Renee’s Boutique Black History Month Salute to Excellence
By: Crystal Napier
If you answered the Renee’s Boutique Black History Trivia question correctly last week, you know that Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave from Virginia bought her freedom for $1,200, moved to Washington D.C. and founded her own dressmaking business. Keckley would later meet Mary Todd Lincoln the soon to be First Lady of the United States. Leaving a lasting impression on Mary Todd Lincoln, Keckley would be hired by Lincoln as her personal modiste. Keckley would continue to be Lincoln’s personal dressmaker and confidante. This relationship is what inspired the play written and directed by Tazewell Thompson called “Mary T. and Lizzy K”.
African-Americans have been impacting the fashion industry for decades. Many styles and trends are inspired from Black Culture. As consumers African-Americans contribute $1.1 trillion dollars in buying power. However, in the fashion industry there are between 3 to 4 percent of well known high-end African-American fashion designers. There were actually more African-American fashion designers in the 1970s. Why is that? What has changed? Vanessa Friedman, provides us more insight on this matter in her article “Fashion’s Racial Divide”.
She shares the story of the fabulous designer Tracy Reese designing for our past First Lady Michelle Obama and how that instantly launched her career to the next level, similar to Elizabeth Keckley. Friedman also sheds light on some of the barriers that we as African-American fashion designers face today such as manufacturing costs, distribution and of course the challenge of having support of our community on the front end. The article sheds light on designers that are successful and reaching back to lend a helping hand to those of us that aspire to overcome these barriers. Hopefully, this type of mentality will enlighten us all for a better network in the fashion industry and to be more inclusive of not only diverse body types but diverse cultures and races.
“We all have dreams. In order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.”
—Jesse Owens, world record-setting Olympic athlete
The lovely African-American ladies in the featured photo are clients and supporters of Renee's Boutique that are breaking barriers in our local areas. From left to right Danielle Fitz-Hugh, Anne Brown, Crystal Napier, Pamela Sutton-Wallace, Kaye Monroe, Nareen Scott, and Andrea Copeland-Whitsett. Salute to Excellence.