Usually, posts like these have affiliate links, which pay me a portion of sales made off of traffic that EcoCult sends to retailers. For this one, however, I am linking straight to brand websites even if they are carried in department stores so that the brands keep the full markup for themselves.
As the U.S. and beyond grapples with the recent high-profile deaths of Black Americans to yet more police brutality, protestors are continuing the activism to dismantle institutional racism in our society and are demanding inclusivity all across the board — including the fashion industry. But there’s also cause for celebration since Juneteenth, which celebrates the end of slavery in America, has been made a paid holiday at brands like Nike. And dozens of black-owned ethical fashion brands are coming up.
Celebrity stylist Dechel McKillian founded the store Galerie LA to foster a community of conscious consumers by carrying brands that truly have an impact in their community and save the planet through fashion. She says the ethical and sustainable fashion industry has been slowly becoming more inclusive, as historically, the industry has idolized white women as the beauty standard.
“Although it has gotten better since I started back in 2014, there is still a lot of work to do,” she says. The lack of diversity has not only ranged from people featured on runways, magazine covers, and ad campaigns but also inside retailers and throughout the workplace. “Many retailers are now carrying more brands founded by women of color because people are voicing their opinions through their platforms.”
McKillian tells me collective action is what’s calling these days. “Allies need to continue to educate themselves along with donating and supporting businesses,” she says. “As humans, we need to recognize each other as humans. People behind the sewing machine are typically women of color,” she emphasizes. For decades the fashion industry has been under scrutiny due to its unethical practices throughout the supply chain.
In the midst of the movement, Galerie LA has received an outpouring of support with an influx of sales and thousands of new followers on Instagram. “I want people to support now and beyond, but not for just being Black,” she says.
In an effort to continue to support and amplify the voices of our fellow Black Americans who work in fashion, here’s a roundup of Black-owned American ethical and sustainable fashion businesses for you to support now, and forever.
After watching her Nigerian mother sew her clothes growing up and working for illustrious names like Betsy Johnson and stylist Andrea Lieberman of A.L.C., Autumn Adeigbo created her namesake label of joyful, vibrant styles. The made-to-order, global brand ethically sources its materials from all over the world, including Indian fabrics and West African beading, and has it sewn into its tailored silhouettes in New York City.
Iconic fashion designer Tracy Reese founded Hope For Flowers in 2019 to create sustainable, feminine, and minimal designs. Her clothes are made of sustainable textiles, such as organic cotton, linen, Tencel, and cupro. Tracy Reese’s conventional designs have been worn by Sarah Jessica Parker, Meghan Markle, Oprah, and even the former First Lady Michelle Obama.
Valerie Madison founded her namesake fine jewelry brand in 2014. The Seattle-based designer creates timeless, elegant styles honoring her Environmental Science degree by responsibly sourcing her materials. Her collections are made with recycled gold, diamond alternatives like Moissanite and when possible Canadian-mined or recycled diamonds.
Established in New York in 2017 by co-founders Ashley Cimone and Moya Annece, Ashya designs unisex travel accessories for the modern-day explorer. In efforts to minimize waste throughout the production process, the brand responsibly sources materials, upcycles fabric scraps, and produces in small batches.
Established in 2015, Sarah Nakintu founded KINTU New York, an African-inspired luxury handbag brand, named after both her grandfather and father. Its high-quality designs use 100% natural vegetable-tanned leather and combines the craftsmanship of global artisans.
The San Francisco-based fashion startup Soko was co-founded by Kenyan-born Catherine Mahugu, along with Gwendolyn Floydand Ella Peinovich. By employing technology to provide equal access to opportunity, SOKO works with artisan entrepreneurs every day to build their businesses, improve production capacity, and sustainably increase income. Their team believes that heritage practices can be employed sustainably, so their artisans use locally-sourced and eco-friendly materials whenever possible, such as recycled brass and reclaimed cow horn and bone.
Chelsea Bravo founded her eponymous menswear label in 2013 that then transitioned into more gender-neutral styles. It is based in Brooklyn, NY and each contemporary, artistic design is made-to-order in-house using plant-derived materials.
Taylor Jay is an Oakland-based and fair made clothing line designing high-quality, eco-friendly elevated basics. It ethically sources recycled and upcycled threads to create its environmentally-friendly garments.
Established in 2012, Arrow + Phoenix is a 90’s influenced sustainable swimwear line based in Los Angeles. It focuses on diversity and size inclusivity with bra cups ranging from A-H. The brand’s designs are made out of ECONYL, an Italian eco-luxe fiber made from regenerated nylon.
