Juneteenth could not be coming at a more fitting time.
The June 19 holiday commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. But 155 years after the news of their emancipation, the nation is still struggling with issues of systemic racism and injustice. In response to the unjust murder of George Floyd and the police brutality in the US, the Black Lives Matter protests happening across the world have sparked a necessary global conversation about racism.
So how can we help support the movement through fashion?
We need to celebrate black culture and hold big name fashion companies accountable. Many large companies vocally support minorities but practice policies that keep systems of injustice intact. When you choose a Black-owned business over problematic companies, you are voting with your wallet by divesting from these kinds of practices and hold companies accountable.
I have compiled a list that features just some of the many black-owned sustainable fashion brands that you should support not just today but always!
Sustainable textile designer based in Cape Town, Sindiso Khumalo founded her label with a focus on creating modern sustainable textiles with a strong emphasis on African story telling. She designs the textiles in her collections by hand through watercolours and collage.
Over the years she has developed a uniquely colourful visual voice, which draws upon her Zulu and Ndebele heritage, and also speaks to the land of Kwazulu Natal, where she is from. Sustainability, craft and empowerment lie at the heart of the label. She works very closely with a NGOs in developing handmade textiles for her collections.
Founded by LA-based designer Sami Miro in 2016, Sami Miro Vintage is an eco-conscious clothing line that specialises in sourcing and reconstructing one-of-a-kind vintage garments curated from around the world. Pushing eco-conscious boundaries is the foundation of Sami Miro Vintage.
Launched in 2018, by designer Damie Idowu, all clothes are locally made by seamstresses and artisans in Lagos, Nigeria, where the brand is based. Míe is a lifestyle brand that provides design and fashion consciously made to be nature-friendly. Their focus is on resort wear, made with natural and biodegradable fabrics.
Handbag brand AAKS was founded by Ghanaian-born Akosua Afriyie-Kumi. The colourful handcrafted bags are mainly made from woven raffa that is ecologically harvested by farmers in Ghana and are produced by local artisans. These bags are not only unique but also an important reminder to the craftsmanship of the African fashion industry.
Founded in 2013 by designer Aurora James, with the goal of keeping traditional African design, practices and techniques alive while also creating and sustaining artisanal jobs. Brother Vellies is committed to honoring the people who make their products and the places where they are made. Products are handcrafted sustainably with artisans spanning from Nairobi to New York. They strive to lessen the impact of their production practices by continuing to ask questions and make changes each season.
Designer Aurora James has also called on major retailers to pledge 15% of their shelf space to black-owned businesses, stating that many retailers thrive from black consumer spending and that's the least they can do. Sign the petition here.
Founded in 2013 by Brooklyn-based designer Chelsea Bravo. Fabrics are chosen and used mindfully in her collections and each garment is crafted using materials that are plan derived and that will naturally decompose without much harmful impact to the earth at the end of its use.
Launched in 2016 by designer Sarah Diouf and based in Dakar, Senegal, Tongoro is a 100% made in Africa clothing label that offers quality and variety at affordable prices. By sourcing their materials on the continent and working with local tailors, their long-term goal is to create a new dynamic for Africa-based manufacturing, and foster the economic and social development of artisanal workers in Western Africa.
Supermodel Liya Kebede was inspired to launch the brand following a trip to her native Ethiopia where she met a group of traditional weavers who no longer had a market for their craft. Lemlem is committed to elevating artisanship and expanding production and jobs across Africa. The core collection is handwoven from natural cotton in Ethiopia.