As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge emerging fashion designers, Fred Segal and Black in Fashion Council teamed up to ensure continued diversity and spotlight extraordinary voices in the industry with a new design contest: Season Zero, which was announced back in October. After carefully considering over 100 applicants, the winner has officially been chosen.
Announced on December 7, Connor McKnight has been selected as the very first winner of the Season Zero design contest.
McKnight is a Brooklyn-based young designer who launched his label during the pandemic, sewing his first collection while locked down in his own bedroom. He had previously worked with Kith and Bode and felt inclined to start his own venture following the “widespread lockdowns and social unrest as a result of the mistreatment and inequalities experienced by communities of color earlier this summer,” a press release states.
As the winner, Connor will receive $10,000 by charity Fred GIVES, a pop-up opportunity to showcase his work at Fred Segal’s flagship location in West Hollywood, as well as mentorship opportunities with both Fred Segal and the Black in Fashion Council. “We received a tremendous response to the Season Zero contest and with such incredible talent, it was definitely a challenge to narrow down the finalists,” said Ashley Petrie, VP of Merchandising and Brand Development at Fred Segal. “Connor’s collection stood out to us as something incredibly unique and defines each of the ideals we are looking to create and build within the framework of our brand and this initiative. We are honored to help support and kick-start Connor’s journey through the industry mentorship and retail program alongside the Black in Fashion Council.”
According to an official press release, Connor’s winning collection centered on “timeless silhouettes and agender wardrobe staples including relaxed, tailored separates, textured sweaters, and utilitarian outerwear.” The collection “aims to explore the relationship between luxury and comfort and reimagine the narratives of his childhood as a Black person of color.”
Kingsley Gbadegesin and Akua Shabaka’s House of Aama came in second and third place, respectively, and will both be awarded $5,000 to advance their personal labels.
As a first-generation Nigerian-American, 27-yea-old Kingsley Gbadegesin is determined to work for both the Black and Queer communities, pulling from his experience working for well-established brands Versace, Celine, and Loewe. His namesake label, K.NGSLEY, aims to create a future that “uplifts and does justice to the people that built the United States and its culture in the first place.” Marrying fashion and activism, K.NGSLEY is described as a “Black-owned brand aiming to reclaim and redefine the Black, Queer, Femme body and to create the tangible, direct support communities need today.”
House of Aama, on the other hand, was created by artist Akua Shabaka alongside her mother. The duo created the label to explore Black history nostalgia within the Southern United States and African Diaspora through the lens of style. The brand’s timeless garments raise questions about Blackness and relevant social commentary throughout our society today. According to a press release, the pair started the brand from “their collective interest in the cultural retention of storytelling, transference of storytelling narratives in the family context and the reclamation of these narratives within the Black community.”
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