Belonging to the community of black-owned brands, we at KORLEKIE are feeling a strong sense of passion and pride towards the fellow black designers located or born in London. Now more than ever, communities of POF need to be placed under a brighter spotlight, allowing people across the world to have a chance to give their support. Therefore, we decided to be a part of this introduction and shine a light on some of the black designers who are either British or currently doing great work in London. This is the first part of a spotlight series focusing on amazing black designers born or based in London.
Martine Rose is a British menswear designer who established her eponymous label in 2007 and is currently living and working in London. Her company has evolved from a small shirting collection to an internationally known and acclaimed brand. Martine Rose’s collections are based on her commitment to modernity, yet stay always authentic to her own style, which has helped the brand to achieve global success. Rose’s style is inspired by her Jamaican-British heritage and a deep interest in the music and melting-pot cultures of London.
Grace Wales Bonner
Grace Wales Bonner launched her namesake brand in 2014, straight after her graduation from Central Saint Martins in London. Wales Bonner started as a menswear brand but expanded into womenswear soon after the launch. The brand describes itself as a hybrid of European and Afro-Atlantic approach, creating luxurious collections inspired by artistic theories, music, literature and history. Grace Wales Bonner has also distinguished with several prizes such as Emerging Menswear Designer at the British Fashion Awards (2016), LVMH Young Designer Prize (2016) and BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund (2019).
London-born Bianca Saunders graduated from The Royal College of Art in 2017, launching her fashion brand in the same year. The eponymous menswear label is inspired by her Black-Caribbean roots and the way of cutting capturing movement in clothes which is authentic to her. Bianca Saunders pushes at gender and re-thinks the construction of clothes to come up with fresh ideas in menswear. In 2018, The British Fashion Council chose Bianca Saunders as ‘One to Watch’ and ever since the brand has been a frequent participant in London Fashion Week’s menswear shows.
Mowalola Ogunlesi is a London-based designer who was born in Nigeria and graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2017. Her main inspiration source is Nigerian psychedelic rock and the designs aim to celebrate the black African male, highlighting his culture, sexuality and desires. Usually, Mowalola’s collections consist of pieces with a hint of sexuality, such as leather pants, skin-tight leather skirts, cutout tops, tall boots and cropped jackets. Her debut in London Fashion Week with the help of Fashion East in 2019 introduced her designs to the world, resulting in a job offer to design for Kanye West’s brand Jeezy.
Carly Cushnie, born in London, graduated from Parsons School of Design in both Paris and New York and interned in brands such as Donna Karan, Proenza Schouler and Oscar de la Renta. She launched her eponymous luxury women’s ready-to-wear and bridal label in 2008 with the aim to serve the modern woman. The collections of Cushnie are using clean, sculptural lines and precise tailoring to make the garments have the perfect fit on a woman’s figure. The designs are basing on a balanced sense of cosmopolitan minimalism and femininity. Among other distinguishments, Cushnie has won the Ecco Domani Award (2009) and been a finalist for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund (2011) and a nominee for the CFDA Swarovski Award (2012).
Duro Olowu is a Nigerian-born British fashion designer who entered the fashion industry in late the ’90s, ending up with the launch of a womenswear collection under his eponymous brand in 2005. Soon, an empire-waist multi print dress from that collection, called the ’Duro’, became an international hit covered by both British and American Vogue. The same year, Duro Olowu was recognized as the New Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards and in 2009 he was named the Best International Designer by the African Fashion Awards. Olowu’s designs are known for their combinations of patterns and textiles inspired by his own cultural background.