and divisive face. This can even be said by dedicating a month to celebrate a people who have had the greatest impact and suffered the greatest expense, the greatest American sin of slavery and manifestations, for the foundation of what America is today. It’s a month to take a break from the very visual racial disparities in how Black people are treated still and the intense racial climate in America to proclaim their appreciation, respect and love for us then turn back on its commitment soon after.
It’s important that everyone, Black or not, is loud about protecting this country’s Black American history and their Black American people all the time, loud about the many initiatives our community has made and continues to make for a better America, and loud about being by our side with actions and results, not just words.”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “My favorite item from a Black-owned brand is the M65Studio parfum. I love a scent and a mood and this gives me both.”
Amari Carter Leslie Corset
Designer Tia Adeola had this to say about what February means to her: “To me, Black History Month is an incredible time when all these facts, information and knowledge regarding Black history, culture, and so on begin to circulate on social media and beyond. Things that are often overlooked and ignored. It is a necessary reminder that we set the trends. Everything stems from us.”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “The Leslie Corset by my friend Amari Carter would be my favorite.”
Oye Green Oye Shea Butter
For stylist Tyler Okuns, Black History Month is about remembering what the community can — and has — overcome.
“What BHM means to me: It is a celebration of Black victories and accomplishments. Though we should have more than a month. It shows us as well as the world how multifaceted Black people can be. We can do anything, be in any job: art, music, writing, fashion, film, science, sports, etc. We can thrive, prevail and overcome anything!”
Favorite item from a Black-owned brand: “So my favorite Black-owned business right now is Oye Green — Oye Shea Butter. I use it in my hair and body.”