Tracy Reese, Stephen Burrows and Gavin Douglas are synonymous with the term fashion designers of color. They have paved the way for the generation of emerging designers, all while amassing international acclaim, catering to their A-list clientele and selling in the world’s greatest retailers. We revel in their success but we can’t help but wonder, who are they designing for?
Despite the murmurs of naysayers, there are plenty of women of color who love fashion. We understand the craft and the quality of a garment but just because we don’t have American Express black cards, that makes us the less desirable market.
When it comes to fashion for us, there are two extremes – luxury and mass marketed. Designers like the ones mentioned above have chosen the luxury route and their goods retail around $250. On the lower end, we have Apple Bottoms, House of Deréon and Baby Phat that cater to the more urban crowd.
Technically, I’m neither, so where does that leave me? Shopping in stores like Zara wishing that one day a designer of color will step up to the plate and design for me and my wallet. Please note, this is not to belittle the artistic expression of the designers, but I’m a working woman who does not want a glittered emblem on the butt of my pants or a credit card bill that haunts me for the rest of my life.
From my visualization, there’s no equilibrium in fashion and the woman of color in Middle America is forgotten. Houston, this is a huge problem.
Not only is my career progressing but I know that one day my clothing allowance will include a nice cushion for those $550 pair of Courtney Crawford heels. But I’ll hesitate. Not because I don’t support my fellow minority designers, but because those designers never took the opportunity to make their designs attainable for people like me.
I mean, what is really stopping designers from catering to the middle class? It’s not like they can lose.
We’re in the day and age where everyone is creating a diffusion line. Matthew Williamson, Karl Lagerfeld, Thakoon, Alexander McQueen have more than fashion empires in common, they’ve all managed to sell affordable designs at H&M and Target which broadened their customer base and their repertoire. And after all that, their business was not affected by offering something to us other folks.
Are the mass merchandisers reaching out to these designers or are they ignoring them? I truly do not understand because there is clearly a demand for affordable fashions so where is the supply?
Sure, Tracy Reese has two diffusion ready-to-wear collections but they are all in the same price point as her main collection. Rachel Roy, whose diffusion line for Macy’s debuts this fall, is on her third diffusion line, Rachel Rachel Roy, where her designs are available for under $300.
Are designers of color afraid to reach out to us for fear that once they go black, they can never go back?
Mr. and Ms. Designer Extraordinaire, keep this in mind as you gather inspiration for your next collection. Not catering to a woman with billions in buying power is only a disservice to your brand. We want to drape ourselves in your designs, but you won’t allow us to. Creating something for the working class woman of color can only help you reach the platform of success that you desire.
Have you seen the lines at H&M when those designers debut their collections? Can you imagine that being your designs? So what are you waiting for?