Category: designer profile

Our goal is to create profiles of important, lesser-known fashion designers. For resources on more contemporary designers, see our Zotero database.

1818-1907 – Elizabeth Keckley

Elizabeth Keckley, a remarkably successful dressmaker, built her career upon exacting technical standards, graceful clean lines, and an understanding of Parisian fashionable trends. She is well known for her work for the political elite of Washington DC, particularly for Mary Todd Lincoln. Keckley was one of the first African American women to publish a book and was an impassioned activist who created a relief organization for newly freed enslaved persons.

1898-1981 – Ann Lowe

No longer “society’s best kept secret” as the Saturday Evening Post called her, Ann Lowe is recognized as a pioneering African American couturier. Her pieces are preserved in renowned museum collections including the Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Museum at FIT.

1954-1990 – Patrick Kelly

Patrick Kelly was the first American designer ever to be admitted to the Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter, which governs the French ready-to-wear industry. He unapologetically incorporated his Southern Roots, racial imagery, and expressions of Black joy into his designs; stating “I want my clothes to make you smile.”

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