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The 25 Greatest Black Fashion Designers

Arthur McGee

Design Credits: Bobby Brooks; Arthur McGee

Arthur McGee was making huge breakthroughs in fashion that were impressive on their own merit, let alone for an African-American working in a time when segregation and Jim Crow Laws were still prevalent in the country.

After graduting from FIT in the '50s, McGee's skills allowed him to rise in the ranks until he was the first African-American to run a design room of an established apparel company, Bobby Brooks. The label was soon selling to stores that had never stocked designs from an African-American designer, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale's, and Bergdorf Goodman. Searching for creative independence, McGee opened his first store on St. Mark's Place in the early '60s, and immediately garnered a cult following that included some of NYC's biggest fashionistas. He was known for bringing an African and Asian aesthetic to his relaxed silhouettes, but his lasting legacy was mentoring burgeoning African-American talent, including Willi Smith, to the point that he became known as the dean of African-American designers.

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