From writers to designers, here are some of Canada’s most legendary Black fashion leaders right now
With Black History Month in full swing, it is time not only to learn about Black history, but to celebrate it as well.
In fashion, Black culture is frequently drawn from but often times not properly appreciated or even credited. When people think of fashion and geography, their minds might wander to New York, London, Paris and Milan, the four major fashion capitals of the world — but Canada put its own stamp on fashion history too.
Here are some of the country’s most iconic Black fashion trailblazers.
1. Lana Ogilvie
In 1992, Toronto-born supermodel Lana Ogilvie made history when she became the first supermodel of colour to sign an exclusive contract with CoverGirl. According to her website, Ogilvie was scouted at a high school fashion show when she was a teenager. She then went on to join the Black Girls Coalition, a 1990s group that advocated for diversity in fashion that was founded by Bethann Hardison in 1989. Over the years, Ogilvie has landed covers on magazines such as Vogue, ELLE, Grazia and Chatelaine, to name a few.
2. Suzanne Boyd
Born in Halifax, N.S., and raised in the Caribbean, Suzanne Boyd became the first person of colour to head a major Canadian publication. In 1996, she was appointed editor-in-chief of Flare magazine. In 2004, Boyd was the founding editor-in-chief of multicultural women’s magazine Suede. Despite its short four issue run, Suede was considered iconic for its ground-breaking merging of urban life and “Ethnic” women. Today, Boyd is the editor-in-chief and publisher of her own magazine, Zoomer.
3. Aurora James
Toronto local Aurora James is the woman behind the Fifteen Percent Pledge, which she created in May 2020 following the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movements that followed. The pledge calls upon major retailers and businesses to take stock, ownership and action to create a plan that lends at least 15 per cent of their shelf space to BIPOC businesses moving forward. James is also a designer, founder and creative director of Brother Vellies. She spent a year at Ryerson studying fashion before transferring into the university’s journalism program.
4. Samira Nasr
In June 2020, Samira Nasr was the first woman of colour to be named editor-in-chief of the American version of Harper’s BAZAAR in its 153-year history. Nasir spoke about her new position in a 2020 interview with Harper’s BAZAAR. The Montreal-born trailblazer was entrusted with moving the magazine into a new era and said this new chapter of its legacy is “colourful, inclusive, and celebrates the beauty of fashion on every platform—while carrying on the tradition of innovative art direction and great style that the BAZAAR audience loves so much.”
5. George Sully
The Black Designers of Canada index was founded by Ottawa-born multidisciplinary designer George Sully in June 2020. The non-profit index is the first of its kind in Canadian history. It features over 160 black designers in a wide variety of areas, everything from graphics and interior design to fashion, accessories and more. Based in Toronto, Sully has founded several companies, including House of Hayla and Sully and Son Co., while simultaneously designing for them.