Yep, the Moda Operandi and Fifteen Percent Pledge Trunkshow Is Everything

Launched in 2020, the Fifteen Percent Pledge envisioned a new future for retail: 15% of shelf space dedicated to Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs. The percentage (which represents the demographic of Black people in the United States) seems minute at first glance, but in a climate where Black brands are historically looked over, the ask was radical. The idea for the pledge came to Brother Vellies creative director Aurora James following the murder of George Floyd, as a way for companies to take actionable steps toward racial equity. In the span of a few years, the non-profit organization has partnered with over 28 retailers including Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Sephora, funneling $10B in revenue toward Black-owned businesses in the process. As the next phase of Fifteen Percent Pledge’s vision, the non-profit has partnered with Moda Operandi to spotlight black designers making waves in fashion right now. The 8 selected brands are featured in a special trunk show, where designs from each are available for pre-order for a limited time. Specially curated by James herself, along with Moda Operandi’s merchandising team, the roster of names includes buzzy emerging labels like Head of State, Agbobly, and Sukeina—all of which were 2022 CFDA Fashion Fund Finalists—as well as brands OnlyChild and  Dur Doux. Rounding out the ready-to-wear offerings in the show are Sunni Sunni, a unisex footwear line founded by designer Sunni Dixon, fine jeweler Lauren Godfrey, and as well as James’s own Brother Vellies. “I know firsthand the systemic barriers that Black business owners face in trying to increase their exposure to the larger retail market,” says James. “Collaborations like these are not only crucial for building brand visibility but are an important step to push the industry forward by challenging how corporations approach supporting Black businesses long term. Our partnership with Moda Operandi is rooted in the mutual desire to create a sustainable ecosystem for Black entrepreneurs, all while showcasing their incredible products and designs along the way.” Bringing more talent to the forefront is definitely a step in the right direction toward greater racial equity in fashion. To see and shop some of the incredible fashion highlighted within the special collaboration, keep scrolling below.

It’s been an eventful year for emerging brand Head of State: it became a 2022 CFDA Fashion Fund Finalist and helped close out New York Fashion Week this year with a packed, much talked about show. The brainchild of Taofeek Abijako, Head of State continually draws influences from Abijako’s upbringing in Nigeria as well as his experiences as an activist. While Abijako has been a staple of the menswear circuit since 2018, recent focus has shifted towards his talent for modern and elegant eveningwear—as seen on Evan Mock at last year’s Met Gala.

When Public School hit the New York fashion scene with its utility meets street designs over a decade ago, the label instantly became an industry darling. Following the brand’s success designers Maxwell Osbourne and Dao-Yi Chow were appointed as creative directors of Donna Karan—a crowning achievement for fresh faces in the business. But after growing pains, a shaky reboot, and the strains of the pandemic, Osbourne shifted focus to establishing his own project. Going solo, Osbourne created anOnlyChild in 2020, showcasing his first full collection in 2021. There are plenty of links to Osbourne’s Jamaican heritage like old-school floral prints and silk separates made to look like classic mesh shirts Rastafari colors. 

A look at Dur Doux’s most recent collection is like a boost of Vitamin-C for the eyes. Founded by mother-daughter team Cynthia and Najla Burt, Dur Doux is exactly what you’d want to pack for a five-star tropical vacation. Think floral printed separates and vibrant evening dresses in juicy citrus shades.

While most luxury shoe brands use “made in Italy” as their big selling point, Brother Vellies does things differently. Brother Vellies employs local artisans from around the world, with much focus on supporting local craftsmanship in Kenya. Since its founding in 2013, the accessories label has turned into a fashion girl favorite with statement boots and heels that instantly catch the gaze.

You know a Jacques Agbobly knit when you see it: vivid threads of yarn in cheerful knit arrangements usually finished with some type of cool beading. Agbobly is only 25 years old, but the Parsons alum is already a CFDA Fashion Fund Finalist and has captured the attention of the industry’s most seasoned editors. With each new collection, the designer infuses elements of his upbringing in Togo along with the traditions of West African culture.

Power colors and power silhouettes are what define Sukeina. Known for his elaborate origami-like folds, creative director Omar Salam constantly challenges the idea of romance with exact shapes and hard edges. The result is striking and sophisticated pieces that don’t just take up space but also send a message.

Sunni Sunni might as well be Hollywood’s best-kept secret. Its signature square-toe boots have graced the feet of everyone from Burna Boy and Usher, to Diddy and actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. Despite Sunni Sunni’s clientele heavily skewing male, founder Sunni Dixon designs with all genders in mind. The utilitarian boots can help pull together a pair of high-waist jeans and a sweater as effortlessly as a breezy maxi dress. 

Everything has meaning for jeweler Lauren Godfrey—right down to the type of stone and its arrangement. Godfrey is the woman behind Harwell Godfrey, a line of fine jewelry inspired by the African diaspora where each precious stone is a beacon for healing as well as a pretty accessory. Godfrey weaves together ancient rituals and spiritual affirmations within her pieces for a unique feel-good approach.

Up next: Grandmas Love It, and It Girls Do Too: How Hosiery Had a Big Comeback in 2023

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