Mercedes Benz Fashion Week is in full swing in New York City, and amid the daring designs, people are noticing a distinct lack of color on the runways. Although many are aware of the lack of black and brown models walking the catwalk, behind the scenes black designers are also just as rare.

This year, only two African American designers, b. michael and Tracy Reese, are showcasing their looks on the runway, which have led many to wonder–where are the black designers?

One reason many African American designers are left of one of fashion’s most important events is cost.

“Well, fashion week is a multi-million dollar proposition,” Dr. Valerie Steele told theGrio. “[E]ven for a designer to put on a small show can cost a hundred thousand dollars. So you have an enormous investment on the part of designers.”

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By 2015, African-American buying power set to surpass $1 trillion dollars annually, so could people-power influence the runways?

Brandice Henderson, founder and CEO of Harlem’s Fashion Row, a non-profit organization that works to get more black designers on the runway, thinks so.

Henderson told theGrio: “If our community could just rally behind this, I believe it could change overnight. Who doesn’t want to wear what Rihanna is wearing? One thing is that the fashion industry is just super-competitive. Regardless of your race, it’s just a very competitive industry and in order to get in you have to have really great contacts and resources.”

What do you think? Can black consumers help more black designers make it to the big show? 

  • Jane

    yes. support black designers. simple.

  • gmarie

    yeah it really comes down to costs, these shows are a huge production. Even some of my favorite non-black designers didn’t show this week. but then just because they did not present a runway show doesnt mean they did not have a presentation event (which a lot of smaller fashion houses tend to do during nyfw)

    Another thing to note is the average retail prices of the designers you’ve mentioned…it does not really line up well with the income of a good number of people in our communities, a bulk of their sales are coming from the Anglo community to be honest. They are not mainstream designers. There are so many layers to this I could go on all day but I won’t lol. I’m glad clutch is profiling the 2 that did show however

  • Lieutenant Norals IV

    Interesting…. as a young Commercial photographer I believe it’s getting the work out there on a almost badgering the industry basis that will make them take notice of you. If you Some Designers who can use the Consistently fresh flavor my work has to offer, I can go for shooting great new designs. Blu of

  • apple

    cost may be one thing, but not always new designers pay for their own show.. some people who are picked out a crowd like Rodarte (they weren’t even designers they just hung outside of fashion week one day and people like their designs talk about luck!) and Thakoon (he may have won a contest? anyway anna wintour picked him personally) were funded…if they could be discovered by someone they could easily be a big name in fashion

    but the last full black person i remember in fashion that was true designers (not like diddy or kimora lee) is Willi Smith, but he died in the 80s

  • Whatever

    “By 2015, African-American buying power set to surpass $1 trillion dollars annually, so could people-power influence the runways?”

    The civil rights movement got a huge push once companies started to realize the buying power of the African-American community…

  • t olugbala

    we have the responsibility to support black artists period. black celebrities have a larger responsibility as well–being photographed in something by a black designer can really work to enhance the designer’s visibility. solange knowles wearing boxing kitten is a perfect example.

    instead of asking for a seat at the proverbial table, i think we should build our own runways. the remedy for exclusion is not to beg for inclusion, but to get off your knees.

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