Black designers who popularized fan gear 20 years ago struggle as white designers leap ahead

Black designers who popularized fan gear 20 years ago struggle as white designers leap ahead

These new successes show how hard it is for small, independent creators to break into sportswear-as-womenswear — especially Black designers, who popularized and innovated it two decades ago.

It started as a fun project. A white bodysuit, emblazoned with Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jake Browning’s number and initials.

Taylor Damron had made it for her cousin, Browning’s girlfriend Stephanie Niles, to wear to the Jan. 7 game against the Cleveland Browns. Then, the outfit went viral.

“The next day, I woke up, and the world had kind of fallen in my lap,” Damron, 29, says.

Damron’s design rocketing to internet fame is just one story of how women’s fan apparel has found itself in the spotlight. Just a few days later, Taylor Swift would don a red puffer jacket with boyfriend and Kansas City Chiefs’ tight end Travis Kelce’s number for his game against the Miami Dolphins. Within a month, that jacket’s designer, Kristin Juszczyk, would score a NFL licensing deal.

These meteoric success stories have illustrated the potency of a market for women’s sports apparel that merges fashion and fan culture. They have also highlighted how hard it is for smaller, independent creators to break into the business — especially Black designers, who popularized and innovated sportswear-as-womenswear two decades ago.

Before Swift catapulted Juszczyk’s clothes to a new level of attention, the 29-year-old designer built a following online by repurposing jerseys into more high-fashion pieces — corsets, suits, skirts — for herself as she attended San Francisco 49ers games to support her husband, fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Her NFL chic couture has spread to other players’ partners and supporters across the league, including Simone Biles, Taylor Lautner and Brittany Mahomes.

Before Juszczyk sent Swift and Mahomes jackets for the Jan. 13 game, she had about 100,000 followers, according to Social Blade. Within a month, she had more than 1 million.

With her official license in hand, Juszczyk designed puffer vests commemorating Super Bowl LVIII, sported by celebrities. One such vest sold for $75,000, with proceeds going to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Juszczyk herself wore a jacket stitched from jerseys, an ode to her husband’s football career, for Sunday’s big game.

While players’ wives and girlfriends have long represented their partners with custom designs, adopting team colors, logos and numbers, the interplay of fashion and gameday apparel was energized in the ’90s and early aughts, when Black artists were “pushing the needle of what was cool and trendy,” says Tayler Adigun, a culture and style writer.

“A lot of up-and-coming entertainers in the Black sphere maybe had difficulty getting larger names or fashion houses to want to outfit them or costume them for events and award shows and performances, so they kind of had to be a little bit more innovative in their approach,” Adigun says. “It’s something that was definitely born out of necessity.”

It led to a fusion of sportswear, fan merchandise and cutting-edge design, she says. And, of course, iconic looks: Mya’s blue North Carolina jersey dress was one. Then there was Mariah Carey in a floor-length Washington Wizards dress. Carey’s dress prompted a surge of interest and the NBA increased the designs they had in their NBA4her collection, according to a 2003 Baltimore Sun article.

When Larena Hoeber began doing research on women and sports, she didn’t set out to study apparel. But women kept bringing up how difficult it was to find something they actually wanted to wear to rep their teams. A decade ago, licensed women’s merchandise was often made with three key principles: “pink it, bling it, shrink it,” Hoeber says.

Sports leagues not taking risks on smaller creators is to their own detriment, says Hoeber, a University of Regina professor who has written about women’s sportswear and its perceptions. Smaller designers sometimes understand the market, and women’s varying desires, better.

“What’s really critical for women, I think, as sports fans, is they want the official logo, like they want it to look like, ‘This is it. I’m supporting my team,’” she adds. “So they want that, but they want it in clothing that matches their style.”

Women have wanted variety, and sports leagues have often underestimated the market, leading to innovation. Damron, who designed Niles’ viral bodysuit, launched a new collection of themed clothing that nod toward league teams after an outpouring of interest.

At Frankie Collective, employee Sara Gourlay saw a chance to rework vintage jerseys that weren’t selling — they became women’s streetwear, including corsets and crops, says Zak Miller, head of operations. The mission of the company is sustainability, and even without licensing deals, they’ve partnered with big brands like Adidas and Nike, or even the National Hockey League, to keep clothes from ending up in landfills.

“I thank Kristin just for the fact that, like, hey, she’s brought some visibility to an industry that has been around for a period of time right now,” Miller says.

