To date, fashion has had a less than impressive track record when it comes to representing diverse voices across the industry—and by extension, a diverse clientele. Whether a global marketing campaign or a Parisian runway show, progress has been a slow crawl towards a truly inclusive environment that is reflective of the world we live in today. With the Black Lives Matter movement reigniting a global dialogue around social justice reform, a push to support Black-owned enterprises across multiple sectors has arisen as a result.
Here in Canada, there’s no shortage of Black designers and beauty entrepreneurs who have carved out a space for themselves in an already saturated market. From menswear tailors and jewelry artisans to luxe streetwear and red carpet perennials, here are 15 incredible homegrown, Black-owned brands you should be adding to your sartorial and beauty regimen next.
Owned by Nigerian fashion designer, Dumebi Iyamah, Andrea Iyamah is known for its use of vibrant colours and unique take on swimwear. What began as a blog turned into a full-blown brand when Dumebi, aged 17 at the time, enhanced her tailoring skills and used her style intuition to bring her brand to life. Based in both Canada and Nigeria, this Black-owned brand is heavily influenced by an array of African design and speaks to a clientele that embraces culture through fashion.
This therapeutic body care line is made and based in Montreal. Made with natural and organic ingredients, Apprenti Ôr’ganik aims to raise awareness against harmful chemicals in everyday products while promoting a healthy and eco-friendly lifestyle. Owner, Alexe is a one woman show, creating each product in her Montreal studio. From body butter to facial serum to an eau de parfum, Apprenti Ôr’ganik will nourish your skin through every step of your getting ready routine.
Atelier New Regime
What began as t-shirts made in a basement and sold out of car trunks has grown into a full-blown fashion brand. Atelier New Regime is a staple in the Montreal fashion scene that creates sophisticated streetwear, and is known for its signature use of the colour orange. The brand honours the hustler spirit and pushes the boundaries of creativity. Created by Setiz Taheri, Koku Awuye, and Gildas Awuye in 2009, the company opened its flagship store in 2016 and continues to thrive.
Bôhten founder, Nana Boatend Osei, combined his love of nature, style and Africa into crafting eyewear that is as fashionable as it is functional. Bôhten eyewear and sunwear frames are lightweight and handmade from sustainable materials like reclaimed wood sourced from West Africa. The long term goal for the Black-owned company is to build an eyewear manufacturing facility that incorporates the use of renewable energy and gives back by creating fair paying jobs in Ghana.
Based in Toronto, this unisex brand was founded by Nicole Simmons, Charlene Akuamoah and Meg Prosper. Originally meant as a platform to share their creative endeavours, broke&living has turned into a contemporary clothing and accessory collective. Separated into two categories: broke for basics and living for their ready-to-wear collection, designs are meant to be thoughtful and fashionable.
Committed to keeping traditional African design techniques alive through its use of artisans and sustainable practices, Brother Vellies celebrates culture and design through its range of luxe footwear and accessories. Founder Aurora James recently spearheaded the #15PercentPledge, which challenges major corporations to commit 15 percent of their products to be made by black-owned businesses; beauty-giant Sephora has agreed to take part.
This environmentally friendly, sustainable and socially conscious skincare line is built on the notion that women are strong, capable and deserving. Founder Evelyn Nyairo grew up in Kenya where she witnessed a stark difference in how men and women were treated. Ellie Bianca was built from the passion to help create a world where every woman was able to embrace her own beauty and strength, inside and out. The skin oils will leave you silky smooth, and its bath salts will help you relax after a long hard day.
Essentials by Temi
Essentials by Temi was born after founder Temi Shobowale had a desire to create a skincare product without the harmful ingredients used in many cult favourites. The handcrafted skin essentials are cruelty-free, and made without harsh chemicals or fillers. Shobowale’s impact has expanded further than skincare products with quarterly proceeds being donated to the Ajike Shea Centre in Ghana, a social enterprise created to empower rural women within West Africa.
Counting an elite roster of A-list talent like Catherine O’Hara, Angela Bassett, Tiffany Haddish, Ciara, and Ava Duvernay as loyal fans, Canadian womenswear brand Greta Constantine has carved out a reputation for its glamorous, red carpet confections. Designers Kirk Pickersgill and Stephen Wong work harmoniously to create standout pieces that only further establish Canada’s contributions to the global fashion landscape.
Growing up in a Caribbean household, jELN founder Crystal Rowe developed a passion for natural herbs and healing. She has turned that passion into creating products that beautify the body and soothe the soul. Think: hydrating oils and rejuvenating butters that will leave you feeling refreshed as you put self-care front and center. Better yet, they’re handmade and sustainably sourced.
Makeup For Melanin Girls
An uncomfortable makeup experience at a runway show left Tomi Gbeleyi determined to put an end to the limits of makeup shades. What began as an Instagram account, Makeup For Melanin Girls (MFMG) grew into a community and resulted in a product line geared towards putting darker skin tones front and centre. With products for the eyes, lips, and face, expect full coverage from this Black-owned beauty brand.
Mike Paul Atelier
The ultimate luxury, Mike Paul Atelier’s four-step process of handmade designs oozes class and elegance. CEO and creative director, Mike-Paul Neufville, aims to create a perfectly tailored experience by offering a full spectrum of services from luxe accessories to bespoke suiting for the client that appreciates sartorial excellence. In addition to their Atelier services, the brand offers a line of classic essentials as well as wardrobe consulting.
Omi Woods jewelry is handmade with fair-trade African gold and globally sourced conflict-free fine metals. It’s a testament to the brand’s values, rooted in responsible sourcing and fair labour practices. The accessories are classic in design and meant to withstand time—an heirloom anyone would be lucky to inherit. Ranging from necklaces and earrings to bracelets and rings, there are endless options to wear individually or in combination.
This premium women’s denim brand produces anything but your average pair of blue jeans. Focused on tailored and structured designs, Pretty Denim elevates the style and possibilities of what you think denim should look like. Founded by stylist Tahnee Lloyd-Smith, the brand is committed to ethical fashion practices and uses responsibly-sourced cotton and buttons. All garments are made here in Canada, giving new meaning to the Canadian tuxedo.
This streetwear-inspired line was created by Spencer Badu in 2015. The brand is breaking down stereotypes by designing gender-neutral items that are as fashion-forward as they are functional. Spencer Badu went viral when A$AP Rocky was photographed in a pair of the brand’s sweatpants a few years ago, and has continued to grow ever since.The unisex garments continue to push boundries as the fashion industry reexamines the need for gender-conforming design.