In a post on Diversity on CNN Style, Balmain Creative Director Olivier Rousteing wrote, “When the press announced that I was the new creative director for Balmain the thing that was most shocking for a lot of people was not my age (I was 26 at the time) but my color, and that really surprised me. Suddenly there were all these stories about me being the first black designer in a luxury, heritage fashion house.”
Though it’s been a while since a black designer was at the forefront of a fashion house, Olivier isn’t the first. He was preceded by Edward Buchanan at Bottega Veneta and Patrick Robinson at Giorgio Armani and Paco Rabanne.
Ohio Born Edward Buchanan became Bottega Veneta’s design directer after graduating from Parson’s School of Design in 1995, and was charged with building the brand’s ready-to-wear collection from scratch. He stayed at Bottega for six years before launching his own project; subsequent years saw him working with Sean Combs and Jennifer Lopez on their clothing lines.
In 2009, he launched Sansovino 6, a contemporary collection with a focus on knitwear. Now officially Milanese, he consults for brands like Max Mara and Stefanel, in addition to fueling his personal projects.
Patrick Robinson also lent his design talent to a heritage fashion house, namely as Designer Director of Giorgio Armani in 1990 and Artistic Director of Paco Rabanne in 2005.
In 2007, Robinson was tapped as executive Vice President of Design for the Gap and in May 2013, Robinson was hired as global creative director of Armani Exchange.
Robinson left Armani Exchange in 2014, and now helms his own line, Paskho, a collection of casual sportswear. On Paskho’s website, Robinson writes, “You don’t grow in life by sticking to the secure path. I believe all of us must have the courage to choose what most nourishes our soul, which comes with risk. For me, that means conquering our fears, which brings new experiences and often tremendous rewards. I created Paskho for that place, that edge of uncertainty, that leap without a parachute when you’re putting it all on the line.”
So, though Olivier is the only current black designer at a luxury heritage house, he is not the first. And he certainly won’t be the last!
What do you think? Did we miss anyone?
*Thanks to Chad aka @Fourty8XL for pointing this out.