This Black History Month, The Quintessential Gentleman salutes our pioneers for their extraordinary works that ignited the torch for modern-day thrivers to walk proudly in their paths. They are our fearless and unapologetically Black thought leaders, innovators, and entertainers who’ve taught us the value of living resiliently in our very own truth. Whether being courageous enough to shock the nation with a simple gesture to effectively articulate a point a view or proving that ownership while controlling the narrative is possible. Because of these things, we can.
Because of Willi Smith, I can
During the height of the women’s movement, a young designer surfaced as an empowering ally for a generation of women to feel luxurious as they take their rightful place within the workforce. Willi Smith earned the title of the father of Street Couture. Making affordable and sophisticated garments for all, Willi became one of the most successful Black designers in America. WilliWear was sold in over 500 stores and grossed over $25 million a year by 1986. A fun fact is his work still lives on today in the Black cult classic Spike Lee film School Daze. Because of him, LaQuan Smith can. LaQuan is known for breaking the internet with his risque street couture designs seen widely on your favorite’s favorite celebrity and socialites. Like Willi, LaQuan’s work is made affordable with impeccable tailoring and innovation. His collaboration with the eCommerce website ASOS effortlessly put his clothing in the hands of many. Because of Willi, LaQuan’s mass appeal could catapult him through doors that were once closed to Black designers.