Black fashion designers to take the spotlight in New York exhibition

New York's Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) is about to shine the spotlight on the role that designers of African descent have had throughout the course of fashion history in an upcoming exhibition.

"Black Fashion Designers" will focus on some of the most influential designers in the business, from the 1950s onwards, when it debuts this December.

The exhibition is being split into eight different themes, namely: "Breaking into the industry," "The rise of the black designer," "Black models," "Evening Wear," "‘African Influence," "Street influence," "Activism," "Menswear" and "Experimentation." Approximately 75 creations from more than 60 designers will be on show.

According to the museum, the exhibition highlights span several decades, ranging from a wedding gown by Ann Lowe, who is famous for designing Jacqueline Kennedy's wedding dress, to the Laura Smalls floral print dress worn by current FLOTUS Michelle Obama when she sang with Missy Elliot on James Corden's "Carpool Karaoke" TV segment.

Sportswear-inspired ensembles by Willi Smith, '70s disco-themed pieces such as gold pajamas by Stephen Burrows and a dress from the 2008 Vogue cover star Liya Kebede's label Lemlem also feature in the exhibition. Evening gowns by Bruce Oldfield and Patrick Kelly, beanies, motorcycle boots and cargo pants from Public School's Fall 2016 collection by Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow and a recycled-plastic G-Star Raw T-shirt from activist, singer and designer Pharrell Williams are, additionally, sure to grab attention. From suits by Andrew Ramroop, the first black tailor on Savile Row, to a tailored white creation by Grace Wales Bonner, the young winner of this year's prestigious LVMH prize, the exhibition will honor the myriad ways black influence has shaped the fashion industry over the past 60 years. A short film examining diversity within fashion will also be on display.

The exhibition is timely, given that the fashion industry's attitudes towards diversity and equality remain a contentious subject even today. In September, days before New York Fashion Week, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) issued a letter to model agencies reminding them to "encourage the industry to be inclusive of racial diversity when preparing casting of models for their company needs." Equality on the runway has become an increasingly high-profile debate since the Spring 2016 season in New York, when artist and designer Ashley B. Chew sparked the Black Models Matter movement by painting the slogan on her handbag.

Black Fashion Designers will run at FIT from December 6 - May 16, 2017.

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