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.
As a young boy, Gordon Henderson was fascinated by fashion. He would sit and watch his mother sew dresses from Vogue patterns. From then on Henderson knew his future was in fashion. After graduating from Parson’s School of Design in 1981, he landed a job as an assistant at Calvin Klein. It was at Calvin Klein that Henderson would develop the simple, clean aesthetic that would win him a Perry Ellis Award for best new designer in 1990. Henderson’s goal was to create sophisticated pieces cut from affordable fabrics like linen and cotton twill. Making women’s life’s easier through fashion was very important to Henderson. He designed versatile, easy to wear, multi-purpose pieces for every occasion in a woman’s life. His modern approach to luxury and style won him full support from Saks Fifth Avenue. He was the first designer to gain financial backing from a large retailer. In 1992, he designed a line under his name exclusively for the upscale store.