Black Fashion Designers at FIT

black fashion designers
Scott Barrie dress, ca. 1973, in MFIT’s exhibition Black Fashion Designers. Image: Museum at FIT.

The Museum at FIT’s current exhibition, Black Fashion Designers, showcases the often-overlooked work of more than 60 designers of African descent. (The show runs to May 16th, 2017). Monday’s symposium is sold out, but you can watch a livestream here.

1970s Willi Smith jumpsuit pattern - Butterick 6680
Butterick 6680 by Willi Smith (ca. 1979) Image: PatternVault shop.

Many of the designers featured in the FIT exhibit also licensed sewing patterns. Here are some highlights of patterns by Black fashion designers, from the 1970s to now.

Sportswear designer Willi Smith (1948-1987) signed with Butterick’s Young Designer line in the 1970s; in the ’80s, he moved to McCall’s with his label Williwear. According to the exhibition notes, Smith branched into menswear in 1982, but this pattern is almost a decade earlier:

1970s Willi Smith menswear pattern Butterick 3254
Butterick 3254 by Willi Smith (1973) Image: Vintage Pattern Wiki.

Stephen Burrows (b. 1943) licensed designs with McCall’s Carefree line in the mid-1970s. This pattern combines two of his signature elements, colour blocking and lettuce hems:

Stephen Burrows pattern for a swan top or tie-bodice top with pants - McCall's 4091
McCall’s 4091 by Stephen Burrows (1974) Image: Etsy.

Scott Barrie (1946-1993) began his career at Vogue Patterns, so his introduction to home sewers was also a welcome back. Chris von Wangenheim photographed Barrie with two models for a feature highlighting his work with matte jersey. The patterns are Vogue 1976 (on Gia Carangi) and Vogue 1994:

Scott Barrie photographed by Chris von Wangenheim (with Gia Carangi, left) in Vogue Patterns magazine, 1978
Scott Barrie in Vogue Patterns, September/October 1978. Photo: Chris von Wangenheim.

Best known for his formal wear, British designer Bruce Oldfield (b. 1950) licensed his work with Style Patterns in the mid-1980s. (See my earlier post here). This dolman-sleeved dress could be made in cocktail or evening length:

1980s Bruce Oldfield dress pattern Style 4494
Style 4494 by Bruce Oldfield (1985) Image: Etsy.

Patrick Kelly (1954-1990) first appeared on the pattern scene in the late 1980s with this dramatic peplum suit. (Read my Patrick Kelly post here, or download the free one-seam coat pattern.)

1980s Patrick Kelly peplum suit pattern Vogue 2077
Vogue 2077 by Patrick Kelly (1988) Image: PatternVault shop.

Gordon Henderson (b. 1957) was among the first designers in the ’90s Vogue Attitudes line. (According to a 1990 profile, his mother—a psychologist and single parent—used Vogue patterns to economize.) This 1990 design shows his interest in colour and silhouette:

1990s Gordon Henderson jacket, skirt and top pattern - Vogue 2566
Vogue 2566 by Gordon Henderson (1990) Image: Etsy.

Also in the Vogue Attitudes line, patterns by Byron Lars (b. 1965) remain popular today. (See my earlier post.) This shirt dress and leggings ensemble was photographed on the street in New York City:

1990s Byron Lars dress and leggings pattern Vogue 1529
Vogue 1529 by Byron Lars (1995) Image: Etsy.

Tracy Reese (b. 1964) has licensed her main label with Vogue Patterns since 2009; McCall’s added bridge line Plenty by Tracy Reese in 2012. Vogue’s most recent offering, Vogue 1512, is a dress from Reese’s Fall 2015 collection.

Plenty by Tracy Reese shirt dress pattern M6506
McCall’s 6506 from Plenty by Tracy Reese (2012) Image: PatternVault shop.
Tracy Reese FW 2015 dress pattern Vogue 1512
Vogue 1512 by Tracy Reese (2016) Image: eBay.
Fall 2015 collection. Image: Vogue Runway.
Tracy Reese, Fall 2015 collection. Image: Vogue Runway.

For more on the Black Fashion Designers exhibit, see the museum notes and Alexandra Jacobs’ article in The New York Times.

Byron Lars: Vogue Patterns

1990s Byron Lars editorial photographed for Vibe by Ruven Afanador
Vibe magazine, September 1993. Model: Lois Samuels. Photo: Ruven Afanador. Image: Google Books.

Today is Byron Lars’ birthday. In lieu of cake, here’s a look at his work with Vogue Patterns.

