Keith Riley wearing a design from his Denied Apparel collection.

PROMOTING TALENT: Supporting Black designers is now paramount for companies and consumers alike, and three fashion-based companies are trying to do their part to get that message out.

Striving to be “a fashion house of the future” by selecting talent and providing production, Nism works with several BIPOC designers. The direct-to-consumer brand, which is part incubator and part design studio, launches limited-edition collections on its site. Looking to give more opportunities to Black creatives, Nism will have an open call later this month for the next breakout designer. The aim is to give someone a chance to share their art with the world. The start date for the open call is June 24 and it will end on July 15.

“Disappointed and embarrassed” by the dearth of apparel designed by Black designers pre-2000 and the lack of information about them, Haile Lidow recently wrote a newsletter entitled “The Problem With Representation in Vintage Clothing” and sent it to nearly 500 people who use her Lidow Archive, a rental service for vintage and contemporary apparel and accessories.

In addition to offering more apparel from Black designers to her 4,000-plus item archive, Lidow vowed to continue to learn more about the history of Black artists in fashion and to share that information widely. Her recent newsletter linked to various e-commerce sites that were selling designs from Ann Lowe, Stephen Burrows, Gordon Henderson, Tracy Reese, Ozwald Boateng, Willi Smith, Patrick Kelly, Kimora Lee Simmons and other designers. In doing her research, Lidow said she wound up buying a number of pieces to have in her archives, including styles from Byron Lars.

”The new information to me was that Black designers are just not represented in vintage clothing — at all. It was sad and I really hope to be able to show their designs and collect them, and also purchase pieces from Black-owned vintage dealers. I will incorporate them into the archives that then goes out to a large selection of different types of people,” she said.

The Lidow Archive founder said as a general rule, the garments in her Bushwick showroom are not separated based on gender, designer or anything else other than by categories such as tops, dresses and pants. “I feel strongly about that. The studio is kind of its own world and the pieces live together in it. I plan on keeping that system, but I plan on showcasing more on social media that these pieces are from Black designers,” Lidow said. “Of course, if the renter is there and I think a piece from a Black designer would be perfect for what they’re doing, I will make more of an effort to show them and inform them about the history of the piece, where it came from and who made it.”

Keith Riley, founder of the nearly four-year-old label Denied Apparel, has been using his quarantining time to amp up his site. The Atlanta high schooler had more time to develop his business after stay-at-home mandates were put in place due to COVID-19. Approaching his senior year in high school, Riley hopes to attend the Savannah College of Art & Design. Instead of focusing on selling customized clothing that is sold on Instagram, he has dropped two collections this year via his site. Denied Apparel will open a one-day pop-up store in Decatur, Ga.

The company name “is trying to uplift the youth especially in times like this and just make everyone feel like they have a place somewhere. Denied Apparel spoke to a time in high school when I felt denied and I didn’t exactly fit in. I just want everybody to feel like themselves and that they can embrace themselves for who they are,” Riley said.

The past few months of self quarantining “has given people more time to be on their phones, to try new things and to re-evaluate the situation,” he said.

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