WORDS ANNABEL DITCHFIELD
With Black History Month having drawn to a close, it is worth taking some time to reflect on influential black brands that deserve recognition for October and beyond it. Many of these brands have not only played a powerful role in shaping British fashion and beauty trends but have also helped to raise awareness about struggles facing the Black community both in Britain and elsewhere in the world.
The first black brand worth knowing about is Ozwald Boateng. Having dropped out of computing college to attend fashion school, the British-Ghanaian founder made his first collection using his mother’s sewing machine in the '80s. Having dressed the likes of Mick Jagger and Spike Lee by his early twenties, Boateng went on to open a store on London’s infamous Savile Row in 1995 when he was just twenty-eight. With a keen eye for style and design, Boateng has had a profound influence on British tailoring and menswear more generally. As his career took off and his influence rose around the world, Boateng went on to co-found The Made in Africa Foundation, an organisation aimed at reshaping African infrastructure and improving communities through government collaboration. His designs and expertise are now highly sought after. It is no wonder he is the winner of numerous accolades, including an OBE from the Queen.
This UK streetwear brand was set up by British-Nigerian Clint Ogbenna in 2017 from his bedroom in West London. He first sold a drop of just sixteen black hoodies with the now-famous logo of Alcatraz on the front. Today the brand has nearly one million followers on Instagram and the community feeling that surrounds it is certainly a large part of its popularity. Jorja Smith, Drake and Stormzy have all been seen showing their support by wearing the brand.
Another noteworthy black brand is Knit and Ting. This colourful knitwear company was founded by Taya Francis in 2019. Drawing on her upbringing in Nottingham and her Jamaican heritage, she uses her work to explore what it means to exist across two different continents, with traditional British knitwear pieces interwoven with elements of dancehall culture and colours from '70s Jamaica.
Founded by designer Grace Wales Bonner in 2014, this London-based clothing brand blurs boundaries of nationhood, employing traditional British tailoring with an aesthetic reminiscent of the African diaspora. Born to a Jamaican father and an English mother, her longstanding collaboration with Adidas makes use of retro browns and yellows and other dancehall hues, refreshing the classic tracksuit with a Jamaican twist.
Building on her Ghanian heritage, Emilia Boateng’s swimwear brand makes use of bold and colourful patterns inspired by African clothing traditions. Guided by a Ghanian team, the brand sells each swim set with waist beads as an ode to African tradition, symbolizing femininity and strength.
Hailed as one of the most inclusive black beauty brands on the market, Fenty Beauty is another black brand to know about. Launched by Rihanna after she felt there was a gap in the beauty market for products suiting a range of skin tones, Fenty Beauty began as a line of foundations available in fifty different shades. The brand has something to offer everyone no matter what their skin tone and has paved the way for further inclusive beauty brands to enter the market since.
Further helping to establish inclusive standards in the beauty industry, Telle-Moi was founded by Natel Allen in 2019 out of a frustration that nude nail varnish colours were only available in pale pink, suiting white skin types alone. Centred around the message ‘who said nude has to be pink?’, her brand offers a range of nude colour nail polishes and gels that cater to a diverse audience.
Last but not least, the Glowcery is another important black beauty brand to know. Working by day in a grocery store, Roshanne Dorsett was inspired to set up this vegan skincare brand after learning about the powerful impact fruit and veg could have on your skin and health more generally. Her brand has grown in popularity in recent years as many have come to discover the powerful health benefits her products can bring. With essential oils packed full
of superfoods and treatment options tailored to individual needs, this plant-based brand is definitely one to try.