In 2020, designer and entrepreneur George Sully launched Black Designers of Canada (BDC), Canada’s very first comprehensive index for Black talent. Bringing together designers specializing in fashion, furniture, graphic, interiors, and more, it’s on a mission to support and amplify creative Black voices across the country.
As a Black designer himself, Sully knows what it takes to build a fashion brand in Canada. Today, he’s the co-founder of Sully Wong and House of Hayla, works on collaborations both internationally and locally, and has been inducted into the Bata Shoe Museum twice. There’s no doubt he’s a success, but it’s come with its struggles.
“Every Black designer has been marginalized in some way or another in their career,” he says. “I’m no different. My experience has helped the initiative because I can speak on BDC from a personal perspective.”
Today, Sully is granting the inaugral Black Designer Award of Excellence to 100 brands, designers, and creators. It’s an acknowledgement of the obstacles encountered by Black designers, as well as a toast to their achievements.
With BDC coming into its ninth month, we spoke to Sully on setting up the platform, and highlight some of the Complex-approved designers on BDC you should know about.
Why do you think nothing like this was ever in place in Canada before?
We’ve never had a partner before. The fact that Canada as a whole has taken accountability and has accepted systemic racism as an issue, has made all the difference in why there’s been a Black renaissance like no other time.
We know we exist. It was up to our fellow Canadians, especially in the fashion industry, to understand how important it was that they acknowledge that we exist too. Only then could a site like BDC flourish and touch all Canadians, not just our community alone.
What was the tipping point or deciding factor for you in creating this platform?
The tipping point, I think for me, was finding out how many people in my industry still used the excuse that there weren’t enough Black designers to choose from and that was the reason for little to no Black representation on their shelves.
This was clearly not the case, as the BDC completely and forever blew-up that notion.
It’s awesome that the platform encompasses all areas of design. Did you always plan it to be that way or did that happen organically?
I wanted to diversify from the beginning to emphasize that we are more than the few. We’re many in different fields of design.
How has the reception been since launch, both in Canada and beyond?
The reception has been phenomenal! I get emails and DMs from designers all the time thanking me and telling me how their brand got picked up by a store, used in a video or photoshoot.
What’s the future of Black Designers of Canada look like? Do you have any exciting projects or updates in the works?
I can officially announce that I will be awarding over 100 worthy Black Designers with a Black Designers of Canada Award. The Black Designer Award of Excellence is a hand-crafted glass engraved award honouring Black excellence and design contributions to the Canadian fashion community and the never-give-up relentless enthusiasm that these designers have demonstrated through their inspired work.
We’re looking forward to our honourees sharing in the celebration virtually on their respective social media platforms using the awards hashtag #BDCExcellenceAwards.
Here are some of the designers on BDC you need to know about: