Those words from an unassuming young caretaker stuck with Jeffrey Banks but was the catalyst that pushed him to pursue his talent and excel as a successful American fashion designer, who just happened to be Black. “My parents always made me believe I could do anything I want as long as I was willing to work hard for it.”
Considered the grandfather of fashion designers of color, Arthur McGee got his start in fashion after entering a contest for a scholarship to Traphagen School of Design in New York. He won the scholarship, left his home in Detroit, Michigan and headed to the Big Apple.
J. Wesley Tann, Jr. (known to many as simply Wesley Tann) fine tuned his fashion skills early on working for some of New York’s most renowned designers. He would eventually become the first African American designer to open his own shop on 7th Avenue in New York City.
Some have called his clothes ‘quirky, yet classic’. Jeffrey Banks called him ‘the African American Christian Francis Roth’. And while adapting menswear into fabulous, fashionable and impeccably cut garments, Byron Lars likes to refer to his sportswear as ‘twisted American classics’.