Iconic fashion designer Stephen Burrows at the Museum of the City of New York

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Described by his peers and those who know him well as a “courageous pioneer,” Stephen Burrows has been described  as “a shining star in American Fashion.” He literally “burrowed” a path for all African American designers and models.

Burrows was a participant and winner in the Battle of Versailles, a charity showcase that pit European designers like Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior against American designers Bill Bass, Halston and Stephen Burrows. The historic fashion show not only set a precedent for American designers, but also for African Americans in the fashion industry. Burrows was the only designer of color to participate and there were 11 black models used in the show, which had never been done.

Burrows’ body hugging, sequin adorned designs were very popular during the Studio 54 era. He has dressed icons like Cher, Diana Ross and Michelle Obama.

With sponsorship from Target, the Museum of the City of New York curated an exhibit showcasing Burrows’ work through the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Those in attendance were a mixture of the fashion industry’s most influential, models and today’s taste-makers. The use of black mannequins coincided with the overall sentiment of black femininity and glamor.

Some attendees described Burrows as:

“Having the ability to synthesize his experience into design” – Brent Zachery

“A black fashion designer about full scale fabulousness” – Sandra Bookman

“He opened doors for black models like myself” – CoCo Mitchell

“Glamour! Electricity! Fantasmical! ” – Mikki Taylor

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