In 2018, award-winning radio host, journalist, professor and publisher and New York Times best-selling author Karen Hunter unveiled a dynamic new venture—the aptly named Global Majority clothing brand, adding to her vast array of successful endeavors. The brand launched in 2018 as a marketing campaign for the Karen Hunter Show and followed with legacy tees honoring the lives of W.E.B. DuBois, Ida B. Wells, Booker T. Washington and Harriet Tubman.
Three years later, The Global Majority relaunched on the birthday of Octavia Butler with a broader vision and as a nod to the trailblazing author. The Octavia Butler drop was followed by a crusade to clear the name of Marcus Garvey. The campaign, which is currently just a few hundred signatures shy of its 10,000 goal, was cosigned by several industry heavyweights, including Rev. Al Sharpton, Dr. Greg Carr, Roy Wood Jr., Yvette Nicole Brown, Clay Cane, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Sway Calloway and Rex Chapman. A portion of the proceeds went to the foundation honoring Garvey’s work founded by his son, Dr. Julius Garvey.
More recently, Hunter’s “Pass the Baton” series honored the founding fathers of hoops.
“Instead of the old Mt. Rushmore discussions, I wanted us to know who changed the game, starting with the first Black man to play in an NBA game, Earl Lloyd. Instead of ‘who’s the best,’ why not honor those who made it possible for the next generation to shine? That’s who we are…a community that re-members and honors where we came from,” she explains.
Hunter connected with Rick Martin of FranchiseLa in 2022 and they have grown into a juggernaut together, releasing five drops and a logo line in less than a year.
“Rick was a successful music producer and advertising exec,” Hunter said. “He brought skills and an amazing creative team that took my vision beyond what I could see.”
The commercial for the summer drop has people requesting links to the music in the video and has more than 200,000 views on social media. “This is our culture,” said Martin. “And everything that touches it should uplift and make people feel good and proud. Karen pushes us to deliver all of that and more.”
“I grew up in the era of FUBU and Cross Colors, I remember the African medallions and when clothing represented culture,” said Hunter. “I wanted to bring back that feeling and also pay homage and help us remember those who came before us.”
The Global Majority recently released its latest offering, the Summer Embroidery Collection with TGM Summer Wash, which ends at midnight PST (July 12), almost a year to the date of its first drop. It delivers a combination of “superior comfort, relaxed fit, and an irresistibly soft touch in every garment.” The streetwear collection boasts lightweight logo-embroidered anoraks, bombers and cropped jackets for both men and women. The collection also includes trucker and bucket hats, t-shirts, shorts and joggers—everything you’ll need to create the hottest looks this summer. The line can be layered or even worn individually.
But Hunter’s essential clothing line is bigger than fashion. It’s a global movement.
“We are reclaiming our identity and reframing who we are,” she explains. “I remember the era in hip hop when there was a commitment to wearing clothes that delivered a message. We are all grown up, and instead of empowering other brands and be branded by those not building in our community, let’s celebrate us!”
And the need for such a brand is critical, now more than ever.
A Savage Exit
In May 2019, global superstar, Rihanna, launched her fashion brand, Fenty, making her the first woman and person of color to head a luxury brand for the LVMH group. At the time, Rihanna highlighted the rampant racism in the industry.
“I found my race was highlighted mostly when I would do business deals,” she told The New York Times in 2015. “And [racism] never ends, by the way. It’s still a thing. And it’s the thing that makes me want to prove people wrong. It almost excites me; I know what they’re expecting and I can’t wait to show them that I’m here to exceed expectations.”
Last month, Rihanna shocked the world by announcing that she had stepped down as the CEO of Savage Fenty X and appointed a white woman as her replacement. Even though the star plans to remain with Savage X Fenty as the company’s executive chair, the move disappointed her legion of fans.
“It’s one thing to be Black owned, and I love that for you if you are. But are you being intentional about building a pipeline of Black talent?” said Reecie Colbert, the political strategist and founder of BlackWomenViews Media. “I know Karen Hunter is, and that’s why Global Majority truly represents.”
