7 Black-Led Brands You Need To Know
Black Lives Matter is arguably the largest movement in the U.S. since the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. And as many supporters look for ways to show support—along with protests and donations—many consumers are seeking out BIPOC–run and owned brands to incorporate into their daily lifestyles.
With its roots in hip-hop culture, streetwear fans are probably already sporting several Black-led brands, intentionally or not. But if you’re looking to rep even more, we’ve rounded up the seven most influential Black-owned and run brands in Complex SHOP. Read on to learn how they’ve been shaping the game since day one.
Fear Of God
Fear of God designer and founder Jerry Lorenzo was relatively unknown in the world of streetwear when he founded his luxury label in 2012. Lorenzo gained notoriety designing both tour merchandise and five custom looks for Justin Bieber to wear during his “Purpose World Tour” in 2016.
The designer has always mixed activism into his brand messaging. “All that we do for Fear of God is fueled by a generational love,” he wrote on Instagram. After the death of George Floyd, Lorenzo teamed up with eight other streetwear brands to design a T-shirt in support of Floyd’s daughter, Gianna. “We can never become for her what was lost, but we can help fill a small hole in her life by providing one thing she may not have to worry about,” he said of the collaboration. “George, you ‘changed the world’ and your life is an example your daughter will forever look up to and be changed by.”
Parsons grad Heron Preston worked his way up in fashion, hustling with gigs like shipping fashion week invites for Yeezy. But since founding his eponymous label in 2017, Preston has been able to call the shots and focus his brand on the causes that drive him. Saving the environment is one of them, and in 2019, HP unveiled a pilot program to explore alternatives for plastic polybags.
Now, Preston is looking at sustainable change to drive the industry in the right direction. “In our work environment, we need more diversity and inclusivity. In our marketing, we need more consideration about what messages we are promoting and who we are enlisting to promote those messages. In our giving back programs, we need to be more selective and involved. And we need consistency in all of this,” he told Footwear News. “Let’s not make this a performative marketing exercise. Let’s really do the work. Then we will see and feel change.”
Family and community have been at the heart of London designer Martine Rose’s eponymous label since 2007. Rose is inspired by her Jamaican-British heritage and the melting-pot cultures of London. Her famous shows have been held everywhere from the covered markets of Tottenham, a neighborhood cul-de-sac in Camden and Tottenham, and even her daughter’s primary school.
“Kids, young people, education are our future and we should invest in them,” she told Vogue about the show, adding, “The inspirations are always the same. It’s always about outsiders.”
Don C gained notoriety working as Kanye West’s road manager and D.J., and in 2011, he founded Just Don. His luxury sportswear label is known for reinventing classic NBA shorts, jerseys, and python leather snapbacks.
Of course, Don C continues to influence the industry from all angles. He worked as G.O.O.D. Music’s label manager and continues to co-own Chicago’s RSVP Gallery. In June, Just Don joined Fear of God and other influential streetwear labels to design a T-shirt in benefit of Gianna Floyd.
Off-White designer Virgil Abloh is arguably the most influential name in streetwear. A trained architect, Abloh entered the world of fashion by interning at Fendi in 2009 alongside Kanye West. His relationship with West helped propel Abloh to found his first brand, Pyrex Vision in 2012. Pyrex Vision aimed to represent youth culture, and Abloh followed with Off-White in 2013. Two years ago, he also became the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection.
Abloh is the first African American to lead a French luxury fashion house, and he was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time magazine in 2018. When he was criticized for his initial responses to Black Lives Matter protests and looting, Abloh responded with a statement on Instagram: “As a black person I have felt anger, sadness and pain every time one of us is held victim of prejudice or systemic racism. I am proud to stand in solidarity with every movement to eradicate racism and police violence. Racism has to stop. It is literally killing us.”
Off-White is also one of the eight designers that collaborated with Fear of God to release a T-shirt to benefit the Gianna Floyd Fund.
Billionaire Boys Club
Billionaire Boys Club is the brainchild of Pharrell Williams and Japanese designer and A Bathing Ape creator NIGO. The duo teamed up with Japanese graphic designer Sk8thing to create the brand, unveiled in Pharrell’s 2003 “Frontin” music video. The brand’s signature all-over prints blend streetwear with luxury, featuring graphics like beepers, dollar signs, and diamonds.
In June, BBC responded to the death of George Floyd by collaborating with The Hundreds to release a special Black Lives Matter T-shirt to benefit BLM and The Black Mental Health Alliance. “It took traveling around the world and seeing what people go through to open my eyes and humble me and recognize how blessed I am,” Williams said in an interview.” “Aside from achieving, my biggest responsibility is to hold open the door and show the way for my own people...and to explain to those who have the power over these doors why they need to open their doors or not have them at all.”
Trenton, New Jersey, native Anwar Carrots founded his streetwear brand, Peas & Carrots International, in 2007. In 2015, the always-evolving company launched “Carrots by Anwar Carrots,” the designer’s eponymous menswear label. Common themes? Carrots is known for a dynamic approach to aesthetics in both his personal style and creative output.
The designer has also positioned himself as an entrepreneurial leader for the next generation of Los Angeles creatives and street culture icons. In June, Carrots collaborated with Cherry Los Angeles, Wasted Youth, Shabbaaaaa Sound System, and Uncle Paulie’s Deli for a Black Lives Matter charity T-shirt. Proceeds from sales benefitted the United Negro College Fund and BLM’s Los Angeles chapter.