This Week in Fashion: Black American Fashion Icons Part II



This week in "Fashion Friday" to commemorate "Black History" month, I have found another select group of African American designers to showcase. Like the others, I had showcased. These designers have contributed a lot to Fashion, made history, and impacted the competitive world of Fashion. They were pioneers in the world of Fashion and paved the way for the black designers of today.

Stephen Burrows


Stephen Burrows (born September 15, 1943) is an American fashion designer based in New York City. He started his work in the fashion business in the garnet district in New York City in the early 1970s. Burrows was born in Newark, New Jersey. He became obsessed with Fashion at an early age when his grandmother gave him his sewing Machine, and he began sewing clothes for his neighbor's baby dolls.


He graduated from Newark Arts High School, he first enrolled at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art, intending to be an art teacher.

He transferred to New York City's Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), where he met a fellow student, Betty Davis (born Betty Gray Mabry; July 16, 1944 – February 9, 2022), who became his best friend an early muse. Betty's style was legendary, and she has been the Blue Print for artists such as Solange Knows, Pink, Joi, Eryka Badu, Vanity 6, and many more.

Stephen graduated in 1966 and started his career at Weber Originals. 1968 he began working with Andy Warhol and his entourage at Max's Kansas City and selling across the street at the O Boutique.


In the summer of 1968, he met Geraldine Stutz (August 5, 1924 – April 8, 2005) was, an

American retail groundbreaker. She was appointed president of Henri Bendel in 1957, serving for 29 years until stepping down in 1986. In the fall of 1973, Burrows' first lingerie/sleepwear collection, called "Stevies," was introduced at Henri Bendel's, Bonwit Teller, Lord & Taylor, and Bloomingdales, as well as stores in Chicago and San Francisco.


He was one of 5 fashion designers invited to showcase his work at a fashion show, billed as divertissement à Versailles, held on November 28, 1973. This event has become known as The Battle of Versailles Fashion Show. He was the youngest American designer to show a collection in more than a decade.



In 1978 The late great, Farrah Fawcett wore his gold chainmail dress to the Academy Awards, a presenter. In February 1981, Brooke Shields, at age 15, appeared on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine wearing Stephen Burrows.


Celebrity friends include Barbra Streisand, Cher, The First Lady Michelle Obama, the Supremes, Bette Midler, and Jerry Hall. African American model Pat Cleveland later became one of his favorite Muses.

In May 2006, the Council of Fashion Designers of America honored Burrows with "The Board of Directors Special Tribute."


In 2010, he opened his new showroom and design studio in New York City's Garment Center. In 2013, the City of New York Museum mounted the first primary examination of Burrows' work in "Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced" with an accompanying catalog.


Willi Smith


Willi Donnell Smith was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 29, 1948. Younger sister is Doris A. Smith (born September 25, 1952), known professionally as Toukie Smith to clothes-conscious parents, Willie Lee Smith, an ironworker, and June Eileen Smith, a homemaker. He graduated from Mastbaum Technical High School and studied fashion illustration at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art before moving to New York and becoming a designer for different sportswear labels.



In 1976 he paired with friend Laurie Mallet to start WilliWear, Limited. He became one of the most commercially successful Black sportswear designers in his 20-year career, receiving praise from peers, the press (he was the youngest recipient of the Coty Fashion Critics award in 1983, fashion's then Oscar), and the 1,100 retailers who carried his collection.

Willi is often viewed as the creator of Uber Streetwear.





Before Sean John, Fubu, Mecca, he was the voice of Uber Gear. At the height of his career, his label earned $25 million in sales annually, but his career was cut short when Smith died suddenly of AIDS-related complications in 1987 at 39. He was unaware when and where he contracted the deadly, then vital disease at the time, and Smith was openly gay.



Leaving behind a legacy of being an innovator of Urban Wear and a legend of African American designer that was the first to invent what we know as "Street Wear."


Dapper Dan


Daniel Day (born August 8, 1944), known as Dapper Dan, is an American fashion designer and haberdasher from Harlem, New York. His influential Store, Dapper Dan's Boutique, operated from 1982–92 and is most associated with introducing high fashion to the hip hop world, with his clients, including Eric B. & Rakim, Salt-N-Pepa LL Cool J, and Jay-Z. In 2017, he launched a fashion line with Gucci, with which he opened a second store and atelier, Dapper Dan's of Harlem, in 2018.



In 1974, he decided to be a clothier and first sold busted/Stolen clothing out of his ca Dapper Dan's Boutique, located on 125th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues. It opened in 1982 24 hours a day, seven days a week.



Mike Tyson's infamous fight with Mitch Green in front of Dapper Dan's Store on 125th in Harlem on August 24, 1988, made headlines on Monday Night Football, turning his local infamy as a streetwear designer into national notoriety. At this moment, Sonia Sotomayor and Fendi were led to shutting his operations down for good.


Being opened 24/7 caused a real problem for Dan one evening, brought some unwanted attention, that put his Store on the front page of the New York Times, and of the feds soon got evolved when Mike Tyson was involved in a street fight with former opponent Mitch Greenback in 1988, which left the boxing legend fearing he had killed his bitter rival before fleeing in his Rolls Royce.



It was the beginning of the end of an era when clients such as ll cool j, Salt-N-Pepa, Bobby Brown, Drug dealer Alpo Martez and Rapper Big Daddy Kane used Dapper Dan as their stylist. He was a Hip-Hop pioneer who influenced the streets and the runway.


After being shut down, Dapper went underground for over 30yrs. Gucci's AW17 Cruise collection in 2017 copied a custom piece he did for Olympic gold medal winner Diane Dixon, who owned the original version of a Large, over-the-top Puffy sleeve Puffer jacket.

Dapper Dan decided to pursue a lawsuit. 1989 designed for Dixon set off a ball of controversy of misappropriation of culture. Gucci's newest designer/ creative director Alessandro Michele viewed the copy as paying homage.




Since 2017 Dapper Dan has been a part of the Gucci creative design team. He has been invited to MET Gala Ball and has his own custom Gucci shop in Harlem, New York, where it all started.


Dan is included in Time's 100 Most Influential People of 2020. In addition, day's memoir was published by Random House in 2019.

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