The protests taking place in the wake of George Floyd’s murder have led to a reckoning with institutional racism that’s touched everything from national politics to pop culture. In the fashion world, design houses have been taken to task for keeping Black models off their runways and refusing to dress Black celebrities. Editors of prominent fashion magazines have been called out for keeping Black journalists off the upper echelons of their mastheads.
In L.A., Black, queer designers are creating a fashion ecosystem all their own. Here are ten we recommend supporting on Blackout Tuesday—and every day.
Since Pierre Davis founded her inclusive, community-oriented label No Sesso—Italian for “no sex/gender”—in 2015, the L.A.-based label has become synonymous with deconstructed silhouettes and thoughtful, expectation-defying details. Davis and her partner Arin Hayes have created a line of agender pieces and host a series of community-based events dedicated to empowering people across all genders, colors, shapes, sizes, and identities. In 2019, Davis made history as the first transgender woman designer to show at NYFW. Each of her collections is a celebration of intersectional identities filtered through a patchwork of repurposed materials, textured fabrics, and the brand’s signature hand-stitched embroidery. Find a selection of No Sesso’s pieces available on the brand’s Depop.
Sabine Maxine Lopez is the multihyphenate visionary behind Patty Wack Vintage. Lopez has been curating vintage pieces for over 15 years and sells a variety of colorful and bold pieces in her Etsy shop, from a burnt orange ’70s pencil skirt to a sparkling deep blue ’80s blouse with billowing sleeves. Lopez identifies as a queer BIPOC and created a podcast called A Tribe Called Queer where guests discuss topics including femme visibility and toxic masculinity in the queer community. Lopez designs apparel and accessories for her podcast celebrating Black femmes and queer pride. Find Lopez’s vintage collection on Etsy shop.
This accessories brand has brought the beauty of West Africa to the West Coast with their line of handmade maximalist eyeglasses, Ankara print earrings, fringe necklaces, and headwraps. The company’s name derives from Burkina Faso, the country where the company’s creative director, Karen Chatelain, grew up and where she continues to support the work of local tailors. Burkinabae’s decked-out specs have been featured in several music videos and Beyoncé even worn one of their headwraps at her push party baby shower in 2017. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a celebrity to wear a Burkinabaé original. The brand has plenty of accessories that are perfect for those who want to add a bit of couture to their wardrobe without breaking the bank. Find Burkinabé’s eyewear and other glamorous accessories on their website.
Utilitarianism meets style in L.A.-native James Flemons’s eponymous label, Phlemuns, founded in 2013. The sustainably minded, non-binary clothing line is produced by Flemons as well as a small team of seamstresses and tailors who are paid fair wages out of a studio in Downtown L.A. Most of the designer’s pieces are made from soft, breathable cotton terry and rib-knit fabrics to maximize comfort. You’ll never want to throw on sweatpants again after wearing Flemons’s assortment of slouchy cargos, sweaters, and T-shirts which come in both neutral tones and eye-catching prints. Find unisex staples on Phlemuns’s website.
In 2010, Stoney Michelli and Uzo Ejikeme started their gender-free label, Stuzo Clothing, to create a space in the fashion industry for non-conforming individuals to be who they are while wearing what they want with pride. The married couple began Stuzo (a combination of their names) as a T-shirt company, but the brand has since expanded and now offers hoodies, joggers, and hats emblazoned with empowering phrases like “Black AF” and “Yup, Still Gay!” As Black female-owned business owners, Michelli and Ejikeme are dedicated to giving back and uplifting their communities, so Stuzo often participates in pop-up events that benefit underrepresented and underserved groups. Find Stuzo’s non-binary apparel and accessories on their website or visit their store-front at 4751 W. Washington Blvd., Mid-City.
Luxury menswear designer Kenneth Nicholson started his label in 2016 to redefine masculine cuts to fit a new era of gender-neutral dressing. Sending male-presenting models down the runway in turquoise crushed velvet suits paired with diamond drop earrings and long tweed tunic dresses, Nicholson’s aesthetic blends ’70s menswear tailoring with more flamboyant detailing. His joyful crochet doily-inspired dress shirts and androgynous pleated canvas tops have been sported by the likes of cool-guy musicians like Lil Nas X and Dev Hynes of Blood Orange. Production is currently on hold for Nicholson’s brand, but you can view his collection presentations on his website.
Trans-disciplinary artist and designer B. Anele creates one-of-a-kind custom looks for their independent label, 8 Palms. Anele hand paints, cuts, and dyes fabrics which are used to construct mind-bending pieces with unexpected silhouettes and atypical cuts. Anele’s creations are art works for the body meant to be worn and styled by anyone. The artist’s experimental looks are extremely popular and often sell out as soon as they are posted to Instagram. Don’t worry, though, the designer also sells a series of hand-printed T-shirt designs that are usually more readily available. Find 8 Palm’s inventive looks on their website or book an appointment at their design space through email or DM.
Comedian, artist, designer, and proud Houston-native Rinny Perkins is known for combining ’70s style fonts and images in digital collages that discuss all things intersectional feminism and self-care with a biting sense of wit. Perkins has turned some of her most popular prints into limited edition apparel and accessories which she sells in her online shop, Brownie Points for You. Perkins’s work literally spells out what she has to say on the topic of female sexuality from 18k gold-plated rings forming the words “Women Cum First” to typographic graphic tees that say “Queer & Black.” Find Perkins’s aesthetically pleasing, retro-inspired designs on her online shop.
Oneita Parker has been sewing costumes and styling film and TV characters for over 20 years. Now the seasoned designer has brought another set of characters to life with her own line of T-shirts and mugs featuring Parker’s “Afropanda” and “Proper Bunny” illustrations. Parker’s cotton graphic tees are both parts whimsical and comfy. The artist also sews double layer, non-medical grade face coverings that come in a variety of loud and colorful prints. Dubbed “Social Masks,” they’re a fun way to comply with social distancing measures. Find Parker’s quirky wares and accessories on her website.
Born in quarantine, Nilaja Cash’s jewelry line began as a relaxing hobby meant to soothe the designer to sleep. Cash finally decided to take her propensity for late night earring making and turn into a solid side hustle by opening up a shop on Etsy. The artist specializes in miniatures, like tiny bottles of wine, ramen packages, and bottles of shampoo. It’s hard to imagine anything more adorable than a pair of mini boba tea earrings complete with microsized straws. Find Cash’s hand-crafted statement jewelry in her Etsy shop.
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