While her supporters grappled to support the decision, the Black community, who celebrated and participated in the meteoric rise of her empire (which is now valued at $1 billion and has over 4.5 million followers across social media platforms), also mourned the gaping Fenty-shaped hole left in the fashion world.
“When a celebrity is the founder of a growing, successful brand, their eventual departure from the helm is not unusual. We’ve seen it with The Honest Company, Fabletics and with Beats by Dre, just to name a few. Sadly, what’s also common is what happens when a company’s leadership shifts to individuals who no longer represent, embrace or remain fully committed to the markets and communities responsible for its success,” says Danielle Bennett, salon owner and TheHub.news contributor.
A Muted History
According to Zippia, only 7.5% of fashion designers are Black or African American, even though the Black community has a longstanding and unwavering influence on the industry and hardly receives its dues. In all reality, there is very little in the mainstream which has not been influenced by Black culture. The history of our influence reaches far beyond enslaved people picking cotton in the fields, weaving fabrics, and overseeing the dyeing processes. Evidence of materials and dyes found in Egyptian tombs goes as far back as 4000 years. In fact, by 3000 B.C., dyeing was a well-seasoned craft.
“Some of our ancestors were branded and were trafficked for cotton to make clothes, so we should be very mindful about the brands we wear on our backs,” Hunter asserts. “This is not about clothes for me. It’s a reminder. It’s an opportunity to make a statement about who we really. We are not minorities…we are the Global Majority. And with that, we have the power to change the world for the better!”
We are not, nor have we ever been, in the background of the industry. We are the backbone, and that is something that history— no matter how whitewashed—can erase.
Take Elizabeth Keckly, for instance. Keckly (also spelled Keckley) was born into slavery in 1818 in Virginia. Her harrowing upbringing often overshadows her immense influence on the fashion industry. After purchasing freedom for her and her son from their St. Louis owners for $1,200, she traveled to Washington, D.C., in 1860 to establish her dressmaking business. It was in D.C. where she crossed paths with first lady Mary Todd Lincoln. Lincoln recruited Keckly as her personal modiste, serving as the FLOTUS’ dressmaker, personal dresser and confidante. The gifted seamstress incorporated Lincoln’s love of flowers into her designs, adorning them with her trademark low décolletage and floral accessories.
Alabama native Ann Lowe made history as the first African American to become a noted fashion designer. Wealthy women flocked to purchase her heavily sought-after designs. In 1920, she opened her first dress salon “Annie Cohen.” Less than a decade later, Lowe was commissioned to create pieces for several prominent retailers, including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Henri Bendel and Chez Sonia. She even designed Jacqueline Lee Bouvier’s wedding gown for her marriage to John Fitzgerald Kennedy. It was heralded as one of the “weddings of the century.”
Becoming a force in the White House is no easy feat in 2023, let alone in the 1800s. Still, fast-forward to now and Black-owned designer houses with Black CEOs are a rarity in the mainstream. Notable designers, such as Ozwald Boateng, Tracey Reese and Kevan Hall, are few and far between, and of the few, women are represented at a scarily low rate in comparison to their male counterparts.
A Knu Era
With The Global Majority, Hunter aims to fill the void, and she is the right woman for the job.
“I do and have done a lot of things in my career, but this is one of my favorite ventures because it allows me to create and honor my people. And I am blessed with a team that can execute it all,” Hunter declares.
Her sprawling empire has become a force to be reckoned with. Not only is she a Pulitzer and Polk Award-winning journalist, but her partnership with Sirius XM as Program Director has also seen her usher through some of the country’s most talented Black voices courtesy of their Urban View channel. Other successful ventures include Karen Hunter Publishing, formerly an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Knarrative, home to the largest Africana Studies classroom in the world and social community app, Knubia, powered by Knarrative. Hunter’s remarkable portfolio and unapologetic dedication to the betterment of our people are unmatched.
“We are making dope clothes that both look good and stand for something,” said Hunter.
You can find all of the drops at The Global Majority website.