Carla Williams Celebrates Vintage Fashion From Black Designers With Shop, House of Black Style

LaVetta Scarf Dress
Photo source: House of Black Style

Carla Williams, the owner, and proprietor of House of Black Style, a shop specializing in vintage clothing and accessories by Black designers, has always had an eye for fashion and art. 

Williams was raised in Los Angeles by a mother who is from New Orleans, and, growing up, Williams knew that one day she would call New Orleans home. She moved to the city in 2014 to launch a shop called Material Life that specialized in fine art and vintage items. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, Williams was forced to close the shop, which had settled into the Contemporary Arts Center.

A component of Material Life had been vintage clothing, and, when the pandemic hit, Williams began to scour websites in search of clothing and vintage items by Black designers. House of Black Style, Williams’ online shop, features casual and formal looks and sewing patterns.

James Daugherty Dress
Photo source: House of Black Style

“My start was finding original Patrick Kelly items,” Williams said. “The first piece of his that I found for the shop was like magic.”

Williams’ business started with pieces from a dozen different designers and now boasts designs by more than 100 designers, dating back to the 1940s. Items include clothing, jewelry, and ephemera such as press photographs and fashion show brochures.

Williams regularly researches designers that she can include in her shop and enjoys learning about the history of the items she offers.

Patrick Kelly earrings
Photo source: House of Black Style

She explained, “One of my favorite designers is James Daugherty who was a designer from the 50s through the 70s. He designed some of the costumes for I Love Lucy, which was one of the most influential programs for fashion in my life. His work is so beautiful- ladylike and elegant.”

Another designer who has inspired Williams is LaVetta of Beverly Hills; she was raised in New Orleans and moved to California to launch her career.

“She showed her clothing at a department store called City of Paris where models would show off the clothes in a fashion show,” Williams said. “Her signature piece is a dress made out of scarves that is for sale on my website.”

Other designs offered include the fashion of Mimi Plange, Scott Barrie, Gordon Henderson, and Autumn Adeigbo, among many others.

James Daugherty dress
Photo source: House of Black Style

Williams currently has over 700 pieces in inventory and is in the process of closing on a site in Gentilly. The building, a former grocery store, and barbershop will be a brick-and-mortar location for House of Black Style; Williams hopes to open the shop by the summer.

In the meantime, Williams continues to sell through her website. She finds joy in sharing the history and designs of Black designers that have changed her life. She looks forward to the future and having a physical shop of her own again.

“The shop is going to be run by a dear friend of mine who is also a local artist and New Orleans native,” she said. “This has all been so fun, I can’t even describe it.”

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