Jamaican American Brandon Blackwood has been nominated by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) to win the title of “American Accessory Designer of the Year” for 2022. Blackwood gained considerable attention in 2020 with his ESR tote, which was designed in response to the murder of George Floyd by police and the anger and protests that erupted afterward.
Blackwood wanted to make a stand against racism and support the Black Lives Matter movement. The ESR handbag features the phrase, “End Systemic Racism” on its front in place of the company name. It became a best seller for Blackwood’s brand as consumers became more interested in the ethics of the companies they support with their purchases. A percentage of the sales of the handbag went to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a group that helps minorities obtain legal representation in civil rights cases.
His handbags are popular with celebrities, including Lupita Nyong’o, Brie Larson, Amandla Stenberg, Cardi B, Zoe Kravitz, Solange Knowles, Keke Palmer, and Kim Kardashian. His totes have appeared in music videos, and the song “Bag (Brandon Blackwood) by hip-hop musicians Trill Dollar was released in 2021. An image of Blackwood holding five of his ESR purses was featured on a Times Square billboard for Spotify in 2020.
In 2022, Blackwood came through for actor Sheryl Lee Ralph, the winner of the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on “Abbot Elementary,” when she experienced a fashion emergency shortly before having to appear at the Emmy Awards ceremony. Just five days ahead of the ceremony, Blackwood heard about her plight and immediately designed her gown: a black velvet strapless gown with an orange underside and a thigh-high slit. She also carried the orange crystal trunk handbag from Blackwood’s collection.
Blackwood said that the rush design for Ralph’s gown was a very rewarding moment in his career. He shared on Instagram that he had been “crying nonstop since (Ralph’s) win,” noting that this was his first gown design and that seeing it “on a woman soooo deserving of this award was just iconic.” He also shared how he and Ralph had a glass of champagne together after her fitting for the dress and that he thanked her for taking a chance on him for her first time at the Emmys. He is now releasing a new collection of handbags and the gown Ralph wore to the awards ceremony.
Brandon Blackwood, 29, is of Jamaican and Chinese descent. He was born in Brooklyn, New York His mother Carleen Haughton moved to Brooklyn from Kingston, Jamaica, when she was 16. He spent much of his childhood in New York City and Tokyo and has been attracted to fashion design from an early age. He made handbags for his friends in middle and high school, and while his family wanted him to pursue a career in science, he graduated with a degree in American Studies from Bard College and worked as an intern at Elle and Nylon magazines. After graduation, he worked at Crossroads Trading, purchasing and selling trendy second-hand clothing. The stylists and editors he came to know through Crossroads Trading encouraged him to become a professional designer. With savings and help from his mother, he launched his first handbag line in 2015, and they were featured in Essence, Elle, and Galore magazines.
The winners of the CFDA awards will be announced at the 2022 CFDA Fashion Awards ceremony on Monday, November 7, 2022, at Cipriani South Street in NYC.