For decades, there has been a glaring lack of diversity in the bridal industry. Black designers and boutique owners were seldom recognized as being among the best in the business. Mirroring racial disparities in other facets of the fashion industry, there also weren’t a ton of Black models to grace the cover of popular bridal magazines. The trickle-down effect left Black women with few options for wedding finery that fit our skin tones and diverse body types.
Thankfully, we’re seeing a shift as more Black designers and Black-owned boutiques are springing up to make us feel special on one of the most important day of our lives. We love to see it!
Scroll through to meet a few of our favorites.
1. Pantora Bridal
Top-notch bridal retailer, Pantora Bridal, sells everything from exquisite bridal gowns to jewelry and marriage merch. The inventory is designed with love and made with women of color in mind. The flagship store is located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, and the line is also sold online and at several authorized retailers in Durham, North Carolina, Nashville, Tennessee, and Norfolk, Virginia. Andrea Pitter-Campbell founded Pantora after feeling frustrated at the lack of inclusion in the industry. According to The Knot, Pantora is known for creating Forgotten Skin Tones, its own signature line of mesh and lining that works for darker skin tones. “Black brides are constantly offered a nude that isn’t a nude that works for them, but no nude is universal,” Pitter-Campbell told the wedding planning destination.
2. Esé Azénabor
If you choose a dress from Nigerian designer Esé Azénabor-Grembowski, you can rest assured it will be a gown like no other. Azénabor customizes all of her dresses for each bride, and every design boasts impeccable detail. Her gowns are known to incorporate hand-beading, crystals, pearls, hand embroidery, and such luxurious materials as fine French lace and tulle. As a self-taught designer who launched her brand in 2012 without any financial backing, Azénabor’s story is an inspiring one for Black women looking to break into the competitive bridal biz.
3. Valentine Avoh
Belgian designer Valentine Avoh brings true romance to the world of bridal fashion. The vintage touch she weaves into her clothing is inspired by Hollywood beauties like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. “I used to watch a lot of old movies from the early ’30s until the late ’50s which really fascinated me,” she told Brides. “I loved how feminine and sensual women were in those films, and yet had a very strong personality.” In her gowns you’ll find delicate materials like French lace, tulle, feathers, and silk which give an uber-feminine appeal. Avoh’s atelier-showroom is located in the heart of Brussels, and her collection can also be shopped online.
4. Laury Bride
Detroit native and Project Runway alum Laurie Underwood created this line with the nontraditional woman in mind. Laury Bride is known for its interchangeable separates, which go against the grain of the conventional one-piece gowns. According to an interview with Voyage ATL, the brand’s unique aesthetic is a big part of Underwood’s concept. “I am mostly proud of sticking to my vision, and designing to my own perspective when it comes to bridal, as opposed to designing the norm of the industry,” she said.
Ethiopian designer Amsale Aberra launched her eponymous collection in 1990, transforming the industry by popularizing a more scaled-down look. Today The Amsale Group is one of the world’s most sought-after luxury bridal brands, and many regard Aberra as the pioneer of the modern wedding dress. The collection offers everything from bride and bridesmaids’ dresses to evening wear. Amsale’s flagship store is located in New York City.
6. Brides By Nona
Brides by Nona was founded in 2014 by Nneka C. Alexander, who wanted to offer women a more customized experience. Her bespoke collection allows brides to have the satisfaction of creating a wedding dress that matches the vision in their heads. The entire process takes about 12 weeks, and the lady of the hour gets to communicate with the designer every step of the way.
7. Mark Ingram Atelier
Owner Mark Ingram worked for upscale retailers Bonwit Teller and Bergdorf Goodman before launching his own namesake boutique in 2002. Ingram caters to an upscale clientele, having curated an inventory from the best designers.
8. Jean-Ralph Thurin
Jean-Ralph Thurin has been in the industry for 20 years with one simple objective: To make brides feel beautiful. His popular HUExJRT Collection was designed so that any bride can achieve her dream wedding to compliment her complexion. Brides-to-be can visit him at his Sommerville, New Jersey, location, where their wedding gown is then conceptualized and constructed with only the most luxurious fabrics, and a meticulous attention to detail.