With the rise in recognition of Black beauty in fashion — from the celebration of naturally textured tresses to melanated models fronting campaigns and runways, it only seems natural to extend the celebration to more of the Black creatives behind the scenes are who are making fashion werk. These are the designers, the stylists, the photographers, the accessory designers, and the influencers who continue to shine a spotlight on them.
And, we saw all of that at ESSENCE’s inaugural Best In Black Fashion Awards on Wednesday (Sept. 4). The invite-only affair debuted ahead of New York Fashion Week to celebrate the best of the best from around the world.
“Black people are dope,” ESSENCE Fashion Director Marielle Bobo told Hype Hair. “Everyone else takes our styles, our trends, what we make hot and say they made it. We felt it was important to just reclaim that power. We are the creators and shapers of style and there’s really not a space that celebrates us and allows us to be ourselves and be celebrated among each other.”
The nominees included a mix of well-known faces, such as Beyoncé’s stylist Zerina Akers who took home Stylist of The Year award and emerging faces such as South African designer Rich Mnsi, who took home Emerging Designer of The Year award.
“I am just happy to be in this room,” Rich told us. “We have been overlooked for years and I am glad to be in a space where we’re recognizing ourselves. We are literally the main innovators in the world and everyone else follows.”
The awardees included Aminah Abdul Jillil, Accessory Designer of the Year, Itaysha Jordan, Photographer of the Year; Fe Noel, Designer of the Year and Fashion Icon Pat Cleveland. Pose actor Billy Porter and actress Zendaya were also announced as special honorees Trailblazer and Influencer, respectively.
Hosted by entertainment personality Bevy Smith, presenters focused on not just celebrating the evening’s honorees but pushing the needle on ownership and creating platforms for sustainability, monetization, and community connections.
“Making connections is such a wonderful part of what each of us has a privilege and obligation to do,” said Laysha Ward, EVP & Chief External Engagement Officer for Target, which sponsored the event. “So if you have a seat at the table don’t waste it. if you don’t know how to use it, ask for help and if you don’t feel comfortable doing it then give up your seat. We have made some progress but we have so much more work that is to be done.”