Five Black creatives are teaming up with Macy’s for three limited-run drops.
Launching Monday, “Icons of Style” showcases the work of Allen Onyia, Ouigi Theodore, Zerina Akers, Misa Hylton and Aminah Abdul Jillil. Each talent has created a limited-run collection with one of Macy’s private labels. Akers has developed women’s wear for Bar III and Hylton also has for INC International Concepts. Onyia has envisioned men’s wear for INC International Concepts, as has Theodore for Sun + Stone. And Jillil has created footwear for INC International Concepts. Each collection will have three limited-edition drops, starting this month, followed by one in May and another in September.
Macy’s Inc. has created exclusive collaborations for its private brands with Becca Tilley and Olivia Culpo and her sisters Aurora and Sophia. The upcoming commitment to Black creatives is noteworthy. Durand Guion, vice president of Macy’s fashion office, said, “We are using this moment to tell their stories and provide our fashion-devoted customers with access to exclusive design that is intended to inspire their personal style.”
Over nearly 30 years, Hylton has designed for such labels as MCM, Baby Phat and Sean John. Her expectations for the Macy’s collaboration are first and foremost “to use her creativity to touch and inspire other young Black visionaries and creatives, and all people for that matter. I want to touch and inspire lives.”
As a stylist and designer, she also started the Misa Hylton Fashion Academy, which was one of the recipients of Gucci North America’s Changemakers Impact Fund. Hylton said, “It’s imperative that companies and brands use their platforms to celebrate Black visionaries. We’ve been in the background [for] far too long. It moves the culture forward. It refreshes things. It puts us in the right direction,” she said.
Hoping that this initiative will be groundbreaking, Hylton said putting five Black visionaries together is “very powerful and I know that other brands will take note. It’s empowering and powerful. It would be wonderful if it was one, but the fact that there are five of us is even more powerful. It makes a bold statement. We are all very colorful, talented and creative. To see the spectrum of creativity, to hear our stories and to learn about our career paths, and all of the diligence and hard work that got us to this point now, inspires others and defends what we have done in history.”
The five designers’ respective assortments will be sold online, in select Macy’s stores and via Macy’s app. The retailer previously sold B. Michael’s ready-to-wear but it was not a private label collaboration, a Macy’s spokeswoman said.
Not launching the program during Black History Month “is definitely a road to something different” and something Hylton said she “surely appreciated.…But whenever it would have launched, it would have been spectacular.”
After nearly three decades in fashion and the music industry, Hylton said of the Macy’s collaboration, “This is something that I would have never thought would be possible for someone like me — a young Black female creative. To see how far we’ve come, I’m very optimistic about the future, and how collaborations like this are really going to push fashion forward, open more doors and create more opportunities for young Black creatives,” she said.
Acknowledging what “a huge step” this is, Hylton said looking back to the 1990s, “This would not have been possible. And if it was, it probably would have been a Black History Month moment. This is huge and groundbreaking. I am so grateful to be a part of it.”
Preferring not to estimate sales, Hylton said what is most important is the lives that she and her fellow creatives “will touch through the messaging and this opportunity.”
In terms of other projects, Hylton’s creations will be part of MCM’s collaborative styles that will make their debuts Thursday. She continues to build up her MHFA “to educate the next wave of fashion creatives and entrepreneurs.”
Earlier this year Akers launched Black Owned Everything, a directory for Black-owned businesses for fashion, beauty, art and home decor. Asked about her approach to the Macy’s capsule collection, Akers said, “It was important for me to recognize the state of the world and where we all are. I wanted to honor that and create things that felt a bit cozy, and still felt very functional.”
That resulted in work-from-home and Zoom-friendly attire like tops with details, versatile suiting jackets that can be worn as longer jackets or a cropped one, a sweatshirt dress that can be worn at home or for a night out. “I wanted to create things that transitioned with the world as we know it, and we go back to going out and [doing] things like that,” she said.
Her experience as a costume designer with clients like Beyoncé has led to being in touch with and working closely with many designers — big and small. (She selected the styles created by Black designers for the record-breaking Grammy winner’s “Black Is King.”) Akers said she often consults with designers about how to make their product better, “whether it’s for my client or generally speaking.”
In addition, she designs things they then make for her. With Macy’s, Akers shifted her thinking to bring more of herself into the process by considering things she would like and also what she would wear. While the approach was a little bit different, she still chose the trim, fabrics and other essentials.