5 Black Style Icons You Should Know

As with a multitude of other things in our country’s history, Black culture’s contributions to fashion are widely overlooked or swept under the rug. As a Black owned company, we wanted to take the time to celebrate iconic people who have inspired and influenced the fashion industry, both past and present. 
It’s so hard to choose style icons from the myriad of Black trendsetters! So, here are our top 5. 

Josephine Baker

[caption id="attachment_310199" align="alignright" width="300"]Josephine Baker Photo via Vanity Fair[/caption]
When doing research for this article, I noticed Josephine Baker appeared on just about every single list of Black style icons. Being a fan of her music, I was delighted to add her to our list. If you’ve never heard it, I highly recommend looking for some. Her record ALWAYS lightens the mood - you can’t help but feel good listening to her! 
Aside from her beautiful voice, Josephine Baker was a dancer, theater performer, and avid participant in the Harlem Renaissance. Ms. Baker pushed the envelope with provocative outfits during her time. Celebrities, like Rihanna, have been seen in outfits inspired by this edgy fashionista. Remember her naked glitter dress?? Thank Josephine Baker for that STUNNING dress!! 
While Josephine Baker may be remembered for her captivating voice and sensual attire, it should also be noted that she was an activist. Ms. Baker refused to play for segregated audiences in the U.S. and was even a spy during WWII. She’s anything but ordinary!

Angela Davis 

[caption id="attachment_310195" align="alignleft" width="300"]Angela Davis Photo via NYT[/caption]
This list would be incomplete without mentioning the game changing style icon, Dr. Angela Davis. She was an author, educator - a professor at UCLA, an activist - active member of the Black Panthers, and a style icon - helping Black women all over to embrace their natural beauty as one of the faces of the “Black is Beautiful” movement. 
Dr. Davis led by example, and her crown of natural curls became not only a political symbol but a new reflection of pride - “a striking visual marker of Black identity.”  Beauty, brains + strength, Dr. Davis is more than worthy of being called an icon. 
Fun fact: Angela Davis recently partnered with Renowned LA to create a new collection, “Heroes of Blackness.” Click here to check it out!


[caption id="attachment_310196" align="alignright" width="278"]Iman Photo by Hedi Slimane[/caption]
How could we pass up one of the first Black supermodels?? Photographer Peter Beard discovered Iman during her time at Nairobi University. Iman continues to be a fashion icon, even though she retired from modeling. Sure, Iman is retired from the modeling industry, but in 2010 she received the Fashion Icon Award from the Council of Fashion Designers. After all these years, she’s still got it!! 
Iman is obviously GORGEOUS, but she’s blessed us with so much more than just her looks.  Iman started her own cosmetic line for women of color and has authored two books. Furthermore, this political science major has spoken out about racism and inclusivity in the fashion industry. Iman also spearheads Somalian relief efforts and raising funds for various charities. 

Dapper Dan 

Fashion designer Daniel Day, a.k.a. Dapper Dan - well known in the 80s and 90s for his signature style and reputation as the“king of knock-offs.” Dapper Dan repurposed traditional luxury-house products into gangster-inspired looks for athletes, hip-hop stars, and even gamblers. 
[caption id="attachment_310200" align="alignleft" width="300"]Dapper Dan Photo by Eric T. White[/caption]
He introduced Logomania to the fashion industry. For readers who may be unfamiliar with this term, logomania is essentially when the brand logo is all over or prominently shown on clothing. Think Louis Vuitton’s LV on luggage, shirts...pretty much anything! After being sued in the 90’s for printing luxury logos without permission, Dapper Dan returned to the fashion scene in 2018 with a collaboration with Gucci.
Check him out on IG to keep up with his latest styles!! 

Stephen Burrows 

[caption id="attachment_310197" align="alignright" width="300"]Stephen Burrows Photographer unknown[/caption]
Finally, rounding out our top 5, another fashion designer - Stephen Burrows. While the name may not be familiar, I’m sure color blocking, wrap dresses and lettuce hems will ring a bell! Just in case, lettuce hems are wavy hemlines, commonly seen on shirts, skirts, and dresses.  Stephen Burrows also brought African-American models to the runway, including another fashion icon - Pat Cleveland. 
Not only is he an epic designer, Stephen Burrows also has his own star on the Fashion Walk of Fame. He has also received awards such as the Andre Leon Talley Lifetime Achievement Award and the Pratt Institute Fashion Lifetime Achievement Award. These prestigious awards are given only to leaders of the fashion industry.


Karen Roberts is a US Navy Veteran, mom, Nonna, wife and entrepreneur. Her company, HauteButch, delivers menswear inspired apparel to the LGBTQ+ community. Karen also sits on the SRJC Advisory Board for the Fashion Studies Program. She has contributed countless hours to the Sonoma County WAR, TAPP AND CAPP programs and volunteer security for local “Take Back The Night” rallies.  
This is by no means an exhaustive list, as Black style icons influence so much of the fashion industry, but it includes a few names you should know. We’d love to hear from you! Who is your style icon?? Leave us a comment and check back in 2 weeks for Black Culture’s impact on the fashion industry. 😘