Celebrating Black Excellence Through the Fashion Eyes of These Style Icons
Self-expression and fashion go hand in hand. The clothing we choose to put on each day serves a purpose, from practical to profound. An outfit can give the world a glimpse into who we are, what we’re feeling, and what we stand for. A crop top tells of our confidence. A matching sweatsuit can speak to a need for comfort. And a vibrantly printed dress might nod to a cultural celebration of color. It all just depends on the day and the desire.
Over the past year and a half, the call for diversity in every industry including fashion has been heard loud and clear and with that comes fresh voices bearing important stories. Black-owned brands and Black designers have deservedly taken the spotlight bringing something needed — new perspectives, new styles, new ways for fashion lovers to be their most authentic selves and tell some of their story. In that spirit, Macy’s invited five visionaries — Zerina Akers, Misa Hylton, Aminah Abdul Jillil, Allen Onyia, and Ouigi Theodore — to weave their experiences and aesthetic into bold capsule collections. Through their creations, each designer is giving people great-looking ways to get dressed and put some of their own swagger on display.
Zerina Akers, costume designer, stylist, and creator of Black Owned Everything, a directory of Black-owned businesses, had a fondness for fashion from a very early age. She’s always embraced the freedom to experiment, and her capsule collection encourages fashionistas to get on board. Her twisted basics, as she calls them, call to the classics but add a fresh kick. She’s even included jewelry in the mix, and everything’s meant to be mixed and matched, so wearers can create their own fashion-forward combinations. For instance, these days a straightforward suit may feel stiff. So pieces like the bandana printed blazer can be paired with matching pants for a polished yet cool take on office attire, or worn separately and dressed down with jeans and sneakers.
Spreading joy through fashion is paramount for Misa Hylton, who has been in the image business for 25 years envisioning the style of hip-hop and R&B superstars. Her mission is evident in the punchy prints, vibrant hues, and outfit-making
accessories in her collection that nods to her Asian and African-American heritage and her love of color. However people choose to incorporate her pieces (from a versatile and cozy kimono sweater to a date-night worthy ribbed maxi dress) into their wardrobe, she wants to bring excitement into getting dressed and help women take on the world — in standout style, of course.
The right accessories have the ability to transform an outfit into an ensemble. Former professional dancer, Aminah Abdul Jillil, is all about the uplifting power of a pump. She made the switch from dancing to designing shoes, launching her own brand in 2012 and choreographing her own way — she just went for it. Aminah’s current collection of embellished booties, pumps, and even flats aims to give women confidence boosting pep in their step. And this season she adds jewelry to her repertoire, spicing things up with striking necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.
Who says an elevated aesthetic can’t be accessible? Not Allen Onyia. The fashion creative and founder of the men’s fashion platform UpscaleHype brings wearable pieces with a point of view to his Macy’s capsule collection. He also infuses what he describes as the clean design vibe of his Houston upbringing. The result: Varsity jackets, sweatshirts, joggers, and cargo pants that enhance everyday dressing.
For Ouigi Theodore, founder of the popular store and brand Brooklyn Circus, the formula for great style is pretty simple: It’s all about staying true to yourself. In his collection, he combines his love of history, vintage, and storytelling to produce utilitarian shapes with a modern spin. His personal style has a casualness to it yet is intentional, a balance that’s about as easy to pull off as do-it-yourself beach waves. But he does it, with a flair that’s uniquely his own. And with his pieces, he invites everyone who wears them to do the same.
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