Brandon Blackwood is prepared for the delicate life

For Brandon Blackwood, there is not any slowing down.

The designer, 31, has been on a nonstop rise to fame since his first explosive hit, the viral Finish Systemic Racism tote, launched in 2020. Noticed on celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Normani, the bag propelled Blackwood’s eponymous model to cult standing virtually instantly. 

Since then, Blackwood has expanded his enterprise to incorporate outerwear and equipment, and he just lately designed customized robes for Serena Williams and Emmy winner Sheryl Lee Ralph. In March, he launched his first shoe assortment, a line of surreal and playful footwear, together with pumps with a joint within the heel. And he is not letting up: The Brooklyn native is getting ready for 2 collaborations within the coming yr.

Blackwood is prepared for no matter would possibly come subsequent — particularly if it entails a little bit of rest.

In a dialog with Insider for our ongoing collection, Black Ensemble: Vogue for the Tradition, Blackwood shared the inspiration behind his new shoe line; gave us a glimpse into his versatility and adaptability, each bodily and in design; and expressed his eagerness to enter a delicate life period.

This interview has been edited and condensed for readability.

Brandon Blackwood wears a black New York Yankees hat and a black turtleneck against a purple backdrop.

Mamadi Doumbouya for Insider


Who’s Brandon Blackwood? The place did you get your begin?

I’m an equipment, purse, footwear, and outerwear designer. I used to be born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. I went to high school right here, then went to Bard Faculty upstate to review neuroscience. I began interning at Nylon and Elle magazines, and the model adopted shortly after.

We noticed some gymnastic strikes within the studio in the present day. The place did you get that flexibility from?

My mother put me in a course known as “Gymnasium Swim,” which was an hour of fitness center and an hour of swimming daily for many of my childhood life. I do not observe, it simply sort of stayed. And in these heels? It is sort of loopy.

Brandon Blackwood holds his leg up in a gymnastics-style move, wearing a black New York Yankees hat and a black turtleneck against a purple backdrop.

Mamadi Doumbouya for Insider


Talking of footwear, you had a shoe assortment drop in March. Are you able to inform us concerning the inspiration behind that?

For me, actually, it simply felt like the apparent subsequent step, however I did not know precisely what I wished to do. Each pair represents a small demographic of my clients. It is the identical with the luggage: Everybody can discover a bag that they like. With the footwear, I wished to construct off of that. 

It is a actually large first. It is an thrilling first, and I am prepared. 

I am actually within the “joint heel” and the “taxi heel.” The place did you give you these? 

I believed it could be humorous. Clearly, the taxis, it is New York. It is very Carrie Bradshaw; it is a New York icon. And for the joint heel, why not?

I used to be tremendous choosy with how the taxi would look. Should you look laborious sufficient, you possibly can see we put lots of element into them — like my birthday is on the taxi.


The taxi and the joint heel took a yr to make as a result of there was a lot trial and error. The precise heels themselves — the joint and the taxi — really must be made in a unique manufacturing facility in Italy. Then as soon as they had been all made, they had been flown to Portugal after which made into the shoe. It is a labor of affection for positive. 

Is there something in Black tradition and Black historical past that conjures up your designs?

It is all the time attention-grabbing being requested this query. I am Black, I do not know something besides the Black expertise. After I’m requested whether or not the Black expertise has impressed me, I am like, “What else can?”

Even when I had been to say a group was impressed by Morocco or one thing random, my day-to-day expertise is all the time going to be someplace inside the design. 

How do you are feeling concerning the luxurious trend business’s relationship with Black creatives now? 

From the artistic director of Ferragamo to Virgil Abloh to all of the up-and-coming designers, I feel there was area made for us, however I feel that is as a result of we have been proudly owning our industries and being extra vocal about current and desirous to develop. 

As a result of I’ve given a lot of my life to this enterprise, I feel there are lots of issues that I would like that do not relate to enterprise. I wish to have llamas and shit upstate.

I feel our communities are undoubtedly rallying round this much more, and there are individuals now who wish to hunt down and help and store Black. I feel that has actually helped for the highlight to shine on Black designers. I feel that is occurring now, and trend has to take heed to what the bulk needs. That is actually cool as a result of now we’re seeing lots of expertise that will have been missed prior to now. 

