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.
Ann Lowe, the granddaughter of a slave and plantation owner, made history in 1953 when Jacqueline Bouvier wore an ivory, silk wedding dress designed by Lowe to marry John F Kennedy. Lowe comes from a line of Alabama dressmakers who catered to the elite. After she completed design school in New York, Lowe continued the family tradition by designing for New York’s wealthy and famous families which included the likes of the Rockefellers and DuPonts. Lowe was the creative mind behind the dress worn by Olivia de Havilland the night she won an Oscar for Best Actress in 1946. Despite her amazing talent, her race kept her from receiving any accolades. In fact, she was refereed to as “society’s best kept secret” since her clients would never admit to having their luxurious wears designed by a Black woman. The designs she created for major stores like Chez Sonia refused to include her name on the labels. A true fashion pioneer, Lowe was the first Black designer to open a salon in New York in 1950. Lowe would later run a salon inside Saks Fifth Avenue before glaucoma would force her to retire.