Her high-fashion pieces stand out among other NFL license holders, which include powerhouse companies like Nike, Under Armour and Fanatics. (Juszczyk isn’t alone, though: Kiya Tomlin, a designer whose husband Mike Tomlin is the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, has a license for her high-end apparel.)

Juszczyk did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

A spokesperson for the NFL said that the league has a standard application process for all partners, like Juszcyzk. A number of programs seek to make it easier for smaller companies to partner with the league, he added.

Twenty years ago, when fashion like this was taking shape, there weren’t the same partnerships and opportunities, Adigun says.

On one hand, Alexis Robinson, 32, is glad to see Juszczyk got a license.

“I’m glad more of this stuff can start being made,” Robinson, a Black designer who runs Boujee Basics, says. “And then on the other hand, it’s like it sucks because it’s been getting made for a long time and it’s just the process has been nearly impossible.”

Robinson started by making cropped denim jackets for herself. As they caught on, she started looking into licenses. It kicked off applications to all major leagues — from basketball, to football, to hockey and baseball. While it was a relatively simple process, with fees for all of them, she never heard back about her application to the NFL.

The upfront costs were too steep for another Black designer, De’fron Fobb, 45, who wanted to craft items when the New Orleans Saints made the Super Bowl in 2010. Since then, the Louisiana native has focused his apparel on college sports. He’s followed Juszczyk’s work for a while, he says.

“She does great work. Her designs and custom stuff is amazing,” he says. “But again, she’s fortunate enough to be in that field. So it’s a different lane for her than it is for most small business, like myself.”

Hoeber hopes the attention will open the door for more creators.

“Women are not a homogeneous group or a homogeneous market,” she says. “I think we’re starting to see cracks with recognizing that, it wasn’t just an offering of, ‘We’re going to take the men’s stuff and shrink it down to women.’”

The post Black designers who popularized fan gear 20 years ago struggle as white designers leap ahead appeared first on TheGrio.


Looking like Mom, Lauryn Hill's Daughter Slays At Sweet 16 Birthday Party in NYC

Looking like Mom, Lauryn Hill’s Daughter Slays At Sweet 16 Birthday Party in NYC

Lauryn Hill’s family knows how to throw one hell of a party. Her daughter, Sara Marley, looked stunning as she celebrated her Sweet 16 at the Cipriani Ballroom in New York City. She is the daughter of the legendary singer and Rohan Marley.

The theme was roaring ‘20s and the lady of the hour donned a breathtaking, floor-length white Galia Lahav gown. Later in the evening, she switched into a short Lahav dress as the party really got started. To make the look even more memorable, she added stranders of pearls and a feather boa.


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A post shared by Galia Lahav (@galialahav)

Galia Lahav took to Instagram to share a gorgeous snapshot of Sara from the evening with the caption:

“@whoissaramarley shines at her Sweet 16 in GL gowns NALA and JILL, a stylish celebration at the Cipriani Ballroom in NYC ✨ A dazzling tribute to The Great Gatsby and regal nod to her to her roots as the daughter of the iconic @mslaurynhill and granddaughter to Bob marley #galialahav”

The company’s official website stated: “Sara’s choice of Galia Lahav wasn’t just a fashion statement; it was a powerful nod to her family’s rich artistic heritage. Her mother, Lauryn Hill, is a musical icon known for her groundbreaking style, while her grandfather, Bob Marley, was a reggae legend whose influence on fashion remains undeniable.

“Sara, with her vibrant spirit and effortless elegance, seems poised to carry on this legacy in her own unique way.” Photographer Irma Mchedlishvili also shared several images from the party.

Marley’s parents were present as well and wore suits with bow-ties. Hill famously has five kids — Zion, Selah, Joshua, John and Sara — Rohan. She also has a son named Micah. Last year, Hill performed at Mary J. Blige’s Strength of a Woman festival in Atlanta.

Remember how Donald Trump did everything wrong that a budding politician could muster?

All of his racist, sexist and anti-LGBT invective delivered at a third-grade reading level? His comments about grabbing a woman’s you-know-what? Remember how, despite all of that, he steamrolled over his competition and spread his plague throughout the Oval Office seven years ago this month?

On Monday, former Trump campaign staff member Michael Roman, one of the 18 Trump co-defendants whom Willis indicted last August over election tampering, made a court filing accusing Willis of “an act to defraud the public of honest services” for her failure to disclose her engagement in a “personal, romantic relationship” with attorney Nathan Wade, whom Willis hired for the case when they already had relations.

