It’s fun to watch the fashion industry anoint and dethrone new trends each season. But when it comes to who is in or out, that fun can turn cutthroat—and tends to make for a more homogeneous-looking industry.
The prevailing look, which over-indexes on thin, white bodies, has been challenged throughout fashion history, often by Black trailblazers devoted to pushing the boundaries of what a fashion icon looks like. But their work to drive the industry forward isn’t always met with the accolades they’ve earned. It’s something top of mind for TV host and style expert Melissa Chataigne, a TODAY Show regular who uses her platform to advocate for a more inclusive fashion scene, from Los Angeles Times op-eds to her blog and weekly newsletter, Elevated Living.
“It feels like all the ‘great ones’ are departing daily,” she says. “The recent passing of fashion editor, tastemaker, and creative director André Leon Talley has made me think of how much he and countless other Black creatives contribute to the luxury fashion world playing the proverbial ‘maid,’ ‘assistant’ or ‘friend,’ only to never receive due credit from the celebrities, designers, and people they made into millionaires.”
“These mavericks laid the groundwork for how we view the arts and paved monumental opportunities for us,” she continues. “And yet, Tally died facing eviction, fighting bankruptcy, and feeling rejected and disposed of by many of the people he made rich and famous.”
Here, Chataigne pays tribute to Tally, plus nine more fashion industry giants who didn’t just elevate style as we know it, but made it possible for new generations to move the needle even further.
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