Leave it to Essence to remind us what black excellence looks like on both sides of the camera. Making their contribution to a season of intense black girl magic—where we are covering a full 50 percent of the 2018 fall fashion issues—the legendary black women’s magazine shows us exactly how excellent a product by a team comprised of all black talent can produce.
Supermodel and Essence Street Style honoree Naomi Campbell is stunning as always, styled by Fashion and Beauty Director Julee Wilson for acclaimed photographer Jamel Shabazz’s lens. Inside the issue, Campbell poses in the Harlem haberdashery of enduring designer Dapper Dan, modeling fashions from his newly-released Gucci x Dapper Dan collaboration and black female-designed Cushnie et Ochs, among others. Dan reflects on his decades-long career with legendary fashion editor André Leon Talley in a feature titled “Haute in Harlem,” revealing the genesis of his inimitable aesthetic and ingenuity.
“I was 9 years old when I reached the level of consciousness where I wanted to be a really sharp guy,” he tells Talley. “It was probably when the khakis came out with the buckle in the back. And then all of a sudden, button-down dress shirts were in colors. My father bought me the khakis but we couldn’t afford the button-downs. So I took a white shirt and bought Tintex [fabric dye]. My mother nearly killed me because I used one of her big pots. I put the Tintex in the pot, put the shirt in, dyed it, then cut little holes in the collar for the buttons and sewed the buttons on…”
And of the artists who would ultimately make Dapper Dan designs the most in-demand and iconic of early hip-hop culture? “I would say the most famous were the ones who had the money. That would be the Fat Boys,” he says. “They were the first ones to come to the store with $100 bills. Before that, the rappers used to have to wait outside until the gangsters left. I also had gangsters and rappers from Illinois, Connecticut and all across the country who wanted their cars done. I was busy.”
Elsewhere in the issue, Insecure it-girl Yvonne Orji stars in another fashion spread. Seriously, y’all: We are overwhelmed with all the black excellence.
Of course, this bounty of black beauty also comes on the heels of the revelation that not all black publications are relying on even predominantly black talent to create their imagery—kind of falling short of that whole “for us, by us” thing. That Essence’s most prominent issue of the year is an all-black-everything affair is a much-needed reminder of our collective brilliance, and that we are capable of creating very beautiful things.
The Glow Up tip: The September issue of Essence hits newsstands Aug. 24.