tracy20reese2020presents20dTracy Reese, Stephen Burrows and Gavin Douglas are synonymous with the term fashion designers of color. They have paved the way for the generation of emerging designers, all while amassing international acclaim, catering to their A-list clientele and selling in the world’s greatest retailers. We revel in their success but we can’t help but wonder, who are they designing for?

Despite the murmurs of naysayers, there are plenty of women of color who love fashion. We understand the craft and the quality of a garment but just because we don’t have American Express black cards, that makes us the less desirable market.

When it comes to fashion for us, there are two extremes – luxury and mass marketed. Designers like the ones mentioned above have chosen the luxury route and their goods retail around $250. On the lower end, we have Apple Bottoms, House of Deréon and Baby Phat that cater to the more urban crowd.

Technically, I’m neither, so where does that leave me? Shopping in stores like Zara wishing that one day a designer of color will step up to the plate and design for me and my wallet. Please note, this is not to belittle the artistic expression of the designers, but I’m a working woman who does not want a glittered emblem on the butt of my pants or a credit card bill that haunts me for the rest of my life.

From my visualization, there’s no equilibrium in fashion and the woman of color in Middle America is forgotten. Houston, this is a huge problem.

Not only is my career progressing but I know that one day my clothing allowance will include a nice cushion for those $550 pair of Courtney Crawford heels. But I’ll hesitate. Not because I don’t support my fellow minority designers, but because those designers never took the opportunity to make their designs attainable for people like me.

I mean, what is really stopping designers from catering to the middle class? It’s not like they can lose.

We’re in the day and age where everyone is creating a diffusion line. Matthew Williamson, Karl Lagerfeld, Thakoon, Alexander McQueen have more than fashion empires in common, they’ve all managed to sell affordable designs at H&M and Target which broadened their customer base and their repertoire. And after all that, their business was not affected by offering something to us other folks.

Are the mass merchandisers reaching out to these designers or are they ignoring them? I truly do not understand because there is clearly a demand for affordable fashions so where is the supply?

Sure, Tracy Reese has two diffusion ready-to-wear collections but they are all in the same price point as her main collection. Rachel Roy, whose diffusion line for Macy’s debuts this fall, is on her third diffusion line, Rachel Rachel Roy, where her designs are available for under $300.

Are designers of color afraid to reach out to us for fear that once they go black, they can never go back?

Mr. and Ms. Designer Extraordinaire, keep this in mind as you gather inspiration for your next collection. Not catering to a woman with billions in buying power is only a disservice to your brand. We want to drape ourselves in your designs, but you won’t allow us to. Creating something for the working class woman of color can only help you reach the platform of success that you desire.

Have you seen the lines at H&M when those designers debut their collections? Can you imagine that being your designs? So what are you waiting for?

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  • This article is clearly lazy..

    This is my understanding of what was said; we’re ecstatic that you’ve made it.. Now can you change your prices to better suit our life because we would like a hook up…

    Further perpetuates the ideal that black people always want something to complain about.. White people who are not rich have prada and gucci not because they have a black card but because they look for sales. They go to Tory Burch sample sales, they sign up for Gucci’s twice a year sale where everything is 50% off.. Tracey Reese WILL HAVE A SALE! It’s really not that difficult; does not require a PHD, it’s not rocket science, you don’t need a masters. Be about it. Be on it.

    You can not possibly knock a designer because YOUR pockets are out of reach…


    There are plenty of stores(e.g. Loehmanns, Filenes, TJ Maxx) who sell designers such as Elie Tahari which you can find at Bloomingdales for double the price.

    In this game it’s all about being educated.

  • I like Tracy Reese and even though her Plenty line (her mid priced line) is still too expensive for my budget (well I don’t consider myself middle class, since my income is limited). Doesn’t really matter to me if she caters to my demographic or not. Good design is good design no matter who does it. Black, White, Asian whatever. I’m not disappointed because she doesn’t make a lower priced line for the average consumer. I like her designs but there is nothing in her design atheistic that I haven’t seen before or that other designers have not done for lower price lines. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything because she is not participating in that arena.

    There are a lot of big name designer doing average priced or “guest” lines for stores like Gap, Target, Kohls etc. You got Hardy for Gap, all the big names guest designers for Target and H&M, Vera Wang and Dana Buchman for Kohl’s, Rachel Roy for Macy’s etc. So I’m not missng out on anything because Tracy is catering to a specific clientele. There are a ton of options to chose from out there. You can also get some of her clothes aftermarket on Ebay at a reasonable price.

  • I also agree with D-ski’s comment. I have no problem staying in my lane. It’s not the clothes, it’s the confidence and the attitude of the person behind the clothes. The way you style a particular pieces around your own individual attitude, lifestyle, etc. My style is not defined by a label that rugs against the back of my neck. I make the clothes stand out, the clothes or the designer/manufacturer who makes them does infusion personality into that piece, the woman who wears it does!

  • correction (no bad you can’t edit your post in on this site, might want to add that feature) – “the designer/manufacturer who makes them does NOT infusion personality into that piece, the woman who wears it does!”

  • My two cents. I think that the issue is not designing for the mass of “middle class” black people but designing things that are within your means. I am an independent upstart designer. I can only afford custom made, low minimum fashion pieces. That translates to pieces that are going to come in around Tracey Reese’s pieces. When you have big backing (which most designers don’t to start with) you can only design pieces that are going to make you the most money. I have to pay higher prices for fabric, notions, and labor than the big guys who can afford to make thousands of pieces that retail around 40 bucks to 100. They have factories, mills (to create their fabric) and they get the big orders. Companies like Dereon and baby phat chose to go after the black/urban market with price points that are more palatable because again they DO have the backing, and do have the factories, mills, etc.

    Once i reach a certain level in my career as a designer, i am planning on adding in a line (or lines) that are more affordably priced, because at that point i can get any factory or mill to work with me. I will be guaranteed orders at that point. I am also NOT designing anything based on the concept that a black woman/person will purchase it, I want my clothing to transcend skin color! No one (besides Urban lifestyle brands) should be so narrow minded in their business approach.

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