African Americans have long been associated with influencing fashion and its trends. It’s also no secret that we are big consumers of style. According to Target Market News, African Americans spent $22.9 billion on clothing in 2002. What we don’t often hear about are the people behind the scenes — those who ignite, interpret, and cover the trends — all in a business that has never welcomed black creative talent with open arms. There are some trailblazers, however, who have weathered the fashion storm to become leaders in this transient industry.
Distinction: Style director for eBay.
History: White has worked as a fashion reporter, editor, and director for several leading publications including Elle, The New York Times, British Vogue, and Talk.
Pulse: “I relate to high fashion as well as accessible fashion. For the Web, you really have to grab people with information and articulate it in a timely manner.”
Fashion Changes: “The way people look at buying fashion, the way fashion information is delivered to the consumer has changed. eBay is the runway for the real world.”
Distinction: Designer of signature lines TR and the moderately priced Plenty, which is available at Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom’s, Saks Fifth Ave., and Macy’s West.
Milestones: With her creations featured in 300 stores globally including countries such as France, China, Germany, and Australia, Reese’s annual sales topped $12 million in 2003.
Advantage: “I am totally satisfied with where I am right now as a designer. I design a product that I believe in.”
Fashion Forward: Her Plenty Home line is debuting this fall, and she is pursuing an accessory and shoe license.
Distinction: Creative director of design, Perry Ellis Womenswear.
History: Assisted Patrick Kelly and Albert Nipon before becoming design director for Giorgio Armani in Milan. He was one of Vogue’s Top 100 Rising Stars in 1996.
Challenges: Received negative publicity after launching his own line in 1996 and was dismissed from Anne Klein after two seasons as design director.
Fashion Forward: Credited with reviving the Perry Ellis line with color and upbeat styles. “I knew I wanted mixed patterns with lots of detail. It’s evening and day all mixed together. People want fantastic, functional clothes.”
Distinction: U.S. director of retail at Valentino, managing boutiques in Las Vegas; Beverly Hills, California; Palm Beach, and Bal Harbor, Florida; and Honolulu.
History: Opened and managed the first Dolce & Gabbana boutique in the U.S., the flagship store in New York City, and two others in Bal Harbor, and Los Angeles.
Business Motto: “Stay hungry, because once you’re full, you’re satisfied.”
Ambassador Attitude: “If I am going to stand for a brand, we should be the ones to do our own PR. I tell my managers and sales people that the majority of business is done when the stores are closed. You can’t stay in the store waiting for people to come in, you’ve got to go out and bring the business.”
Distinction: The only black fashion designer with a free-standing exclusive boutique in New York’s prestigious Henri Bendel.
History: A ’70s icon for his signature bright knits with “lettuce” hemlines,