mamadi doumbouya


Elaine Welteroth says the next generation of Black designers must carry out a ‘legacy of changemaking’ in fashion that’s been going on for decades

  • July 7, 2023
Elaine Welteroth portrait against a bright red background

Mamadi Doumbouya for Insider

The fashion journalist and ‘Project Runway’ judge spoke with Insider about the inherent activism of style, the legacy of Black fashion, and how to keep it alive

If fashion is the subject, then she is the verb, living and breathing the lessons the industry imposes on everyday life. Elaine Welteroth, 36, is a fashion editor, writer, and TV-show judge whose fascination with fashion began at a young age while watching her mom get dressed for work and for church on Sundays. Early on, she internalized the power of clothes to transform and influence how one is seen and treated in the world. And though there was no single aha moment for her, this early life lesson would be the north star for her journey to becoming a powerful fashion-media leader and icon.

From her beginnings at Ebony and Glamour as a style editor, to being a judge on “Project Runway,” to striking out as a solo author with her book, “More Than Enough,” she refuses to conform to a single predefined path in the fashion world. But her steady rise to the top of the most revered style publications and her talent for creating space for people of color have cemented her place as a thought leader, head cheerleader, tastemaker, and much more.

As the editor in chief of Teen Vogue from 2016 to 2018, she showed a penchant for building bridges between fashion and the rest of the world, sparking conversations around social justice, politics, and race with younger generations that other media outlets routinely overlooked. For perhaps the first time, a fashion publication talked to teens as humans with valid ideological insights and concerns, not just dolls that needed dressing, all against the backdrop of the polarizing 2016 election. At the time,

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