Omi Woods is an ethically handmade jewelry brand founded by Ashley Alexis McFarlane that celebrates her connection to Africa. The pieces are made out of globally sourced conflict-free fine metals, helping the living conditions in the continent. Note that this brand is Canadian, but we love it so much we’re including it in this list.
Aliya Wanek is a speech therapist by day and a womenswear designer by night. She founded her Oakland based eponymous label in 2016 and creates timeless, comfortable pieces from natural fibers. Each piece by Aliya Wanek is hand-dyed in the Bay Area and has a mix of the American classic with Japanese aesthetics.
Faith-driven Gracemade creates timeless and modest designs in Los Angeles from deadstock and natural materials.
Founded by Celebrity Stylist Dechel McKillian, Galerie LA thoughtfully curates ethical and eco-friendly women’s clothing and accessories from emerging brands worldwide.
Jade Swim is a sustainable swimwear line using both deadstock fibers and ECONYL
, regenerated nylon from plastic waste such as fishnets taken out of the ocean and remade into new nylon fabric. Inspired by New York City and made in Los Angeles, the brand combines both minimal and sensual aesthetics that can easily transition into ready-to-wear.
Inspired by African culture, indigenous designs, and cosmic geometry, Candice Cox established her Oakland-based artisanal jewelry and home decor line in 2011. Each piece is handcrafted utilizing various chains, an assortment of metals, semi-precious stones, and recycled materials.
Founded by climate scientist Gina Stovall, the brand creates made-to-order effortless, minimal designs from deadstock fabric in Los Angeles.
Founded by a mother-and-daughter duo, Rebecca Henry and Akua Shabaka create made-to-order clothing known for its statement pieces. The fashion brand is heavily rooted in African ethos merging personal history and spirituality. Since 2013 the duo had been upcycling vintage clothing, which led them to release their first capsule collection in 2014.
Out of disappointment for not being able to find both sustainable and fashionable socks, Stephen Steele founded Kind Socks in 2017. The brand creates colorful and fun designs out of responsibly sourced organic cotton.
Inspired by Liberian culture, Delaware-based Gwanyan Barker founded Kpelle as a way to celebrate her African lineage and culture by designing handmade gold, brass, and silver jewelry. The designer locally sources her supplies to create her handmade designs.
Aziza is a made-to-order jewelry brand designed by founder and artist Aziza Nicole out of her studio. It draws inspiration from Aziza’s multi-layered cultural heritage creating everything from cuffs to cuticle rings. The designer has been making one-of-a-kind creations since childhood, thanks to her mother encouraging her to explore her talents.
Shade Akanbi established her ethical textile label, Printed Pattern People, in Brooklyn in 2014, translating traditional ethnic materials into modern reinterpretations for everyday wear. The brand mixes its bohemian Brooklyn vibe with rich colorful textiles, prints, patterns, and textures inspired by the founder’s travels.
Founded by Farai Simoyi of Netflix’s “Next In Fashion,” The Narativ curates sustainable, ethical artisan brands from around the world with the goal of sharing their narratives and promoting traditional craftsmanship.
Cee Cee’s Closet NYC was created by Chioma and Uchenna Ngwudo in New York City, who celebrate the beauty of West African prints through their unique headwraps, accessories, and clothing. Everything is designed by them in New York and handmade by artisans in Nigeria.
Studio 189, co-founded by Ghanian-American Abrima Erwiah and actress Rosario Dawson, is a fashion lifestyle brand and social enterprise. Headquartered in Ghana and the U.S., with stores in NYC and Accra, they work with artisanal communities that specialize in various traditional craftsmanship techniques including natural plant-based dye indigo, hand-batik, kente weaving, and more.
Brother Vellies was founded in 2013 by Canadian and fashion professional Aurora James with the goal of keeping traditional African design practices and techniques alive while creating and sustaining artisanal jobs. Originally focused on South African vellies made of Springbok leather, the collection is now produced across the globe in South Africa, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Italy, Haiti and New York City.
By partnering with artisan studios that use traditional African motifs and techniques to create beautiful, modern designs, this brand founded by Ethiopian model Liya Kebede carries sundresses, beach dresses, caftans, and tunics that are made mostly from natural cotton. Five percent of lemlem’s direct sales, proceeds from special collaborations, and donations advance the mission of lemlem Foundation, lemlem’s philanthropic arm, which helps women artisans in Africa thrive by connecting them to healthcare, education, and pathways to jobs.
Designed in New York by Liberian Founder Robin Sirleaf using leather sourced, cut, and sewn in Africa, Sarep + Rose’s bags honor their heritage and embody a distinctive hybrid modernity. A bright juxtaposition of African materials and craftsmanship with western design and functionality, these bags aim to fuse two still-separate worlds, make a positive social and economic impact on Pan-African society while upholding its beauty and supporting generations for self-taught artisans.