Wade has allegedly earned more than $650,000 since starting on the case in January 2022 – money from Fulton County taxpayers on which Willis signs off and which she’s allegedly benefited from by way of luxurious trips with Wade.

Making matters stickier is the discovery that Wade billed $4,000 for two eight-hour meetings with President Joe Biden’s White House in 2022. Any perception that the White House is coordinating the investigation and not Willis’ office brings the whole affair under further scrutiny. Willis, Wade and the White House have not responded to press inquires as of Wednesday morning.

Roman is leveraging these discoveries to get his case dismissed, and you can only imagine the field day Trump supporters (and general racists) are having at Willis’ expense on Elon Musk’s former Twitter.

We all love Willis here at The Root, which is why she got the top spot at last month’s The Root 100 ceremony. But she absolutely should’ve known better than to put herself in this position. There were countless elite attorneys who would’ve frothed at the mouth to take down Trump and his Trumpettes — and she picked the dude with whom she’s messing around??

Though she’s making headlines for all the wrong reasons, Willis’ career might survive the legal and ethical implications of this week’s discoveries. But what Claudine Gay did also wasn’t illegal or unethical, and she had to step down as president of Harvard University president unfold because of her own lapses in judgment – or perhaps because she didn’t have enough Black friends to help steer her clear of the coming alabaster attack.

It’s as if these incredibly successful and intelligent Black folks have blinders up that make them forget that their houses must be twice as clean as those of their white counterparts.

Or they forget what happens to prominent Black folks who mess up, like disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick: His operation was undeniably corrupt, but they threw the book at him with a 28-year federal sentence that was a hell of a lot harsher than what fallen white politicians received for similar crimes. (Trump commuted Kilpatrick’s sentence in 2018.)

We see it unfolding with Eric Adams, New York City’s first Black mayor since 1993, who caught every shred of legal Hell late last year. Adams’ list of alleged crimes is a Post-It Note in comparison to Trump’s, but you wanna bet which one will see the inside of a prison cell first…?

And don’t get me going on Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), who was caught on video pulling a fire alarm at a federal building, claimed he didn’t realize it was a fire alarm that a blind 5-year-old could’ve parsed out and blamed racism for the “attack” on him. Anyone think his silly Black ass will ever move up in politics after that?

The sad part is that Willis is being oversexualized by the right on social media as I type, which is par for the Black woman course in America. She said during her Root 100 acceptance speech: “There is no room to hate someone because of the skin God put them in, and it aint none of yo’ business who they love at night!”

She’s right, but she should’ve known that’s not the reality of the country in which we live – especially for Black women. We hope that her poor decision making won’t destroy her career or allow Trump’s people to go free.

The Best Red Carpet Looks From The 2023 BET Awards

The Best Red Carpet Looks From The 2023 BET Awards

Summer is officially here and that means it’s time for the annual BET Awards. We don’t have many award shows that are centered around just US anymore so we have to always show support to our own. The BET awards and red carpet have seen iconic moments. This year some of the music industry vets and newcomers hit the red carpet in style. From OG’s like Warren G, Bow Wow, and the Ying/Yang twins to newcomers like Summer Walker, Lil Meech, and Toosii.

Below, EBONY has rounded up the best red carpet looks of the night from the 2023 BET Awards.

The post The Best Red Carpet Looks From The 2023 BET Awards appeared first on Ebony.

The Seven Best Easter Eggs From Pharrell Williams’ Debut Louis Vuitton Show

The Seven Best Easter Eggs From Pharrell Williams’ Debut Louis Vuitton Show

Pharrell Williams’ creative director debut Tuesday in Paris for Louis Vuitton menswear was a celebration of legacy, joy, and his Virginian roots. Ushering in the new era of menswear for the historic French fashion house, Williams shut down the Pont Neuf bridge for famous friends Beyoncé, JAY-Z, Rihanna, A$AP Rocky, Megan Thee Stallion, and Louis Vuitton brand ambassador Zendaya who arrived with former stylist Law Roach. The show began at sunset and featured a full orchestra and gospel choir dressed in white. Over 70 looks were displayed, modeled by a wide sweep of creatives, including UK rapper Dave, and longtime collaborators Pusha T and No Malice of Clipse.