A Byron Lars look on the cover of Women's Wear Daily, 1991
Women’s Wear Daily, April 1991. Image: Instagram.

Born in California, Byron Lars (b. 1965) studied at the Brooks Fashion Institute and New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology before dropping out to pursue freelance work; he was already an award-winning fashion illustrator when he launched his own label in 1991. His playful yet beautifully cut designs were an instant success—twists on American sportswear shown with cheeky accessories like duck-decoy purses. In a 1993 interview, Lars cites Patrick Kelly and Jean Paul Gaultier as inspirations for his approach. (See Greg Tate, “Byron Large.”)

Byron Lars illustrations in LOfficiel, August 1991
Byron Lars illustrations in L’Officiel, August 1991. Image:
Two Byron Lars runway looks in Vogue, September 1992.

In the mid-1990s, Vogue Patterns licensed a number of Byron Lars designs in the Vogue Attitudes line. Lars was introduced to readers in the July/August 1994 issue of Vogue Patterns magazine:

Introducing Byron Lars - Louise Vyent on the cover of Vogue Patterns magazine, summer 1994.
Louise Vyent wears Byron Lars on the cover of Vogue Patterns, July/August 1994. Photo: Torkil Gudnason. Image: Amazon.

The first two patterns, Vogue 1419 and 1420, were modelled by Louise Vyent and photographed by Torkil Gudnason (click to enlarge):

Byron Lars in Vogue Patterns Jul/Aug 1994
“Introducing Byron Lars: Shape and Spirit,” Vogue Patterns, July/August 1994. Model: Louise Vyent. Photos: Torkil Gudnason.

Vogue 1419 is a pattern for a skirt, high-waisted pants, and a jacket with exposed zippers and Lars’ signature, waist-defining tie-front:

1990s Byron Lars jacket, skirt, and pants pattern - Vogue 1419
Vogue 1419 by Byron Lars (1994) Image: eBay.

Vogue 1420 presents three versions of Lars’ take on the traditional men’s shirt:

1990s Byron Lars shirts pattern - Vogue 1420
Vogue 1420 by Byron Lars (1994) Image: Etsy.

Here the twist becomes an asymmetrical, pleated drape on a tailored dress:

1990s Byron Lars dress pattern - Vogue 1506
Vogue 1506 by Byron Lars (1994) Image: eBay.

From 1995, Vogue 1529 includes leggings and a flared shirtdress with bustline tie detail. The silhouette is similar to that seen in the Ruven Afanador photo that opens this post:

1990s Byron Lars striped shirtdress pattern - Vogue 1529
Vogue 1529 by Byron Lars (1995) Image: Etsy.

Vogue 1620 provides three more variations on the Byron Lars shirt:

1990s Byron Lars shirts pattern - Vogue 1620
Vogue 1620 by Byron Lars (1995) Image: PatternVault shop.

Vogue 1621 includes two tie-front shirtdresses and a top for lightweight, dressier fabrics, as well as high-waisted pants:

1990s Byron Lars dress, top, and pants pattern - Vogue 1621
Vogue 1621 by Byron Lars (1995) Image: Etsy.

In Vogue 1653, Lars pairs tapered pants with a fitted jacket with built-up neckline, exposed zippers, and dramatic back drape:

1990s Byron Lars jacket and pants pattern - Vogue 1653
Vogue 1653 by Byron Lars (1995) Image: Etsy.

Vogue 1701’s fitted dress for stretch knits was photographed at the Strand’s Central Park kiosk. The pattern includes the contrast belt, which is angled to pass through the skirt’s front drape:

1990s Byron Lars dress pattern - Vogue 1701
Vogue 1701 by Byron Lars (1995) Image: Etsy.

The jacket of this skirt suit has a surprise contrast back in synthetic suede or leather:

1990s Byron Lars skirt suit pattern - Vogue 1843
Vogue 1843 by Byron Lars (1996) Image: eBay.

You may have seen Erica Bunker’s version of Vogue 1846. This shirt can be made as a wrap-front with optional contrast cuffs and collar, or with a contrast dirndl bodice:

1990s Byron Lars shirt pattern - Vogue 1846
Vogue 1846 by Byron Lars (1996) Image: Etsy.

Finally, two more fashion photos: the closing shot from Ruven Afanador’s Byron Lars portfolio in the premiere issue of Vibe magazine, and a runway image from Lars’ Fall 1994 collection.

By request of Clare Nightingale.

Byron Lars in Fernando Sanchez, with Kumi in Byron Lars, Vibe magazine, September 1993. Photo: Ruven Afanador. Image: Google Books.

Embed from Getty Images