Black Excellence: Fashion that Prevails

BLACK EXCELLENCE: FASHION THAT PREVAILS

February 12, 2020 - May 26, 2020

Cornell Fashion + Textile Collection - Level T, Human Ecology Building, Cornell University


Black Excellence: Fashion that Prevails showcases the work of Black style tastemakers, influencers, and designers. The exhibition is organized thematically around the influences of African heritage, elegance, entertainment, and education. Curator Sian Brown MA ‘20 interviewed Black fashion designers in North America about their experiences in the industry, including their struggles, triumphs, and joys. Her research findings are conveyed through Black Excellence, which explores fashion design as a site where Black culture, dress, and identity are negotiated and produced.

Letter from the Curator: Black Excellence brings together 16 inspiring Black designers in an exhibition of elegance, strength, and perseverance. Over the past year and a half, I have had the opportunity to conduct research with Black designers in North America. We spent many hours in conversation, formal interviews and otherwise, and they invited me into their studios, showrooms, and boutiques. Black Excellence is one outcome of this research, and I am indebted to these designers who graciously believed and trusted my vision for the exhibition. Through this exhibition, I hope to celebrate the talents of these designers, each with their own unique story, career, experiences, talents, and inspirations. Though the fashions are diverse, all designers share in their passion to convey Black excellence. As a curator, I am honored to relay visually and materially the creative interventions these designers are making in the world and their power to prevail. - Sian Brown MA ‘20

The exhibition is organized thematically around the influences of African heritage, elegance, entertainment, and education.

Faculty Committee: Denise N. Green, Noliwe Rooks, Mikaila Brown

Photography: Grace Anderson ‘21

Videographer: Malachi A. L. Shears

Designers: Belania Daley, Beulah Cooley, Carl Jones, C.D. Greene, Dr. Farrell Doss, Guy and Sharene Wood, Jerome Lamaar, Misa Hylton, Patrick Kelly, Ruby Jean Douglas ’72, Sharufa Rashied – Walker, Simone Sullivan, Dr. Tameka Ellington, TJ Walker, Undra Duncan.

Thank you: to all of the designers who loaned the pieces for the exhibition, and to the administrative staff who helped arrange logistics. In particular, thank you to Belania Daley, Beulah Cooley, CD Greene, Farrell Doss, Guy Wood, Sharene Wood, Jerome Lamaar, Sharufa Rashied - Walker, Simone Sullivan, Dr. Tameka Ellington, Undra Duncan, Misa Hylton, Ruby Douglas ’72, Joseph Pastrana, Syreeta Gates, Carl Jones and TJ Walker, Kiki Smith, Dr. Denise Green, Dr. Noliwe Rooks, Dr. Mikaila Brown, Ernie Paniccioli, Benjamin Ortiz, Charles Beach, Helen McLallen, Kimberly Phoenix, Karen Steffy, Christianne White, Emily Cotman, Malachi A. L. Shears, and Grace Anderson. Special thank you to my peers in the FSAD graduate cohort, and to my family for your continued support! I wish to express my sincerest thanks to all designers, past and present, who have paved the way, shared their vision, and set high standards for future designers to improve upon and continue the legacy of Black style. These designers have helped to elevate our shared African heritage and are inspiring future generations with the power to prevail through fashion.

Acknowledgments: First, Thank you to all of the designers past and present and team members, publicists, and assistants to the designers who have loaned pieces for the exhibition. Thank you to Belania Daley, Beulah Cooley, CD Greene, Dr. Farrell Doss, Guy and Sharene Wood, Jerome Lamaar, Sharufa Rashied - Walker, Simone Sullivan, Dr. Tameka Ellington, Undra Duncan, Misa Hylton, Ruby Jean Douglas, Joseph Pastrana, Syreeta Gates, Carl Jones, TJ Walker, and Kiki Smith. Thank You: Grace Anderson ‘21 who photographed all of the garments and my videographer: Malachi A. L. Shears. Thank you to Benjamin Ortiz, For allowing my use of supplemental images of Chistopher Wallace and Sean Combs aka Biggie and Puff Daddy which are images from the Ernie Paniccioli archive housed in the Cornell Hip Hop Collection, and to the administrative staff who helped arrange logistics Kimberly Phoenix, Karen Steffy, Christianne White, Emily Cotman and Lucas Landaeta, Thank you to our college’s facilities team especially Charles Beach and Jaden Demarest. Thanks to our collection manager Helen McLallen. Special thanks to my peers in the FSAD graduate Cohort.

Funding Acknowledgements: Charlotte A. Jirousek Research Fellowship, funded by Laura Bowman Gray and Philip Lempert. Additional support from the College of Human Ecology, Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design, and the Cornell Fashion & Textile Collection

Loans from Museums and Archives: Smith College Historic Clothing Collection. Additional artifacts and images from Cornell’s various special collections including the Hip Hop Collection’s Ernie Paniccioli Archive, housed in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, and the Cornell Fashion + Textile Collection.

This online exhibit is based on the physical exhibit curated by Sian Brown, which was on display February 12 - May 26, 2020 at the College of Human Ecology, Cornell University. The online exhibit website was created by Sian Brown.

For additional information, please contact the Cornell Fashion + Textile Collection at fashioncollection@cornell.edu