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Black-owned fashion labels to watch

By Barbara Russ

9 Aug 2021

Fashion

Image: Akuko

A whole year has passed since the murder of George Floyd. The police officer who knelt on George Floyd's neck for minutes, depriving him of air to breathe, has since been found guilty on all charges. Accountability - a glimmer of hope in the fight against police violence against Blacks and People of Colour in the USA. Nevertheless, as the daily reports of new cases of police violence show, there is still a long way to go - on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Black Lives Matter movement, which has been drawing attention to these and other injustices, has led to black people and POC finally receiving media attention for their various causes. One of them being equality in the fashion industry. For example, the 15 percent-Pledge calls for multibrand retailers to carry and order at least 15 percent (representative of the percentage of the Black population in the US) - of brands and labels owned by Black people and other people of colour. What about your shop? FashionUnited has gathered some black-owned labels you can order right now.

Ashes and Soil

Ashes and Soil (Germany)

The fashion label Ashes and Soil was founded in 2019 by Martina Offeh. Together with designer Musa Simone, she produces "cool pieces, with an even cooler background". With her fashion, the Hamburg-based designer with West African roots has made it her goal to draw attention to global and socio-political issues. Her current collection 'Introspection' tells stories of people who are exposed to stigmatisation due to their mental illnesses. The collection's jackets feature the stories of those affected, whom Martina Offeh visited in person, through QR codes that lead shoppers to testimonials on the homepage. "In the collection, we reflect the stories of eight people who are mentally ill and share their experiences of stigma and rejection. The collection is dedicated to these people," says the designer. "We believe that fashion has the ability to enrich our understanding and approach to storytelling. With each of our collections, it is our desire to capture stories of marginalised people and make unheard voices heard. In this way, we aim to create a new narrative that enables a shift in how we interact with each other as a society - first by looking into the world of those who are strangers to us."

Stockists: The Wearness, Not just a label

Target group: So far, mainly women, age 25-40, fashion-savvy, activist, travelled, metropolitan.

Core markets: So far DE as well as NL, UK, SWE.

Retail price points: Leather jackets 650-1150 euros, wool coats 450-900 euros, jackets 650 euros, T-shirts 49 euros , hoodies 60-75 euros, shirts 89 euros. More items to come this year.

Beautiful Struggles

Beautiful Struggles (Germany/US)

The label Beautiful Struggles stands for premium streetwear with the highest demand for quality. It was founded by Danny Williams in Germany in 2019 and combines the two worlds he grew up in: Europe and America.

Founder Danny Williams is considered a style icon among professional footballers. He grew up in Germany with an American father and a German mother and found his way into the professional football league. From Karlsruhe via Freiburg and Hoenheim, he went to England to FC Reading and Huddersfield and finally to the US national football team.

"Beautiful Struggles is about overcoming adversity and changing your outlook while facing different obstacles in life," says the designer. His parents' different backgrounds have presented him with sometimes adverse challenges, as he has had to deal with hostility and ill-will - especially in professional football. This made him train all the harder to prove himself. These moments showed him that in stumbling and in difficult moments there lies power. For motivation, for new and beautiful things that need to be discovered through a change of perspective - beautiful struggles, in other words.

The current collection, Drop 3, is inspired by Cape Town and the contrasting vibes of the city and the nature that surrounds it. Timeless pieces meet modern, cool and sporty statement pieces.

Stockists: Beautiful Struggles is currently only available in the online shop.

Target group: Unisex, age 20-45, trend-oriented and quality-conscious.

Retail price points: Shirts around 260 euros, trousers around 300 euros, hoodies around 300 euros, overshirts 300 - 500 euros

Akuko, Yussuf Ahmad

Akuko (Nigeria/ Sweden)

Akuko was founded by Arinze Emegoakor in 2019. With “roots in Nigeria and feet in Sweden”, Akụkọ is a colourful and sustainable (sock) brand that tells African stories through fashion. Translated, Akụkọ means "story" in the Igbo language: every product comes with a story, and these stories help to enlighten and change stereotypical and negative narratives about the African continent and people of African descent worldwide.

In addition to its colourful, boldly patterned socks, the label is currently working on expanding their product range. Plans include an underwear collection for all genders. Akuko offers high quality products that are unique, trendy and also conversation starters. They are sustainably made from the finest bamboo fabrics.

Target group: Gen Z and Millenials who consciously choose where they spend their money. Or simply everyone who stands for equality. The socks are available for adults and children, the underwear for adults and teenagers.

Retail price points: A pair of socks costs 10 euros.

Sales agency in Germany: APYA productions, contact: Beatrace Oola

Iamisigo

IAMISIGO (Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana)

Bubu Ogisi founded the Iamisigo wearable art brand based between Lagos, Nairobi and Accra. Her label has been worn by supermodel Naomi Campbell and a number of other celebrities, and focuses primarily on how fashion and textiles can not only keep history alive, but also pass on information for the future by preserving artisanal techniques through matter. In doing so, she uses the ultimate canvas - the human body - for clothing as a means of communication.

"We create wearable artworks using unconventional materials and ancestral textile traditions through in-depth research with remote African communities in different parts of the African continent," says the artist, whose works have been exhibited at the Brighton Museum, the Troppen Museum in Amsterdam and the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Berlin, among others.

The idea behind the label is to "remove the construct of borders and merge different ideas". She sees herself as an "agent of change", and the fashion as a form of silent protest against post-colonialism and neo-colonialism. The label is 100 per cent handmade and focuses on age-old techniques while incorporating unconventional fibers and upcycling techniques.

Stockists: Showrooms in Lagos, Nigeria and Nairobi, Kenya. Available at Afrodor in Zurich, Noborders Shop Mumbai and Paris, Atelier Meraki in Paris, Studio 189 in New York.

Retail price points: T-shirts around 150 euros, hand-woven trousers around 400 euros, dresses around 800 euros

Images: Akuko, Ashes and Soil, Iamisigo - AW21 White Gold, Beautiful Struggles

This article was previously published on FashionUnited.de. Translation and editing: Barbara Russ.