Black Designers Need Stronger Presence on Award Show Red Carpets

We know exactly what question our favorite celebrities are destined to answer when they walk the red carpet; “What designer are you wearing tonight?”  But according to the statistics shown below, the response to this question is hardly ever a black designer.

Source: Do Red Carpet Appearances Impact Designers’ Sales?,

These statistics imply that black designers don’t have a presence on major red carpets at all. But coveted black designers including Byron Lars, Laquan Smith, Tracy Reese, Helmut Lang, Cushnie Et Ochs and Romeo Hunte are known for producing some of the most iconic red carpet moments of our time. Like many industries, it appears that the talent is there, but equal opportunity isn’t. With diversity remaining an ongoing hot button issue in Hollywood, why is the list of most worn red carpet designers remaining #SoWhite?

Red Carpet Redefined

The predictability of award show red carpets had become mundane until recent years, when A-listers began to shift the attention from their dresses to the socio-political issues they wanted to give a platform to. The more socially-aware climate of red carpets reached new heights during the 2018 award season, where celebrities used their fashion choices to stand in solidarity of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Although there were tons of Black dresses worn on the Golden Globes red carpet in support of the #TimesUp movement, there were hardly any black designers mentioned. While it’s incredible to see A-listers draw attention to such important issues using fashion as their platform, statistics continue to show that this level of advocacy for social awareness — particularly when it comes to representation and inclusion in fashion — still aren’t made a priority behind-the-scenes.

Serena Williams wearing black designer Laquan Smith on the red carpet.

As social media protests like #OscarsSoWhite continue to prove the importance of representation and inclusion in Hollywood, it’s more important than ever for this same value for diversity to gain priority off-camera, too. Claiming a seat for fellow black creatives at the table is a necessary place to start and as red carpets evolve into a stage for political activism, there’s no better time for the Black elite of Hollywood to collectively send a much-needed message that the work toward inclusion is just getting started.

The movie premier of the highly anticipated Marvel film Black Panther recently took place, and while some of the biggest names in Black Hollywood were in attendance wearing Afrocentric fashions, hardly any of them credited black designers for the looks they were wearing. In the wake of Black History Month and one of the most highly anticipated all-black superhero films of all time, an incredible opportunity was missed to emphasize the importance of supporting black creatives and the black dollar at this premiere. This couldn’t have been better timing to shed light on black designers,  as major fashion and lifestyle brands continue to get called out for the lack of cultural sensitivity in their marketing tactics toward the black community (cough cough, H&M).

Halle Berry wearing black designer Helmut Lang to the premiere of ‘The Call’

Besides fashion shows, red carpets are the single most important product placement opportunity for fashion designers annually. While a great red carpet presence hasn’t substantially proven to consistently increase annual revenue for major fashion designers, the amount of eyeballs that these designers receive is unquestionably invaluable. Black designers aren’t called on enough by stylists to receive the big break they deserve by getting one of their dresses on a red carpet darling. For far too long, Hollywood has been dominated by a small group of people who have controlled the pulse of the industry, causing it to look and feel the same for decades. As Hollywood continues to be turned on its head with the evolution of new platforms that even out the playing field, it’s time that fashion gets turned on its head, too.

Some A-listers including Lupita Nyong’o, Serena Williams, Kelly Rowland and even Michelle Obama are known for regularly wearing gowns by select black designers on red carpets. Every appearance counts, but could you imagine the impact that a collective red carpet movement committed to celebrating black designers could make?



We hope to see Black Celebrities highlight black designers a lot more on future red carpets. In the meantime, here’s a look at some top red carpet moments featuring our favorite celebrities wearing black designers: 

Kelly Rowland wearing Laquan Smith
Tika Sumpter wearing black designer Cushnie et Ochs
Lupita Nyongo wearing Cushnie et Ochs
Sevyn Streeter wearing Laquan Smith
Chloe and Halle wearing Tracy Reese at the Grown-ish premiere.
Angela Bassett wearing Byron Lars to attend the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards Nominee Brunch
Gabriella Layne

Editor-in-Chief of The Strut Magazine

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