Posted on: February 8, 2022 Posted by: Ariel Tattum Comments: 0

Black Fashion Fair, a digital directory of Black designers started by Antoine Gregory, is taking its project to print.

What began in 2016 with a Twitter thread from Mr. Gregory listing numerous “Black designers you should know” has given way to a robust online library of independent designers and Black-owned brands, as well as a marketplace where people can buy directly from them.

Now, Black Fashion Fair has released its first print product, a nearly 200-page book that highlights designers past and present, and explores Black influence in fashion through essays, interviews and photographs, ahead of New York Fashion Week. (The shows begin Feb. 11.)

“I wanted to give a real worldview of Black fashion, style and culture as it exists right now,” Mr. Gregory, 28, said in a video interview from Long Island, where he lives. “I’m putting value on Black things, value on Black designers, and that’s doing it at the highest level.”

As the fashion industry continues to confront its systemic racism, a number of organizations, including Black in Fashion Council and Your Friends in New York, are working to ensure that Black designers get their due. That includes signal-boosting independent businesses and pushing for more inclusive casting on the runways and in advertising campaigns.

Fashion magazines in particular have been singled out for not including Black creators or Black culture in their pages, and change has been incremental. Mr. Gregory, who is also a stylist, consultant and brand director for the fashion label Theophilio, said that he wanted to create something that would challenge the gatekeepers in the industry. He sees this as distinct from the current rush in the fashion industry, which he described as seizing up Black talent out of “force.”

“There’s no excuses anymore. I think we have too much access in the world, we have too much access to the internet and to each other to say, ‘Oh I didn’t know’ or ‘I couldn’t find,’” Mr. Gregory said. “There’s so many ways to discover all this talent that’s coming out.”

Mr. Gregory grew up in Brooklyn and was inspired to start his archiving project while he was a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, where there was no curriculum devoted to Black designers at the time. Through Black Fashion Fair, he has hosted various community events and created education initiatives, including a partnership with the Brooklyn Sewing Academy.

Elizabeth Way, associate curator of the Museum at F.I.T. and co-curator of the exhibit “Black Fashion Designers,” wrote in an email that Black Fashion Fair “is an invaluable resource for students learning all aspects of the fashion business and fashion history, and for B.I.P.O.C. people who aspire to careers in fashion. Knowing that people who look like you have succeeded in the industry before you is a powerful motivator in a field still plagued by systemic discrimination.”

Mr. Gregory’s print publication, “Volume 0: Seen,” features the designs of Kerby Jean-Raymond’s Pyer Moss, Sergio Hudson, House of Aama and Edvin Thompson of Theophilio, who was named emerging designer of the year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Its pages feature Black photographers, including Aijani Payne, Amber Pinkerton, Quil Lemons, and Ahmad Barber and Donté Maurice, who are together known as AB+DM.

Mr. Barber, 31, said that fashion shoots often require him to fulfill the vision of a set of magazine editors; here, the photographers had the opportunity to bring all of their ideas to each shoot.

“It was super-freeing to be able to have a project like that,” Mr. Barber said in a video interview. “If we wouldn’t have shot them in this publication, who knows if, not only us, but other creatives would have been able to see their work in print in this way.”

Starting Feb. 7, the book ($95) will be sold on Black Fashion Fair’s website and at Mulberry Iconic Magazine store in Manhattan.

Unlike most fashion magazines, it contains no advertisements, thanks to the support of Warby Parker, the eyeglasses brand.

Neil Blumenthal, a founder of Warby Parker and its co-chief executive, said in a statement that “it’s been an honor to partner with Black Fashion Fair on their first magazine. Every page is an inspiring testament to their commitment to community and creativity.”

Among the publication’s features are behind-the-scenes photos of Anifa Mvuemba’s runway debut in Washington, D.C., for her fashion brand Hanifa; an essay on the importance of Vibe magazine and how it historically highlighted the “richness of Black style”; and a fashion spread featuring Joan Smalls draped in custom Theophilio.

“I think when we don’t own our own stories, that people can really create a very specific and very weaponized narrative about Black culture,” said Mr. Thompson, the 29-year-old Theophilio designer, in a phone interview. “I think within the last two years, the whole creative industry has led so many conversations and I think the launch of Black Fashion Fair: Seen is perfect timing.”

One of the things Mr. Gregory is most proud of, he said, was having captured in the book the most popular designs and trends in the Black design scene today, like Brandon Blackwood’s first ready-wear collection and Pyer Moss’s first couture collection.

“This had to be the most amazing thing that I have come up with to make it worth it,” Mr. Gregory said. “And that’s kind of scary because you see magazines every day that don’t have the type of content this has, but they are global issues.”

The publication, he added, won’t be the last of its kind.

“If I can put all these amazing people in one physical thing, we can have that forever,” he said. “That was my goal with this, to make something that we can have forever.”