In what methods have you ever seen Black trend leaders, your self or anybody else, innovating and shifting the business ahead? 

Black tradition has innovated a lot in trend, however I feel now we’re simply now getting acknowledged for it extra. It has been the identical; it is simply that now we’re being spotlighted. 

From the bamboo earrings I do to the footwear to my luggage, these are quintessential ’90s Black moments. I feel now we’re attending to have our possession of these issues publicly. We’re simply now getting that recognition, but it surely’s all the time been there. 

Brandon Blackwood wears a black New York Yankees hat, a black turtleneck, black pants, and black boots against a purple backdrop.

Mamadi Doumbouya for Insider

What do you make of all this success? How has it felt to observe your model take off and actually carve out a reputation for your self?

It would not really feel actual.

To at the present time, I will be in my workplace, and I will flip to whoever’s closest to me and be like, “Are you able to imagine it is fucking actual?” I by no means thought I would have, like, 16 individuals working for my model. I used to do all my work from my laptop computer in my mother’s eating room.

I am simply grateful. I do not wish to be cocky about it, I simply take it daily. 

What would you say is subsequent in your profession?

I’ve two main collaborations developing subsequent yr that I am actually trying ahead to and simply increasing the model much more. 

The model would not have buyers. It is simply me, and I feel it is fucking cool to nonetheless be capable of scale it and make revenue. We’re doing what we have to do.

Exterior of that, I wish to get extra into actual property. I wish to get a home upstate. As a result of I’ve given a lot of my life to this enterprise, I feel there are lots of issues that I would like that do not relate to enterprise. I wish to have llamas and shit upstate. I’ve three canines; I wish to hang around with them extra. I learn a e book over the weekend, and I simply wish to do chill shit like that for a bit.

Brandon Blackwood wears a black New York Yankees hat and a black turtleneck against a purple backdrop.

Mamadi Doumbouya for Insider

Once you do have time to calm down, what do you do? 

I play with my canines. I watch “Actual Housewives” — Atlanta is iconic, however clearly I have been watching Miami as a result of that is the new matter proper now. I like a chilly glass of sauvignon blanc, and strolling round my neighborhood.

What do you suppose the way forward for trend will seem like? And what do you suppose it ought to seem like?

Due to social media, anybody that is gifted and desires it sufficient can showcase their work and be discovered by strangers. That is sort of what occurred for me. I did not must essentially undergo the conventional trend trajectory. I bought to keep away from lots of the gatekeepers and unfavorable belongings you see within the business as a result of I bought my viewers earlier than I bought my reputation. 

I feel that is how lots of different manufacturers are going to come back up. Due to social media and expertise and the way we predict, that archaic gatekeeping is slowly breaking down.

You latterly labored with Serena Williams. Are you planning to type extra celebrities?

You already know, it is occurring by chance. Serena Williams is an icon, and I didn’t suppose that it could occur. She hit us up, we did it, and he or she seemed wonderful. So, I am not going to ever decline potential large moments. No matter comes for us, we’re prepared for it.


Is there anybody you dream of styling?

I am very, very blissful now. However clearly, like anybody would say: Beyoncé or Rihanna. I simply wish to preserve going.

Brandon Blackwood wears a black New York Yankees hat and a black turtleneck against a purple backdrop.

Mamadi Doumbouya for Insider

What recommendation would you give to the subsequent era of trend leaders?

Work laborious. It appears really easy — and it does change into a bit simpler when you get to some extent the place you possibly can afford all this assist — but it surely takes lots of work.

Individuals do not realize that I used to be 23 with perhaps $15 in my checking account, strolling to work daily, saving for the model. It is a lot sacrifice. I’ve misplaced so many pals, so many moments. I’ve missed out on a lot stuff to make the model occur. I do not remorse it, but it surely’s such a sacrifice, and I do not suppose individuals actually perceive how a lot shit you need to undergo earlier than it even begins to look comparatively good.

You simply must keep it up, and you need to simply be prepared for it.

This characteristic is a part of Black Ensemble, a collection celebrating Black leaders, innovators, and trendsetters within the trend business.