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55th NAACP Image Awards Highlights Black Artistic Excellence

Kevan Hall Designs | Photo by Getty Images for NAACP

Kevan Hall Designs | Photo by Getty Images for NAACP

Mark Gunter

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Ahead of the 55th NAACP Image Awards, the civil-rights organization hosted the complementary NAACP Image Awards Fashion Show, also in its 55th year. Black Design Collective co-founder and veteran fashion designer Kevan Hall was the show’s executive producer, and Ainsley Connell was co-producer. Actor Brandee Evans hosted the event, which took place March 15 before the NAACP Image Awards on March 16 at Vibiana in downtown Los Angeles.

“The Color Purple” swept the Makeup, Hairstyling and Costume Design awards categories. Award-winning creative director and costume designer June Ambrose was honored with the NAACP Vanguard Award, presented by singer and actor Kelly Rowland.

Los Angeles–based Black-led design houses were featured during a runway presentation, including Hall’s Kevan Hall Designs, Okera Banks’s eponymous brand, BJ Gray’s Grayscale and Chocolate Clothes Global by Kwaku Bediako, a Ghana-founded brand with a Los Angeles base.

“This was great for people to see the designers all together showing various styles,” said Hall, who dressed NAACP Vice Chair Karen Boykins-Towns for the awards weekend. “We had some things with African sensibility [from Chocolate]; then we had relaxed, casual travel pieces by Okera Banks. We had a burst of color and tailoring from Grayscale, and I showed my Cote d’Azur collection, inspired by travels to Cannes and St-Tropez, with prints inspired by Sonia Delaunay.”

Hall viewed the presentation as an opportunity to shed light on the rich fashion history of Black fashion designers.

“Today so many people think of Black designers as just showing streetwear and hip-hop fashion,” Hall explained. “That is something we developed and created in alignment with the music and the culture, but certainly if you look back to Elizabeth Keckley—who created clothes for Mary Todd Lincoln, Stephen Burrows, Patrick Kelly—we were doing incredible fashion before streetwear.”

Hall hopes to cultivate the event into a platform that will facilitate relationships between influential retailers as sponsors and the designers.

“One of the purposes of this show is to let people know there are choices when they go shopping,” said Hall. “We are looking for people of all cultures and nationalities to support Black design talent. When celebrities think about what they want to wear on the red carpet, particularly BIPOC talent, [they should] consider Black designers.”

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