Black British Fashion Designers and Their Stories Are Being Celebrated at New Exhibition in London


September 27, 2023

London has opened a beautiful new exhibition to highlight the contributions Black British culture has made to U.K. fashion and design history.

Titled The Missing Thread: Untold Stories of Black British Fashion, the exhibition is located at central London’s Somerset House. The Missing Thread, which opened on September 21, pays tribute to the influence of Black designers in fashion, specifically from the 1970s. However, it also spotlights the racism and other barriers these creators faced.

Curators of the exhibition said that the idea of a display celebrating Black fashion and culture has long been in the works. But it was it was the Black Lives Matter Movement that inspired them to follow through with the idea.

“Even if you have heard of these designers, people have no idea of the trials and tribulations they went through,” Harris Elliott, one of the exhibition’s curators, said.


The exhibition’s presentation is extremely creative. You enter by walking through an entrance made to look like a small house built with colorful measuring tape. Elliot, who created the installation, said that it symbolized the fragility of hopes and dreams experienced by early Caribbean migrants to the U.K. Many of these migrants were skilled tailors, but were ignored once they arrived in Britain.

“You come as a tailor, you end up working in a factory or working on a bus,” Elliott said.

Black fashion designer in the 1980s and 1990s, Joe Casely-Hayford, has a large portion of the exhibition dedicated to his work. Even though he is mainly unknown in today’s mainstream fashion history, the designer worked with U2 and inspired a generation of people.


Another one of the show’s curators, Andrew Ibi, said that he hopes the exhibition will inspire more young Black people to enter the creative industries.

“If you don’t see people like you, well then you don’t think you can do that. And that was largely a problem for Black designers at the time,” Ibi said. “We hope this exhibition acts as a legacy for young people who see it and say ‘look at this rich culture, I can do what I want, I can be an artist, photographer, designer.’”

The Missing Thread will run until January 7, 2024.


Photo Credit: Somerset House

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