The category is: Fashion. They are influencers, editors, creators and decision-makers—and they always do it in style. This year’s 10 TGU 50 Fashion honorees are designing a more equitable, colorful fashion industry for us all to see ourselves reflected in.
Tellingly, this year’s honorees include several long-overdue “firsts,” some of whom have been doing revelatory work behind the scenes for decades. Now at the forefront, they will undoubtedly change the face of fashion for generations to come.
If you needed an example of what it looks like to secure a seat at the proverbial table, look no further than the new president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America CaSandra Diggs. Making history as the first Black woman to ever hold the position, Diggs is a 20-year veteran of the CFDA, having joined the organization in 2001 and previously acting as its chief administrative and financial officer. Diggs is also a founder and leader of the CFDA’S Black Advisory Board, which launched IMPACT—a new multifaceted initiative dedicated to identifying, connecting, supporting, and nurturing Black and brown creatives and professionals in fashion with the hopes of providing a pipeline for diverse talent in every facet of the industry’s ecosystem and a blueprint for other industries to follow.
When making a film based on powerhouse figures such as Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party, one of the main objectives is to balance historical accuracy with dynamic visuals for a contemporary audience. Such was the case for costume designer Charlese Antoinette Jones, who was tasked with creating the costumes for the Oscar-nominated, Shaka King-directed feature Judas and the Black Messiah. With several years’ experience under her belt and notable projects on her resumé (including King’s Newlyweeds, Michael B. Jordan’s Raising Dion, and Spike Lee’s See You Yesterday), Jones was able to successfully capture not only the style of the late ‘60s and the revolutionary look of the Panthers, but the essence of these real-life icons as well. Thanks to her skills, Jones is nominated for Best Costume Design in a Period Film at this year’s Costume Designers Guild Awards.
If there is anyone who knows how to make an entrance, it’s Christopher John Rogers. The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund winner continues to wow the world with bold prints, vibrant colors and gorgeous fabrics, continuously redefining modern couture. Rogers designs for the people he wants to empower—his clothing, which has aptly been described as wearable art, has been donned by the likes of powerful women such as Michelle Obama, Tracee Ellis Ross, Zendaya and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Most recently, Rogers was the designer of choice for Vice President Kamala Harris’ inaugural outfit. The monochromatic ensemble consisted of a regal violet coat and dress that emanated power and grace while staying true to Rogers’ bold colors and timeless silhouettes.
In December 2020, Gabriella Karefa-Johnson made history when she became the first Black woman to style a Vogue cover. She also styled the March cover of Vanity Fair featuring Billie Eilish. Between her Vogue cover debut and her Vanity Fair shoot, Karefa-Johnson made history again when she worked with Vice President Kamala Harris on her highly talked-about first Vogue cover. The prolific creative brings a fresh perspective to the high fashion world, styling and directing shoots with diverse representation in models, clothes and photographers. Karefa-Johnson has also styled Chloe x Halle, Amanda Gorman and Paloma Elsesser for Vogue, and says chaos and spontaneity are key in her work as she styles each piece intuitively. As a young Black woman in the fashion industry, Karefa-Johnson works hard to push boundaries and pave the way for other Black collaborators.
When it comes to the world of costume design, there is arguably no greater force than the masterful and renowned designer Ruth E. Carter. With over four decades’ worth of experience spanning across various projects such as School Daze, The Five Heartbeats, Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X, Marshall, Lee Daniel’s The Butler, Love and Basketball, B*A*P*S, Black Panther and Coming 2 America, the Academy Award winner and DAP Award nominee has undoubtedly cemented her place in history as a woman of immeasurable talent, boundless creativity, and inspiring ingenuity—and cemented it literally, as well. A brilliant artist and beacon in her own right, Carter was recently recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And if you’re not in Los Angeles, don’t worry; her illustrious career is also currently on display via the “Ruth E. Carter: Afrofuturism in Costume Design” exhibit at the SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film in Atlanta.
Thanks to her stylish beginnings as an assistant to Vogue’s legendary creative director Grace Coddington and her tenures as style director at InStyle, fashion director at Elle, executive fashion director at Vanity Fair and countless beauty and style campaigns—Samira Nasr has proved to be an innovator and expert in the fashion industry. Her impeccable taste and decades of experience made her an ideal new editor-in-chief for Harper’s Bazaar, the first Black woman and person of color to hold the prestigious position in its 154-year history. As the legacy magazine’s new leader, Nasr hopes to usher in a new, colorful, and inclusive era into the publication; we have no doubt that she’ll do so effortlessly and authentically.
If you still haven’t figured out who was behind Michelle Obama’s stunning oxblood, monochromatic moment at this year’s Presidential Inauguration—look no further than Sergio Hudson. Hailing from South Carolina, Hudson’s big break came when he walked away the winner of Bravo’s fashion competition series Styled to Rock in 2014. With a passion for statement-worthy designs and dedication to dressing “real women” (read: non-models), his keen eye has only sharpened in the years since, affording him the opportunity to dress top fashion figures and icons such as Rihanna, Janelle Monáe, Iman, Beyoncé, and, of course, Mrs. Obama. Hudson was also the creative force behind Vice President Kamala Harris’s evening look at the Inaugural Ball.
Whether it’s an enlightening design thread on Twitter or a breakdown of looks via her Instagram stories, fashion and costume historian Shelby Ivey Christie has made it her mission to highlight the vast contributions and impact Black designers have made in the industry. Born in New York and a graduate of North Carolina A&T, Christie’s love of all things at the intersection of race, politics, and fashion have led her to positions at legacy fashion companies such as Vogue and InStyle. A recent Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree, Christie’s continual thirst for knowledge and unwavering dedication to exploring fashion’s cultural nuances have led her to partnerships with Tidal and Netflix. She’s currently pursuing her M.A. in Costume Studies at NYU.
Tremaine Emory is a full-spectrum creative also known as the entity Denim Tears, which launched a landmark collaboration with Converse in 2020 based on David Hammons’ iconic African American Flag. Creatively, Emory has also collaborated with Virgil Abloh’s Off-White, Stüssy, Tom Sachs and Kanye West—and is one-half of the brain behind the term “Art Dad.” (For the record, Emory says you don’t have to be a dad in order to be an “Art Dad,” just someone who is consistently holding onto their dreams, pursuing their hobbies and doing exactly what they want to do.)
Emory’s other line, No Vacancy Inn released a limited collection of Coming 2 America-inspired jackets riffing on Semmi’s varsity jacket in the original film.
Small is a Super Mom. The mother of two is all-too-familiar with the ups and downs of motherhood and created a platform to balance the two things she loved most—being a parent and a blogger. What started as a fashion and beauty blog turned into a hub of inspiration, love and support for Black mothers everywhere as her platform quickly grew, attracting mothers who wanted to keep their swag intact while gleaning some of Small’s best parenting practices. Formerly the Baby Shopaholic, her blog Hey Trina has grown into platform for mothers to connect and a space to shop Trina’s always on-trend Supermom streetwear.
Want more? Watch our video to see these phenoms in action!
(Video production: Peter J. Rickards; Animations: Heather Hass)