The extravagantly orchestrated runway show showcased distinct aesthetics that paid homage to Williams’ home state, his own fashion legacy and influences that helped inspire this season’s show. In a statement about the representation of the appointment, Williams added that this was about fulfilling his personal destiny while acknowledging the opportunity it has afforded him as a chance to celebrate his cultural legacy and home state of Virginia.

“A lot of people lost their lives and suffered through the experiences to get us to these positions. It’s not lost on me that I’m afforded this opportunity to tell these stories.” Those stories woven throughout the garments showcased during Tuesday’s show, also represent the 20-plus years of public influence within his own story.

It’s a task for someone with a storied history of dismantling the boundaries between hip-hop and couture, as Pharrell affirmed in the transition from iconic producer to legendary multi-hyphenate creative. It may not have been the show that officially showcases Pharrell as a respected designer and leaves much to be anticipated for what is to come next. But for hardcore Pharrell supporters and Neptunes nerds, it was a full-circle debut for a man whose pivot is centered around legacy — one that even Williams himself had to acknowledge.

Here are seven easter egg moments from Pharrell Williams’ Louis Vuitton Menswear Debut.

Homage to Virginia’s State Motto

pharrell in nice jacket

The collection’s staple theme, VA TO PARIS, can be traced back to Williams’ colorfully bedazzled motorcycle jacket from this year’s Something In The Water festival. As Pharrell stated in a recent interview, “LV is for Louis Vuitton, but it’s also ‘lover’,” referring to the famous Virginia state motto. Several pieces in the show were embellished with the phrase “Virginia is for lovers” — from the custom LV shirts worn by the staff and design team to specific statement pieces such as the blue crocodile leather baseball jacket and floor-length overcoats worn by the Clipse.

Even the bridge-side location of the show represented the metaphorical link between Virginia and Paris.

Princess Anne High School Varsity Jacket and Marching Band

Pharrell used the collection and connection to Virginia to pay homage to his iconic Princess Anne Varsity Jacket that he often wore during the early 2000s. The letterman jacket was from Pharrell’s years at Princess Anne High School, where he was also in the marching band. During an unearthed video clip from a 2003 episode of the MTV show When I Was 17,When I Was 17, Pharrell spoke about the influence that the marching band had on him musically. The influence is shown clearly as the models and the collective finale were choreographed as a united strut.

The memorable varsity jacket was auctioned off late last year during Williams’ Joopiter auction of celebrated items, but for many, brings up extreme nostalgia, as an item often seen during N.E.R.D.’s Fly or Die era.

In his notes, Pharrell states, “The memory of Princess Anne High School is epitomised in savoi-faire takes on the varsity jacket.”

2000s BBC / BAPE Homage


Many called out the pixel camo concept as repetitive, but longtime fans see updated versions of Billionaire Boys Club and Bathing Ape works by Pharrell and Nigo. Pharrell even created a finsta-styled BTS page entitled Skateboard as a reference to his nickname Skateboard P where fans could have an inside look into the making of the collection. Nigo, whose signature BAPE pattern was often paired with Pharrell’s affinity for cargo, army fatigue pants and beanies, are highlighted in pixel-replicated garments.

New Clipse Record


Titled “Chains ‘n Whips,” Pharrell stated that the song was recorded in Paris in his space at the Louis Vuitton office. As Pusha T and No Malice walked the runway sporting Dapper Dan-inspired trench coats, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and more could be spotted nodding along to the presumed Jim Jones diss.

Footage of the song has since gone viral, including a clip released Wednesday morning, via P, of the superproducer, No Malice and Pusha rapping along to the song in the Louis Vuitton offices prior to the show. It didn’t take long for Pusha fans and hip-hop enthusiasts to call out the subliminal bars aimed at Jones following his claims that Pusha shouldn’t be considered one of the greatest rappers of all time.

Since the show, Jim has responded. Taking to Instagram to post a video of him laughing with the caption, “Let me know if they serious cause my name is #Capo,” and another video with the caption, “Lol that verse did not make the list champ, it was cute.”

Honoring Marc Jacobs and Karl Lagerfeld


With accents of pearls adorned on tweed jackets and the overt return of the Damier checkerboard aesthetic, much of P’s collection can be viewed as homages to his couture relationship with the late Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld and former Louis Vuitton creative director Marc Jacobs.

There’s a well-documented history between Lagerfeld and Williams which began in 2011. During this time, Williams served as a Chanel ambassador. Appearing in promotional short films, composing original music for runway shows and even launching a Chanel x Human Race sneaker collaboration for adidas.

