Brooklyn- Throughout history, the Black community has played a formative role in the fashion industry and its adjacent sectors. From pioneering designers like Willi Smith to influential models like Naomi Campbell and stylists like Law Roach, Black individuals have made invaluable contributions to the industry. Making it in this world is notoriously difficult, but it is more difficult still for Black and POC creatives trying to succeed. The launch of The Brandon Blackwood Foundation honours the challenges that face young Black creatives and seeks to empower Black and POC people to thrive in the industry.

 

Photography: Andre Gray

 

The Brandon Blackwood Foundation officially launched during Juneteenth celebrations. This launch was the first of a series of activations that will take place to continue highlighting and centring the community. “From the very start of planning, I knew the importance and responsibility we would have for putting together an event for such an important holiday,” says Imani Nia (Brandon Blackwoods Vice President), “Our biggest goal was to introduce our peers to our foundation and our commitment to fostering change and growth in the industry.”

 

Photography: Andre Gray

 

Nia continues: “Often, events in fashion and nightlife never truly cater to their guests. Here, I wanted everyone to feel like royalty, that they were being taken care of, and that their presence in the space mattered. Everyone should feel bold, beautiful, and carefree when they arrive at the event and when they leave. I also wanted black vendors in all aspects of the event. From stage build out to all women DJ line-up, I wanted to provide black businesses with the opportunities to showcase their work with the help of our platform.”

 

Photography: Andre Gray

 

Nia continues: “Often, events in fashion and nightlife never truly cater to their guests. Here, I wanted everyone to feel like royalty, that they were being taken care of, and that their presence in the space mattered. Everyone should feel bold, beautiful, and carefree when they arrive at the event and when they leave. I also wanted black vendors in all aspects of the event. From stage build out to all women DJ line-up, I wanted to provide black businesses with the opportunities to showcase their work with the help of our platform.”

 

Photography: Andre Gray

 

Walking into the vibrant space of the Juneteenth celebration was an experience pulsating with joy, resilience, and the rich history of the Black community. The room was alive with bold looks from socialites to designers, laughter, and unfiltered energy. People from all walks of life, who had a love of fashion in common, gathered to celebrate Juneteenth, a new national holiday commemorating enslaved Texan African Americans’ emancipation in 1865.

 

Photography: Andre Gray

 

Photography: Andre Gray

 

The all-day party was set in the heart of Williamsburg on 99 Scott Ave, where many fashion shows have been held over the years. The party (which stretched from 2 pm until 8 pm) was carefully planned down to the minor details. Here, we enjoyed food from Black-owned restaurants, including RealMotherShuckers, Cool Cat Wines, Shmackwich, and Footprints.

 

Photography: Andre Gray

 

Notable guests included fellow Black and brown designers Kinglsey, Edvin Thompson of Theophilio, and Raul of Luar. Other guests were multi-hyphenates in the industry and agents of change like models Aaron Philip and Livia Rose Johnson, fashion editor Roberto Johnson, and DJ Mazurbate. The day’s performances were female-centred opening acts from Siobhan Bell, Angel and Dren, Young Wavvy Foxx, and the highlight everyone was waiting for, rapper and producer Metro Boomin. Other notable guests seen wearing Brandon Blackwood were also in attendance, like rapper Maiya The Don, Maidsin Ryan, Yves, and Jazelle (otherwise known as Ugly Worldwide).

 

Photography: Andre Gray

 

Smiles were infectious, and a resounding sense of camaraderie permeated the space, which was filled with natural light and the hum of conversation. Here, strangers became friends, embracing and sharing stories of life, passions, and heritage. The atmosphere was one of solidarity, where the past was honoured, the present was celebrated, and the future was envisioned.

 

Photography: Andre Gray

 

The Brandon Blackwood Foundation aims to empower Black and POC creatives through education, philanthropy, and activism to counteract systemic racism. The foundation wants to enrich a new generation of future leaders in the industry through initiatives which include creating a summer intensive for high school creatives, engaging with the community, and working alongside organisations such as The Door, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the University of the West Indies Mona. The foundation is dedicated to improving the world through igniting innovation, action, and collaboration with creatives of colour.

 

Photography: Andre Gray

 

The celebration was a testament to the power of community and the enduring spirit of the Black diaspora. It served as a reminder that Juneteenth is a historical milestone and an ongoing call to action, urging us all to strive for equality, justice, and the dismantling of systemic oppression. Leaving The Brandon Blackwood Foundation’s Juneteenth celebration, guests carried a renewed sense of community, purpose, the incredible memory of unfiltered Black joy, and the knowledge that we are stronger together.

 

Photography: Andre Gray

 

Words by Kerane Marcellus