New York Fashion Week kicked off with one of the week’s most powerful diversity statements when Harlem Fashion Row took over a neighborhood block for a joyous “Renaissance Forever” celebration honoring longtime Black creatives and rising stars.
There, collections from emerging Black designers, including Johnathan Hayden, Harbison Studio, June79NYC and Tier, were revealed while fashion insiders and area residents looked on, setting the tone for what was to come during NYFW.
While the return of an in-person NYFW and COVID-19 safety measures were certainly topics in and of itself, increased visibility of underrepresented communities couldn’t be ignored.
This season, Black, Asian, and more designers of color were given a spotlight to show product and their spring ’22 collections. A major helping hand in this came from the Black in Fashion Council, which featured 13 Black talents in its discovery showroom at Spring Studios — NYFW’s show headquarters. “We’ve seen so much support,” said featured designer Amina Means of Nalebe. “I didn’t come to make a sale. I came for real time feedback and to have the opportunity for people to experience my brand.”
Outside of the designers, models of all sizes, age, gender and color were seen walking in top shows, including model of the week Paloma Elsesser, who walked in Brandon Maxewell, Michael Kors, Khaite, Gabriela Hearst and Maryam Nassirzadeh.
And there were plenty of new faces. Black and plus-size model Precious Lee certainly made her mark, having been cast for Christian Siriano, Moschino, Michael Kors and Prabal Gurung fashion shows last week. Her presence is setting a new precedent for the fashion industry when it comes to a change in representation.
“I’ve worked very hard to be in the position to transform imagery and the way imagery is passed down,” she said onstage last week to accept the Breakthrough Model of the Year honor at the Daily Front Row Fashion Media Awards. “To be able to breakthrough, I think of resilience, but this award gives the opportunity for people to just be themselves and show up. Being an African American woman and forging ahead in this industry, representing women — I will never take for granted.”
Models with disabilities were also seen on the runway this season, with Jeremy Scott tapping Black trans model Aaron Rose Philip for her runway debut during the Moschino show.
“I hope this is the start of more and inspires and empowers more global brands at the same level to truly work towards including and normalizing disabled presences and talents in their showcases,” Philip posted on Instagram following the show. “Disabled people, models and talents matter so much and we can do so much as long as the steps are taken to accommodate us properly. Black trans girls and women matter and are beautiful.”
Here, a look at more names to learn from NYFW’s diversity push:
Shoe designer Jessica Rich was featured in the Black in Fashion Council showroom. For spring ’22, she offers a range of colorful high heels seen in bright orange, green and pink with PVC and strappy details. While Rich opened her own store at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles in November 2020, the designer is also available at Nordstrom.
Vietnamese designer Peter Do launched his namesake label in 2018 after designing under Phoebe Philo and Derek Lam. Last week, he made his NYFW debut with a runway show in Brooklyn. For spring ’22, he presented a collection filled with clean lines, sleek tailoring and architectural construction, with a range of footwear featuring leather boots and heels with a clear, block heel.
Edvin Thompson, Jamaican-born designer behind Theophilio, presented his spring ’22 collection at NYFW, which was titled “Air Jamaica,” and was inspired Thompson’s first airline experience when immigrating to America in 2002. This week, he has been nominated for CFDA’s Emerging Talent of the Year.
Though he is not a newcomer, luxury women’s ready-to-wear designer Sergio Hudson made a statement at NYFW with his see-now-buy-now fall ’21 line. Hudson’s name came to the mainstream when he dressed Vice President Kamala Harris and Michelle Obama for the presidential inauguration in January. For the runway show, Hudson presented power suiting and body-conscious dresses, paired with matching knee boots and ankle wrap pumps made in collaboration with Brother Vellies.
LaQuan Smith launched his first collection at New York Fashion Week in 2010 and he is still making a splash. For his spring collection, the Queens-native honored New York with a show at New York’s iconic Empire State Building. In 2022, Smith will be unveiling a collection with Puma.
Haitian-American designer and Queens-native Victor Glemaud showed his colorful spring ’22 collection at Moynihan Train Hall in New York last week. Glemaud used the moment to collaborate with Haitian designer Pascale Theard on sandals for the show.
For spring ’22, Nalebe designer Amina Means went back to her Nigerian Roots and was inspired by her country’s harvest season with the collection, titled “Eureka.” Styles include embellished mules, neon pink and orange PVC heels, and mesh sandals. “It’s about the relationship of planting a seed and the joy of harvesting it,” she said.