BHM - First Black Fashion Designer

Welcome to the first official AM:PM London x Black History Month highlights! We're putting our spin on the usual Black History lessons you've had and giving you some of the most interesting facts and information you probably never knew served with a side of fashion in every post - so let's get right to it!

Who is Zelda Wynn Valdes?

1905 saw the birth of African-American designer, Zelda, in Chambersburg, Pennslyvania. In what is not know to be one of the most popular fashion capitals of the world, Zelda began her fashion career in New York at her Uncle's tailoring shop. By the age of 15, Zelda had worked her way up a high-end boutique, eventually becoming the first Black sales clerk and tailor the store had ever seen.

One day, her grandmother challenged her to make a dress that could fit her curvy body. She did, and it fit perfectly. Since then, Zelda designed gowns, costumes and other luxurious ensembles for Hollywood celebrities i.e. Ella Fitzgerald, Dorothy Dandridge, Josephine Baker and Mae West. Today, Zelda is best known for her design of the original, iconic Playboy bunny costume in the 1950s but her accomplishments go far beyond this. Zelda also became the first Black Woman to own a shop on Broadway, NYC.

New York Playboy Club Bunnies aboard USS Wainwright. By US Navy (US Navy All Hands magazine February 1972). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Zelda Wynn Valdes was one of the founders of the National Association of Fashion Accessory Designers, an industry group intended to promote black design professionals in a time when the fashion industry reflected the segregation of American society. Zelda managed to make history by dressing some of the most famous people in the world, despite the segregation experienced at the time. To our knowledge, Zelda is one of the earliest Black fashion designers we know of - but that is not to say there may not have been some before her time that may not have received any acknowledgement.

Q: What design is Zelda best known for?

A: the correct answer to this question is the 40% off discount code! Expires Monday 12th October 12am (Midnight) GMT. New code available on Tuesday 13th October.

Thank you for reading - we hope you learned something new about Black History in Fashion today!



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