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.
One of the first African-American designers to gain world recognition, Stephen Burrows first came unto the scene as the leading designer for the rich and famous set of the Studio 54 era. Women fell head-over-heels for his sexy, matte jersey dresses with his famous “lettuce hem” in bright hues. Henri Bendel created Stephen Burrows World, an atelier devoted to designer’s wildly popular creations. Burrows’ talents were recognized in France where he was invited, alongside American designers Bill Blass, Halston and Anne Klein, to show his collection among French couturiers. The French were awed by his lively work and Burrows received glowing reviews. The designer was nominated for fashion’s highest honor, Coty Award, both in 1971 and 1972. Burrows was awarded with the award in 1973, 1974 and 1977.
After a twenty year hiatus from the fashion world in 1982, Burrows launched one of the biggest comeback in the industry in 2002 with a boutique back at Henri Bendel and his own collection. The iconic designer has been showing at Fashion Weeks ever since. Burrows, whose designs defined American fashion in the 70’s, was honored by the CFDA in 2006 with a special tribute award.It’s been 44 years since Burrows introduced his brand of fashion, and he still does jersey and color like no other.