The Most Patriotic Thing You Can Do This July 4th Is Buy from These Black Designers
As July Fourth 2020 approaches, it’s just not the mood to grab a $5 flag-printed T-shirt.
Americans are wondering how, exactly, they are supposed to celebrate and take pride in a country when Black Americans are still fighting for the right to exist safely in public spaces and vote. It will also be hard to forget that America is Number One, but in the most gruesome statistic of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths, which have disproportionately affected Black Americans.
Meanwhile, before you snag that discount red-and-white striped bikini, it might give you pause to know that the garment workers in developing countries from Haiti to Bangladesh who produce much of our patriotic garb are running out of food, as large companies — including the one that produces Kylie and Kendall Jenner’s brand — refuse to pay for their orders.
Instead of going for a cheap, surface-level hit of sartorial patriotism, you can instead invest in the American project of equality, equity, and freedom for all. Buying from Black-owned brands that produce ethically in the U.S.A. keeps your money circulating between our two shining seas. And there are plenty to choose from.
For the conscious fashion consumer, the Autumn Adeigbo brand has so much going for it that it’s hard to know where to start. For one, it’s all sewn in New York City in female-owned production facilities, with beading done in Rwanda and India by female artisans who are paid fair wages. Because the pieces are all made-to-order, the brand can fulfill customization requests, like making a dress sleeveless or creating in plus sizes.
Oh, and it’s proudly Black-owned and run. Its namesake, a Nigerian-American former celebrity stylist, has worked with a whole slew of talent in her assisting days, including Jennifer Lopez, Gwen Stefani, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Salma Hayek Pinault, and Christina Aguilera. Since the line launched in 2009, Adeigbo’s designs have been worn by Solange Knowles and Ashleigh Cummings, among others who know how to stand out in a brightly colored party look.
"I’m in your face with bold color because I like to visually arrest people when they see the product,” Adeigbo says. “From the people who design it, the people who make it, to the people who wear it on the street, I want it to be joyful."
The past few weeks of support for Black-owned businesses has been meaningful for Adeigbo. “It’s definitely been interesting and insightful,” she says of the surge of attention on racism in the fashion industry. “I learned that one of my distribution networks has racist policies in their store, so I ended that relationship,” she says. Additionally, several top-tier online retailers have reached out about selling her product, and she has been hearing from investors, finally, after struggling to meet her fundraising goals since 2015. The co-founder and CEO of Rent the Runway reached out about deepening their partnership.
When I ask her if her pieces, especially ones with African prints, are also for non-Black women to wear, she says, “My answer is yes, as long as you’re aligning with the brand, and you’re not buying from a brand that is stealing the aesthetic and not giving back to the people. You gotta do your research and make sure you’re a responsible consumer.”
She continues, “I wanted to have that diversity and inclusion in the brand, not just people we market to but also how it’s sourced. My goal is to connect women across cultures.”
Now more than ever, patriotic shopping in America means taking the extra time to look at the people behind the products — who makes them, and who benefits from their sale. As we celebrate July Fourth and dig deep to remember the meaning behind this holiday, we should be striving more than ever to achieve the vision embodied in the Declaration of Independence: that we are a land where everyone, regardless of their skin color, ethnicity, or where they come from, deserves a shot at the American Dream.
We have a lot of catching up to do on that front. So this weekend, honor the right of Black Americans to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, and chip in by shopping these Black-owned fashion brands who produce in the U.S.A.
Co-founders Ashley Cimone and Moya Annece design unisex travel accessories, like luxurious hip bags and artwork celebrating different cultural perspectives. Worn by Beyoncé herself, among other celebs, ASHYA’s leather accessories are manufactured and assembled in New York City, with custom hardware made by a boutique metalsmith also in New York. They minimize waste by sourcing materials responsibly, upcyling scraps, and producing in small batches.The idea for the brand was sparked by a trip to the southwest corner of India, and the duo is very deliberate about working with people of color and women.
