What Black-owned brands are doing during COVID19?

By Dami David

During the lockdown, I’ve been working from home, making hourly visits to my fridge and jumping on the many, many IGlives including @Hanifaofficial, who gave us socially distant debut of her new Pink Label Congo capsule collection using 3D models. Its founder, Anifa Mvuemba gave us taster of the role that technology will play in the future of fashion (click here if you missed it). As we move this week to reduced a lock-down, I wanted to highlight some of the positive ways in which Black-owned brands globally have responded to the COVID-19 crisis.

Making Masks

Masks have become a wardrobe necessity that the fashion community have been quick to embrace by responding to rising demand and limited supply of medical masks locally and internationally. With the Off White's mask being listed as one of the most searched items at the start of the lockdown, we have come understand that this trend is here to stay. Most designers have even started creating masks using the materials and prints used in their collections from @Deolasagoe, @Clan, @ariess_couture and @Ethnicbytundeowolabi in Lagos to @Samarialeah in LA and @Jiro in London (pictured below) moving face-wear rapidly from medically mundane to the fashionably chic.

I have even seen what I like to call “couture” masks - from brands like @Tubo, @Iconicinvanity and @Pitisgh for post lockdown celebrations or everyday swag if you're anything like Chioma Ikokwu of Goodhair (wearing her collection of masks from @Iconicinvanity) - I guess if we must protect ourselves, we might as well make it fashion.

Rethinking production

The lock-down has been opportunity for brands to renew their corporate mind about their current approaches to production and the environment, and head in a more sustainable direction. As big luxury brands including Saint Laurent and Gucci announce that they will no longer follow the fashion timetable to become more sustainable, @Kaicollective released a statement via their Instagram mentioning changes to production of their new dresses including not using print placement, which saves 40% of fabric that would otherwise be wasted. Their Gaia dress is trending by the way and is coveted by likes of celebrity influencers such @melissawardrobe. Whilst the brand admits that although they cannot make a claim to be sustainable brand as “the most sustainable thing to do is to stop making clothes” they have reconciled their aspiration to be more sustainable by educating themselves about sustainable practices and making such changes to their production. The reduction and the use of waste fabric are just small changes we can anticipate from many other brands. Across the pond, New York based @AuroraJames founder of @Brotherveilles rolled out a new subscription program, delivering hand-selected items from African artisans. The aim is to formalise an ecosystem of artisan suppliers from various countries in Africa which are so most vulnerable effects of the crisis.

Giving back to their communities

Whilst brands have been conscious of the need prevailing within their communities as of consequence of the lockdown caused by the pandemic, I've observed that many found ways to support. Lagos based brand @wflscrm have released a limited edition "Agege Bread Tee"; all profits from its sale will go the @lagosfoodbank, an amazing charity providing relief to most impacted communities. LA based @__39_7 collaborated with fellow LA based @sew_trill to design a t-shirt with the wording printed “More than ever, Now is the time to live for self” to raise funds to support creatives in US, currently affected by crisis facing tough times. Lagos based @Torlowei launched a project “The faces of the crisis” showcasing real people with real stories on their limited-edition face masks – the proceeds of which will be donated to communities in Nigeria producing masks for the less fortunate.

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