2/21/21   Black History Month

2/21/21 Black History Month

LISA MCFADDEN

Although the last known chapter of NAFAD has been inactive since 2013, its reason for being is sadly still relevant today.  During the last century, luxury and quality were not words equated with Black folks except within our own communities where strivers made it a point to always put their best foot and hat forward.  Access to opportunities in fashion’s upper echelons has long hindered coveted artisans working in back rooms to progress in the industry, particularly in the luxury market.  That lack of access became a self-defined opportunity and on April 22, 1949, the New York chapter of the National Association of Black Fashion and Accessories Designers was organized.  Jeanetta Welch Brown partnered with Black women’s and social justice advocate Mary McCleod Bethune-Cookman to established the New York chapter of NAFAD with Brown as National President.  Across the US, Black designers were already creating individual buzz around their own work.  Now, as a collective, they were able to network, support, educate, and most importantly to enlighten their non-POC industry peers.  Many of the Black fashion professionals were located in New York City, however most showed locally and regionally at churches and civic organizations.  Many took their shows on the road for more exposure, sales and to help raise money to benefit African American causes.  These were precursors to the iconic travelling show, Ebony Fashion Fair, in which milliners from NAFAD showed their work as well.  One of note is Artie Wiggins.

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