Jackie Kennedy's 1968 wedding gown, designed by iconic Black Fashion designer Ann Lowe /Courtesy of blackbrides.com
Jackie Kennedy's 1968 wedding gown, designed by iconic Black Fashion designer Ann Lowe /Courtesy of blackbrides.com

Little-known fact: The beautiful wedding gown worn by John. F. Kennedy’s wife, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, in 1968 was created by Ann Lowe — the first noted black American fashion designer.

In tribute to prolific but unsung black fashion designers, New York City’s prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology will host a new exhibition titled “Black Fashion Designers,” which aims to shed light on contributions such as Lowe’s

The exhibition, which will span from the early 1950s to the present, will showcase more than 75 fashions by more than 60 Black designers, marking this auspicious event as the first major exhibition in many years to highlight the global history and impact of black fashion designers.

The showcase will begin with the theme, “Breaking Into the Industry,” examining black designers working in New York, specifically Arthur McGee and Wesley Tann, who challenged discrimination in the fashion industry with their innovative styles during the 1950s and 1960s.

As high fashion has always been duplicated and inspired by African cultures, the FIT showcase will also include an “African Influence”-themed section, illustrating the significant impact of African and diasporic designers on fashion.

Throughout the exhibition, attendees will also be given the opportunity to experience multimedia commentary from great curators and fashion legends, including Joe and Charlie Casely-Hayford, Eric Gaskins, Carl Jones and TJ Walker of Cross Colours, Andre Walker, model Veronica Webb and André Leon Talley, former American editor-at-large for Vogue magazine.

The exhibit will also display a short film, developed exclusively for the exhibition, which addressing topics of ongoing diversity within fashion. Talley will lead a discussion with designers Tracy Reese and Mimi Plange on their personal experiences as black fashion professionals and on the role of diversity in fashion.

Other exemplary designers and pieces expected to be on display include Laura Smalls’s red-and-white floral print dress, worn by first lady Michelle Obama during her “Carpool Karaoke” session with James Corden and Missy Elliot, and Andrew Ramroop, who became the first black tailor on Savile Row, a street in central London widely known for its traditional bespoke tailoring for men.

The exhibition will include six additional African Diasporic themes and is expected to run from Dec. 6 through May 16, 2017.

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Lauren M. Poteat

Lauren Poteat is a versatile writer with a strong background in communications and media experience with an additional background in education and development.

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