However, it was Marc Jacobs who truly began Skateboard P’s ascent from streetwear to couture when he invited him and Nigo to partner on a range of sunglasses for Louis Vuitton called Millionaire Sunglasses. Many called out the checkerboard garments in Williams’ SS24 collection as a call back to Jacobs’ Louis Vuitton Paris Fashion Week show in 2012 which featured an overwhelming collection of bold colorways via the classic checkerboard print. In a recent video released today, Pharrell revealed the name of his custom $1 million dollar Speedy bag featured during the show as “Millionaire” in reference to his designed LV sunglasses from the Marc Jacobs LV era.

Following Pharrell’s LV debut, Jacobs took to Instagram posting a photo of the two, simply stating, “believer since 2002.”

The Use of His Uncle’s Choir — Voices of Fire

Like the overplay of Damoflauge, some elements of the show felt redundant and overproduced. Voices of Fire, led by Williams’ uncle Bishop Ezekiel Williams, sang “Joy (Unspeakable),” a piece composed by Williams for the show. This isn’t the first time Williams has worked with the choir. In 2020, Pharrell joined his uncle and other spiritual leaders in his hometown of Hampton Roads in Virginia Beach in search of talented singers to join a world-class choir.

In recent years, Pharrell’s spiritual evolution has led him to become more grounded and seemingly too humble. Much of the evolution he credits to wisdom through his friendship with Nigo and his family’s relationship with faith. To many, myself included, the choir element within the performance has been overdone within the fashion world, especially when designers such as Kirby Jean-Raymond have masterfully used choirs as motifs in shows. However, for Pharrell, the use of his uncle’s choir was an extension of his tribute to Virginia and his family roots. Pharrell’s mother is a devout Baptist, while his father’s side attended COGIC in Virginia Beach.

The Neptunes References

The neptunes throwing up sign

Though the night was centered around P’s influence and years of studying within the world of fashion, his musical imprint with Neptunes’ co-creator Chad Hugo lay in plain sight. Embellished on a few of the garments is the phrase “The Louis Vuitton Lovers Presents.” While the phrase does reference the Virginia state motto, it also references The Neptunes Present…Clones, Chad and Pharrell’s compilation album that turns 20 this year.

Following the finale with Pharrell and the Louis Vuitton design team, guests ventured onto the yellow checkerboard runway to The Neptunes’ remix of Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stonger.” During the Louis Vuitton live stream, lyrics “Daft Punk, Neptunes” could be heard blaring over the crowd as a shot of the flashing Effiel Tower ended the show. While guests were treated to a special JAY-Z set that featured iconic Neptunes-produced songs like “Frontin” and “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me).”


Rihanna Steps Down As Savage X Fenty’s CEO: ‘This Is Just The Beginning For Us’

Rihanna Steps Down As Savage X Fenty’s CEO: ‘This Is Just The Beginning For Us’

Rihanna is stepping down as CEO of Savage X Fenty, the lingerie brand she co-founded in 2018. While she still remains as executive chair of the brand, Rihanna said the latest change is part of the company’s effort to keep expanding the vision.

“It’s been beautiful to see our vision for Savage X Fenty impact the industry at such an incredible magnitude over the last five years,” the “Diamonds” singer said, according to Vogue Business. “This is just the beginning for us, and we’re going to continue to expand in ways that always connect with the consumer.”

Beauty mogul Hillary Super will now take over the position that Rihanna held since launching the brand. “I’m so grateful and excited to welcome Hillary Super as our new CEO – she is a strong leader and is focused on taking the business to an even higher level,” Rihanna said.

Super, the former CEO of Anthropologie Group, also held executive positions at Guess, American Eagle, Gap and Old Navy, Independent reported. “I’m thrilled to join the Savage X Fenty family,” Super told Vogue Business. “The brand is a major powerhouse in the lingerie and apparel industry, and its unwavering commitment to celebrating inclusivity and fearlessness is inspiring.”

Savage X Fenty has become a worldwide brand featuring global fashion shows and a wide selection of clothing lines that include lingerie for plus-size models, as well as gender-neutral items. Fenty, which has seven stores in the U.S., is also looking to expand its e-commerce business.

Rihanna now has a net worth of over $1.4 billion. The 35-year-old entrepreneur launched her cosmetics company Fenty Beauty in 2017 before she co-owned Savage X Fenty. Rihanna also has a lot going on; she’s expecting her second child with A$AP Rocky. Rihanna gave birth to her first child, RZA Athelaston, in 2022.