Black Influential Designers
by Alexandra Phanor-Faury
In celebration of both Black History Month and New York Fashion Week, Essence.com is paying homage to the great designers of the past, present and future whose unique perspective has helped shaped the fashion landscape.
Byron Lars was the darling of the fashion world in the 1990’s. His 1991 collection of menswear-inspired women fashions were in high demand by luxury stores like Henri Bendel and Saks Fifth Avenue.The same year the industry’s leading trade magazine, Women’s Wear Daily, crowned him ‘Rookie of The Year.’ The San Fransisco native was celebrated for his ability to cut a silhouette that fits like a glove. His melding of deconstructed menswear and street wear drew inspiration from everything from baseball and aviation. The one signature design that marked Lars’s impressive career was his sexy, body-fitting men’s oxford shirtdresses. Success came fast for Lars, who went on to deliver winning collections for a number of seasons, but unfortunately a shady licensing deal in 1997 would put an abrupt end to his climb to the top. Lars’s high-end designs, to the dismay of Saks and Bendel, were being sold in outlet stores at significantly lower prices. While Lars won a lawsuit against the licensing company, his reputation as a high-end designer was tarnished. Despite having to shut down his company, Lars continued to show off his skills by designing a successful, African-American Barbie collection for Mattel. He also launched a comeback in 2000 with a line of shirts called Green T and he debuted his line of tailored women shirts under Beauty Mark in 2001. Lars is a constant source of inspiration for many new designers today.
A model wearing Byron Lars during BET’s Rip the Runway 2009 at the Hammerstein Ballroom on February 21, 2009 in New York City.