Dmae looks at the Black contributions to fashion design throughout American history with writer, publisher and fashion expert Rhonda P. Hill.

She recently published a series of eight articles called A Study of Eight, The Untold American Story,  which shows how historically Black fashion makers and influencers used the power of fashion to transform their identity and culture from the 1880s through the 1980’s. Hill says it shows how they “fought to be included, respected, and recognized in society.”  A Study of Eight was showcased on NPR’s Here & Now program.

In this podcast, we’ll hear about her varied career path and what it was like for a Black woman working in the industry from 1970s through 1990s. And we’ll get a history tour through her impressive pictorial and well-researched series of articles A Study of Eight, The Untold American Story. 

Four African American women seated on steps of building at Atlanta University, Georgia

Hill takes an anthropological lens to look at “the power of fashion has the unique ability to transform identity and culture”.  Hill champions the idea of making the art of contemporary fashion more accessible by exposing design excellence through the public venue of an art gallery or museum.  As a curator, Hill’s project, Blurred Boundaries: Fashion as an Art, exhibited at GraySpace Gallery, Santa Barbara, California, was viewed as a museum quality exhibit showcasing fashion as an art, on par with any other visual art

Hill is the curator and founder of EDGE Fashion Intelligence, and publishing editor of  EDGE, the acronym for Emerging Designers Get Exposed, is an international platform advancing the field of fashion in artistic values, cultural significance, and sustainability through the exposure of emerging designers.

Hill’s long career as an American fashion industry analyst started in  the late 1970’s. She pursued a fashion career  when she was one of the few Black women in the industry.  She started professionally as a contemporary fashion buyer at Macy’s in San Francisco.  She was recognized and awarded for her leadership in fashion merchandising, holding executive positions at Warner Bros. Studio Stores, Agron, Inc., a licensee for Adidas, Levi Strauss & Co., and as Vice President for Disney Direct Marketing, Disney Consumer Products division of The Walt Disney Company.  In 1998, Hill became the first African-American Vice President of Disney Consumer Products, of which Disney celebrated her achievement in the July 1999 Black Enterprise magazine.

Today she focuses her passion for the fashion industry via the EDGE platform which she says takes an intelligent approach on countering the superfluous and frivolous reputation the industry is known for with engagement and educational tools on more substantive issues.  Hill actively promotes emerging fashion designers of color and raises their visibility in the fashion world.