Issa Rae and Tracee Ellis Ross Forge a Space for Black Designers on Major Red Carpets

Tracee Ellis Ross and Issa Rae are leading the pack in encouraging black creatives in Hollywood to make room for black designers in high profile spaces. 

The outcry for black designers to claim their rightful share of red carpet placements on high profile celebrities  reached an all time high at the beginning of this year, when the tone of red carpets became intensely political following the #MeToo and #TimesUp Movements. The red carpet’s sudden shift toward becoming a platform for taking a stance on prominent social issues seemed like a pivotal movement for black celebrities and stylists to forge a space for black designers  alongside the same selection of fashion houses that have dominated red carpets for far too long. Yet the ratio of black designers remained sparse on major red carpets including The Grammys, The Oscars and even The Emmy Awards, where black actors and actresses dominated many categories for the first time ever.

As we enter the last quarter of the year, it’s looking like A-listers are taking note and realizing how impactful their endorsement of black designers can be on the industry at large. 

“Black-ish” star and Hollywood legend Tracee Ellis Ross hosted the American Music Awards this week and, in partnership with her long time stylist Karla Welch, made a bold statement by exclusively wearing black designers during both her press run and onstage throughout the show. Totaling more than 12 looks which featured a range of black designers from well known names like Pyer Moss to up and comers like Déshon, the Instyle Magazine November cover star slayed in bold show-stopping looks while using her platform to bring awareness to a much bigger cause.



The full lineup of designers she wore included Déshon, Selam Fessahaye, Pyer Moss, Cushnie, Tamara Mellon, Balmain, Lavie by CK, Segio Hudson, Off White, Shvny, CD Greene, and Gucci x Dapper Dan. Her phenomenal stand of solidarity with black designers comes only months after she faced slight criticism back in January for wearing an African-inspired Turban to the Golden Globe Awards that was designed by Marc Jacobs rather than a black designer. 

Tracee Ellis Ross said of her fashion choices,

“For the American Music Awards, from press to stage, I featured Black designers in my looks. Not every piece of what I wore was by a Black designer, but I wore a Black Designer in every look and Pat McGrath on my face. It was the story I wanted to tell and Karla Welch made it happen. I was inspired by Issa Rae and Jason Rembert, who did it first at the CFDA Awards back in June. I strongly believe in using my platform to shine light in directions I believe in, and I believe in, love and celebrate my people.



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Looks #12 #13 #14 #15 #16 #amas #tap

A post shared by Karla Welch (@karlawelchstylist) on

Her decision to dedicate her entire American Music Awards wardrobe to black designers was inspired by  none other that Issa Rae and her stylist Jason Rembert, who exclusively dressed her in looks by black designers when she became first black woman to host the CFDA Awards in June. She wore looks by Sergio Hudson, Victor Glemaud, Jlani Jewels, Mateo jewelry, custom Jason Rembert and even a viral Pyer Moss gown that featured a satin belt with the Boris Gardiner lyrics “Every Nigga is a Star.”


Of this bold fashion choice, Issa Rae’s stylist said, 

“It was a subtle reminder that we can do anything and go anywhere. We are not just tragic figures.”

With Issa Rae and Tracee Ellis Ross standing at the forefront of this incredible movement to represent black designers in high profile spaces and on major red carpets, it’s undeniable that this phenomenon will be seen more commonly in months — and YEARS — to come. We’re thrilled to see the career trajectory of these incredible black artists who are at long last claiming their fair share of the fashion industry pie. 

Gabriella Layne

Editor-in-Chief of The Strut Magazine

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