Jade Swim (also shown at top) is a sustainable swimwear line by fashion editor and stylist Brittany Kozerski, who combines her minimalist aesthetic with innovative silhouettes and unique design details using ECONYL recycled nylon fabric. The sleek designs have won Jade Swim love from Gwyneth Paltrow, Chrissy Teigen, Kaia Gerber, and Molly Sims.
This lifestyle brand was founded by a mother-daughter duo, Rebecca Henry and Akua Shabaka, who in 2013 were frustrated by the lack of fashion that resonated with their interest in the aesthetics of the African continent and diaspora. They started upcycling vintage fashion into fresh statement pieces. Their singular vision wowed their family and friends so much that they founded House of Aama in 2014. Now their regal and romantic pieces, which reference the Postbellum era in Louisiana, when formerly enslaved Black people started to make their new lives of freedom, are made to order in Los Angeles.
This Black-Latina designer combined her environmental science degree with her creative side to launch a fine jewelry line. Her vibrant collections are made in Seattle with recycled gold and non-traditional stones like salt-and-pepper or rose-cut diamonds. All her diamonds are conflict-free – either recycled or responsibly mined in Canada – and she also offers some serious sparkle with the diamond alternative Moissanite.
Designer Gwanyan Barker founded Kpelle to celebrate her Liberian lineage and culture. She makes all of her gold and silver African continent charms, Egyptian goddess necklaces, and cowrie shell hair and ear jewelry in her Delaware studio. Her mission is to "create jewelry for women to feel inspired and empowered, and educated on the power of embellishing themselves in culture."
This Trinidadian-Grenadian-American-British designer founded her eponymous menswear label in 2013 with the goal of "recreating the experience of viewing art in a museum or gallery through garments.” She eventually moved to Brooklyn and transitioned into more gender-neutral styles, but kept the fusion of artistic, free-hand patterns and simple, contemporary silhouettes that are made-to-order in-house using natural materials.
As seen on influencers like Hannah Bronfman, Jill Marie Jones and Crystal Dunn, plus actress and singer Chaley Rose, the ‘90s-influenced, LA-based sustainable swimwear line Arrow + Phoenix focuses on diversity and size inclusivity with bra cups ranging from A to H. All their sexy and supportive designs are made in the U.S. of ECONYL, an Italian fabric made from recycled fishing nets.
This Brooklyn-based designer travels the world to explore artisanal cultural practices that inspire her own handmade jewelry and macrame tops in earth tones using plant dyes like hibiscus, turmeric, and walnut husks. She minimizes waste by creating her clothing out of deadstock fabrics and vintage trimmings, using biodegradable garment labels, and upcycling fabric scraps into accessories like scrunchies and jewelry bags.
Speech therapist by day and a womenswear designer by night, Aliya Wanek works with a production sewer and other local makers in the San Francisco Bay Area to produce and dye her comfortable garments with rich colors… that is, if she’s not doing it herself. She’s always considering ways to reduce the brand’s environmental impact, with designs that evoke influences ranging from Japan (the wabi sabi jacket and tie-front pants) to slow living in the South, with the “Jorja” dress.
Founded by climate scientist Gina Stovall, this brand uses deadstock material that would otherwise be wasted, with an emphasis on comfortable and biodegradable textiles like linen, cotton, wool, and ethical silks. Everything is made-to-order in limited runs, and the classic designs are sure to become your most-loved everyday pieces. You can even be sure that your order will arrive free of plastic in biodegradable and recyclable packaging.
Gracemade was created in 2016 by Jasmine Rennie as a means for women to express their personal style while honoring their faith. The pieces are made in Los Angeles in small batches from deadstock material – leftover fabrics that otherwise might go to the landfill – and natural materials. The packaging is made from recycled materials, and a portion of the proceeds from each purchase are donated to Life Impact International, which rescues victims of child trafficking.