top of page

Kwame Brathwaite - Pioneers Who Have Shaped America's Fashion Industry

Kwame Brathwaite is an American photographer who helped popularise the Black is Beautiful cultural movement in the 1970s. Brathwaite founded the Original African Coiffure and Fashion Extravaganza in 1962 as an attempt to establish Black beauty standards outside of the Eurocentric gaze; and later founded the Grandassa Models, along with his brother Elombe.

Grandassa Models started as a group of activists that designed and wore their own creations celebrating Black culture and heritage, and later evolved into a modelling agency that recruited new talent and who assisted in supporting Black fashion and beauty brands in the 1960s and 70s. Brathwaite’s photography is lauded for the ability to capture Black life in the 1960s, with a focus on the Black community and cultural production.


Image: Kwame Brathwaite Self Portrait_1964_Image Courtesy of the Artist and Philip Martin Gallery.

Text: Mangumbu, C. 2019. ​​Kwame Brathwaite, Grandassa models and the legacy of the black is beautiful campaign. Available at:

Fowler, B. 2019. WE STARTED THE TREND: The Grandassa Models Were Making Sure We Knew ‘Black Is Beautiful’ Long Before Rihanna Brought Them To The Mainstream. Available at:

Sayej, N. 2019. Black is Beautiful: celebrating the significance of Kwame Brathwaite. Available at:


bottom of page