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History Has Been Made: Three Black Designers Win Big At CFDA Awards

The winners of this year's CFDA Awards were the most inclusive yet.


The CFDA Fashion Awards has made me proud. In its 39-year-history, three Black designers and one female designer were crowned the winners, making this digital year the most diverse in CFDA history.

The ones behind the scenes, hand crafting custom red-carpet looks, peek from behind the curtain and into the spotlight once a year at the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) awards. The gala, initially planned on June 8, resumed in a digital fashion, much like the rest of 2020, as a 7-minute broadcast.

This year, the CFDA featured its most inclusive list of winners during a year of social unrest and police violence. Among the most vocal advocates within the fashion world, Kerby Jean-Raymond, the founder of Pyer Moss, took home the American Menswear Designer of the Year award. Telfar Clemens, the curator behind this year’s “IT” bag, won the Accessory Designer award; Christopher John Rogers, the ball gown connoisseur, won Emerging Designer; and Gabrielle Hearst, sustainable designer, won the Womenswear Designer award.

Kerby, Telfar and Christopher are shaking up the fashion industry. They’re paving a way for future POCs to claim their rightful place at the top.

Of the notable mentions, and my husband-to-be, designer Kerby Jean-Raymond took home the menswear award. The Haitian-American designer founded Pyer Moss in 2013 and has always created streetwear with activism at its root. He uses his platform to uplift Black talent as well as reveal the debilitating effects of police brutality and systemic racism within American neighborhoods. Through his “Your Friend in New York” program, he plans to establish an “eco-system of creativity,” developing a community for new creators and artists. Kerby is the third Black male, in CFDA history, to earn this award.

Liberian-American designer Telfar Clemens, recalls glancing up at the gendered clothing that decorated store windows and subdivided stores. It disgusted him. His unisex brand has made dressing fashionably affordable, as well as cultivated a ravenous fan club for the Telfar “Bushwick Birkin” bag. (Anyone remember the bot controversy?). The contagious commodity comes in 15 colors and ranges in sizes small to large. The award was well deserved and quite frankly overdue. Telfars sold out shelves should speak for themselves.

Christopher John Rogers’ matchstick red ball gowns and psychedelic pant suits have defined his career as a designer. The emerald-colored gown worn by Lady Gaga at the VMA’s showcases Rogers’ mastery at work. He describes each look as a timeless heirloom, and dresses the customer with a strong sense of empowerment. At only 25, he has become a designer to watch.

Uruguayan environmentalist Gabriela Hearst is only the second woman to have won the womenswear award, since Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen won it for The Row in 2015. Hearst designs with the Earth in mind, such as crafting handbags in limited quantities to make luxury wear long lasting and sustainable.

Kim Jones, artistic director for Fendi womenswear and previously Christian Dior’s menswear, won International Menswear Designer, and Pierpaolo Piccioli, creative director for Valentino, won the International Womenswear Designer of the year.

As CFDA highlights brands who fight for racial equity, inclusion and sustainability, the future of fashion amid COVID-19 is beginning to appear less bleak. As more marginalized designers are provided the platform to excel, we may begin to see a change that the fashion world desperately needs —and consumers desperately crave.


Kalia Richardson is an Editorial Assistant for Rowdy Magazine and a junior journalism major at the University of Florida. Kalia enjoys post-workout dance parties, checking on her virtual Sim family and daily phone calls with her mommy. It’s common to find her writing stories anywhere but a traditional desk and spending hours on end reading fashion news at 3 a.m. You can reach her


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