Style

The Black-Owned Streetwear Brands You Need On Your Radar

Three facts:

  1. Streetwear has become emblematic of the global style industry as a whole.
  2. As goes streetwear, so goes high fashion.
  3. The industry wouldn’t be what it is today without the work, creativity, and culture of Black America.

To put a finer point on it, everything cool and “American” is filtered, at least in part, through the lens of the African American experience. Especially streetwear. Our modern style slang owes a debt to the queer black femmes and drag queens who popularized it, the beauty trends of the day originated with black women (pay homage, Kim K and Ariana), and hip-hop has defined how people dress for decades.

But while Black America is vital to defining American style, the fashion houses of Europe and the fast-fashion brands responding to trends are overwhelmingly white-owned (whether public or privately held). It’s time to change that. And while subsidiary brands like Jordan, Yeezy, Off-White, and Golf Wang are important, it’s time to give the independent creators some love.

Below, we’ve collected our fifteen favorite black-owned streetwear brands. Get these companies and designers on your radar and your wardrobe will be that much cooler as things start to open up again.

A-Cold-Wall

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A-Cold-Wall comes from the mind of Samuel Ross, a young British designer who first started the label in 2015. In just five short years, Samuel Ross has been named a GQ Hype cover star, won the Emerging Talent Menswear prize at the 2018 Fashion Awards, and brought his brand to over 100 global stockists.

Speaking to GQ, Ross mentions that it was Virgil Abloh’s work that inspired him to create the first A-Cold-Wall pieces, which started as “an art project” based on exploring the cultural melting pot of the UK. Ross’ interest in art is readily apparent in the photo shoots of A-Cold-Wall’s lookbooks, which have an almost fine-art quality to them.

ALLCAPS Studio

If graphic t-shirts with varied fonts are your thing, All Caps Studio is your label. All Caps Studio’s designs come from Philadelphia’s Saeed Ferguson, who is a master of typography, letting the kerning do all the work by keeping his prints simple and cleanly printed on a single color base.

The looks out of All Caps are strong and get their message across, you know, like WHEN A PERSON TYPES IN ALL CAPS.

Art Comes First

Art Comes First’s particular brand of streetwear combines punk rock fashion and bespoke tailoring for an edgy and elegant aesthetic that exudes cool. The British label is headed by the team of Sam Lambert and Shaka Maidoh, who, according to MotMag, met outside of a nightclub and joined forces to create a label that reflects their shared passion for music, photography, and fashion.

Bricks & Wood

Founded in South Central Los Angeles in 2014, Bricks & Wood’s brand of streetwear is as functional as it is high quality. Throughout the label’s six-year history, Bricks & Wood has shown an unwavering commitment to carefully cut and sewn pieces that are entirely unisex.

With streetwear staples like hoodies, crewneck sweaters, graphic t-shirts, and hats, Bricks & Wood has an almost endless supply of comfort-focused pieces that’ll keep your wardrobe cozy.

The Brooklyn Circus

To say that The Brooklyn Circus is merely prep-meets-streetwear is an oversimplification of the brand. What the Brooklyn Circus does well — aside from making preppy letterman jackets and college sweaters actually look cool — is mine the iconic silhouettes and design ideas used throughout American history and retranslate them for a new era.

That makes every look out of The Brooklyn Circus instantly classic without feeling overly outdated.

Darryl Brown

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This brand new label still has a fairly small following, but expect them to blow up this year. Darryl Brown comes from the designer of the same name who, before becoming Kanye’s personal stylist, cut his teeth as a steelworker for General Motors. That 9-to-5 lifestyle informed Brown’s workwear-inspired label, which the designer told Gear Patrol was directly inspired by Dickies and Carhartt.

Most of the pieces out of Darryl Brown used the simple and boxy silhouettes of our favorite workwear, but add a sort of luxury sheen to the whole thing, which makes them feel all the fresher.

Denim Tears

A former consultant for Kanye West, Denim Tears’ Tremaine Emory is using his label to highlight cotton as a symbol intertwined with the history of slavery in America. The brand’s logo, a bushy wreathe of cotton, is meant to provoke a conversation about slavery as it exists in the modern age, telling The Face in an interview “I’m using this story to also tell about the human condition and how we treat each other. I can’t just relegate [the blame for slavery] to Western Europeans and white Americans. It’s still happening today. There’s indentured servitude in America and in Europe.”

The brand recently did a notable collaboration with Levi’s, affixing their logo to Levi’s classic trucker jacket and 501 jeans, and creating a special t-shirt and hat that Emory has dubbed the “Plantation Hat.”

Fear of God

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We thought about passing on Jerry Lorenzo’s massively popular Los Angeles based label for this list, but on the off-chance you’re not a big sneakerhead, Fear of God might’ve fallen under your radar. In recent years, Lorenzo’s beloved brand has dipped further and further into the realm of luxury goods but the label regularly drops new streetwear staples, like graphic t-shirts, sneakers, caps, and hoodies.

Heron Preston

Straight from the Parsons School of Design alumnus of the same name, Heron Preston combines workwear staples with luxury brand presentation for a label that serves looks from graphic and slogan heavy streetwear, to high fashion conceptual pieces and everything in between.

Nicholas Daley

If acid jazz was a clothing style rather then a genre of music, it would look something like Nicholas Daley. The British designer has a knack for mining the psychedelic styles of musicians like Jimi Hendrix and artists like Frank Bowler, offering a variety of tie-dye and color-saturated streetwear pieces that’ll have you looking like you walked straight out of the type of art collective that would’ve inspired Andre 3000 or Erykah Badu in their primes.

RenownedLA

First founded in 2011, Los Angeles-based Renowned, from designer John Dean, has quickly gained success both domestically and overseas, where the brand is a favorite amongst K-Pop’s most famous faces and the go-to brand for stylists throughout Europe. Renowned was first created in the halls of Dean’s Akron, Ohio highschool when the budding designer started making clay pendants bearing the future label’s logo and handed them out for his friends to wear. From there Dean transitioned to T-shirts and other streetwear staples, eventually capturing the eye of artists like Nicki Minaj and Tyga.

Telfar

If you’re looking for one of the most fly unisex brands in the streetwear space right now, look no further than Telfar. Founding in 2005 by Telfar Clemens, the label has always prided itself in its inclusive aesthetic, positioning itself as one of the first (and best) labels to focus on entirely unisex collections. There is a certain level of elegance to the pieces out of Telfar thanks to a reimagining of athleisure that brings the divisive aesthetic straight into the world of fine art.

Telfar tries to push the envelope with each collection and manages to look cool and contemporary while they do it.

Union Los Angeles

Union has a long and storied history that begins in the streets of New York City in 1989. How the store and label came to be associated with the city of Los Angeles — where its thriving — could be an article all its own. The thing about Union that so many Angelenos and streetwear aficionados around the world have come to appreciate is the store’s commitment to expert curation by owners Chris Gibbs and Beth Birkett — which always shifts with the current trends, while also fostering an identity that is undeniably their own.

The Marathon Clothing

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Founded by the late Nipsey Hussle, The Marathon’s threads are directly inspired by Nispey’s own distinct style and grew organically out of the artist’s own merch line, which began with a Crenshaw t-shirt company that quickly became a must-own amongst streetwear heads. The brand is still going strong, recently selling out a collection of face masks and dipping their toes into the weed game with their own custom strain through their sub-label The Marathon Cultivation.

Western Elders

Western Elders combines the colors and designs of West African culture with traditional New York streetwear for a collection that’ll make your outfit look straight out of a Spike Lee joint that was never made. It’s stylish and culturally resonant at the same time.

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