To mark Black history month, Yahoo UK launches Black British Fashion, a two-part video series in collaboration with a digital publisher Black ballad. Here, writer Esther Okusaga interviews the founders of two black-owned fashion houses.
In the old days, you had to have several zeros at the end of your bank account to have a good amount of luxury items in your wardrobe. However, today luxury is more accessible than ever, and of course we have the technology to thank for it.
Living in a digital world means that virtually everything is available at your fingertips, you no longer have to walk into a Louis Vuitton store and look a little fancy. Today you can be in your pajamas and just click “add to cart”.
Today we are also seeing more and more luxury, independent and black-owned fashion brands come to the fore. Times have really changed and dresses with beautiful designs and patterns and jackets made with high quality fabrics from independent brands call all of our names alongside a Birkin bag.
Shanna Bent, founder of Bent House, a conscious fashion house that champions diversity has been around the industry long enough to notice how the definition of luxury has changed.
As a former student of the London College of Fashion, she was able to gain professional experience in various fashion houses, all in the luxury sector.
“I started with brands like Agent Provocateur and Alexander McQueen, so I was able to gain knowledge of how things work,” Shanna said.
Watch: Fashion is a form of experimentation
She was then able to refine her profession and her inspiration for the future of Maison Bent. As I scoured the website looking for the brand, her dress and jacket designs captivated me. It is clear that Shanna takes time to ensure that her clothes are not only luxurious because of the price, but also because of the quality.
“I think some people just call something that looks really good ‘luxury’, and that may be due to a fancy branding. I feel like historically the term “luxury” has been derived from exquisite craftsmanship and having items handmade with beautifully and ethically sourced fabrics, ”explained Shanna.
Luxurious, independent and black-owned fashion brands are giving customers value for their money while making the concept of luxury more accessible to black women in particular. Britain’s fashion luxury sector has often been criticized for its guardians, with the reins being held by the white elite, making it difficult for outsiders to be part of the industry.
As a result, the black community had no choice but to create a space for itself.
Timmy Amoo is the latest to join the list. Last summer during the pandemic, she launched Canopi House, a London-based luxury women’s ready-to-wear brand.
“I had been working on it maybe nine months before launch, when the restrictions were relaxed and it seemed like the right time to start wearing clothes again,” said Timmy.
Timmy also felt inspired by black designers like Fisayo Longe, founder of Kai Collective, as she was finally recognized.
Canopi House’s first collection is called ‘Dawn’ and is an ode to new beginnings, the capsule collection is made up of three pieces, all highlighting a unique story.
“I believe luxury is having something that tells a story, and that also means that the clothes fit well and are made from good fabrics,” said Timmy.
The brands of Timmy and Shanna’s are obviously luxury, so what does this mean for other brands that are perhaps more streetwear inclined?
They do exist, according to Timmy: “I’ve seen a lot of streetwear brands and I’ve seen luxury streetwear brands as well.
She argues that a brand is relatively difficult to set up, that people have had to charge more for their parts and, as a result, end up in the “luxury” category, unwittingly. This can mean that some luxury, independent and black-owned fashion brands are not intentionally luxurious.
In the case of Maison Bent, the brand is indeed deliberately luxurious, especially in the way its clothes are made.
“I do all my pattern cuts and I also do all my samples. There is a lot of time and effort put into each piece to make sure they are as unique as possible. At Maison Bent, we don’t just copy what we’ve seen, we try to make our clothes really different, ”said Shanna.
Shanna doesn’t just want her customers to see a £ 750 dress and not know how it was made.
“I feel like a lot of people don’t understand why clothes are this expensive because they don’t know how many hours it takes to make a dress,” Shanna said.
Canopi House and Maison Bent are doing their best to make their luxury brand accessible to everyone, especially black women, but that doesn’t mean it costs less. brands?
Read more: “For black women, hairstyle is still common”
Timmy thinks it’s not easy for black women to access luxury fashion today, but it’s getting easier and easier.
“I think it could be [easier] if we knew how to save money, then we can buy clothes that we wouldn’t normally buy.
Either way, luxury, independent, and black-owned fashion brands are increasing with our appetite for them, and it doesn’t look like they’ll be stopping anytime soon.
Watch: Fashion is the greatest form of self-expression