Once dominated by fair skin, fashion is an industry that is growing into a multicultural world embracing all nationalities, (although it may seem like a slow embrace). African American designers are among those moving toward the front of the fashion equality line.
These designers have proven they have what it takes to rise against the odds, and stand firm in a world driven by glamor, luxury, beauty and crossover appeal to the contemporary market.
Additionally, African American designers are no longer being labeled "urban" as a result of their race but are becoming increasingly recognized for the quality of their work.
Tracey Reese, Plenty by Tracey Reese and Frock.
A graduate of Parsons School of Design in Manhattan, Detroit native Tracey Reese has created one of the best known contemporary feminine chic women's wear lines. Combining classic cuts with floral and girly patterns, this brand has reigned supreme since its introduction.
In the spring of 1998, Reese introduced the world to her dream-turned-reality, an ultra feminine brand combined with vibrant colors and cuts designed for women. Now a name synonymous with style and grace, Tracey Reese has captured the hearts and closets of fashion icons, from the likes of Sanaa Lathan and Jennifer Lopez all the way to the ultimate fashionista of our day--Michelle Obama.
Reese recalls that in her early 20s, the business was not always glamorous, because she would rent old vans and drive from to store to store making sure her product was delivered. She learned the ins and outs of how to obtain and maintain distribution by apprenticing and interning with some of the major designers.
However, in 2007 the fruits of her labor got her inducted as a board member to the Council of Fashion Designers Association, and this honor gave her more name and brand recognition.
Additionally, she opened her flagship boutique, in Manhattan, New York, which gave the designer a solid foundation from which to operate.
But all of this was just a portion of what set her apart. It is also Reese's eye for detail and extensive knowledge of color and fabric that allows her line to be consistent and timeless season after season. The girly silhouettes, bright colors and intricate patterns are the foundation and have grown to be exactly what her customers want.
Over the years, in addition to her signature collection, Reese also developed Plenty by Tracey Reese and Frock, all of which have expanded into mulitifaceted collections that include footwear, items for the home, and even candles. This has widened her mass-market appeal and pegged her as a designer prepared to stay in the fray.
"Many of my customers are surprised that I am African American," Reese commented, and when asked if she still gets labeled as an urban brand she responded, "Yes, but it's OK. At the end of the day, my customer is all types of women. At the end of the day, I am a designer who is Black, (but) I want to reach all types of women." One news source described Reese as a woman who designs for many different types of women with her average customer being a working woman in her 30s.