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Stephen Burrows - Pioneers Who Have Shaped America's Fashion Industry

Fashion designer Stephen Burrows was born on September 15, 1943, in Newark, New Jersey. At a very young age, Burrows started sewing and making clothes under the guidance of his grandmother, Beatrice Simmons. He went on to attend elementary school in Newark and graduated from Arts High School in 1960. Burrows then attended the Philadelphia Museum College of Art from 1961 to 1962, and later graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1966.

Upon graduation, Burrows decided to work as a freelancer and in 1968, he co-founded O Boutique in New York City, a ready-to-wear brand. In 1969, he was offered his own boutique called Stephen Burrows World and its success was immediate. This allowed Burrows’ to cater to celebrity clientele such as Diana Ross, Cher and Barbra Streisand. In 1973, he became one of five American designers invited to show his clothes on the runway of Versailles, France, where he received rave reviews. He became the first African American designer to gain international fame. Burrows has been honoured with three Coty American Fashion Critics’ Awards, the highest praise that can be awarded in fashion. He has also received the Council of American Fashion Critics Award and the Knitted Association Crystal Ball Award. Furthermore, he was named to the Fashion Walk of Fame in 2003 and received the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Board of Directors Special Tribute Award in 2006. In 2014, Burrows was honoured with lifetime achievement awards from the Savannah College of Art and Design and the Pratt Institute of Design.


Image: stephen-burrows-joins-custom-collaborative-as-senior-advisor_photographed in 2019_courtesy of custom collaborative_found on fashion history FIT.

Text: Historymakers (2014) ‘Stephen Burrows’ 14 July. Available at:


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