Growing up in South Carolina in the 1990s, Sergio Hudson paid close attention to the news — and, in particular, what people wore while making news happen. One of his favorites was during Bill Clinton’s Presidential Inauguration in 1997 when then-first lady Hillary Clinton selected the work of Dominican designer Oscar de la Renta to enter her second term. Her coral dress-and-coat combo made a young Hudson tell himself: “I want to do that someday.”
On January 20, 2021, he finally got his chance. It was Inauguration Day, the moment when then-Senator Kamala Harris would be sworn in as the first Black, Caribbean, and South Asian woman Vice President of the United States. On the stage was another history-making first lady, Michelle Obama, wearing a head-to-toe look from Hudson’s fall 2020 collection. “It was a full circle moment for me,” says the L.A.-based designer.
Mrs. Obama's monochromatic burgundy turtleneck-and-pants combo, paired with a floor-length coat and gold-plated high-waisted belt, as well as the black sequined cocktail dress with matching tuxedo overcoat seen on Vice President Harris became the central inspiration for Hudson’s fall 2021 collection, which the designer will debut on September 9 during New York Fashion Week. “It’s all about strong, powerful women,” Hudson told Refinery29. “And women in politics, honestly.”
Born in the mid-80s, Hudson studied fashion at Bauder College in Atlanta. In 2013, he won Bravo TV’s fashion competition Styled To Rock, taking home a $100,000 prize that allowed him to jumpstart his career. While Hudson first launched his brand in 2014, he made his New York Fashion Week debut in September 2020, with an ode to the 1980s and 1990s that was filled with vibrant colors, sexy silhouettes, and a wide array of thick waist belts with gold metal buckles. Although he’s now mostly known for his work on our most recent Inauguration Day, Hudson has dressed celebrities like Beyoncé, Rihanna, Janelle Monaé, Tiffany Haddish, and Demi Lovato. Known for his stretchy yet structured double wool crepe some call his “magic fabric,” the designer has become known for his immaculate tailoring that's distinguished his work over the past seven years.
His latest collection, an ode to legendary superstar Diahann Carroll, is no exception. It all started with a picture of the 20th century activist, singer, model, and actress talking on the phone and wearing an all-white outfit and a pair of Manolo Blahnik heels. The image's understated elegance is very much synonymous with the clean lines and classic silhouettes of Hudson’s brand. Some other icons who inspired this collection include Diana Ross, Whitney Houston, and Naomi Campbell.
Despite his affinity for history, Hudson's main source for inspiration is decidedly modern. “I’m an avid Pinterest user. It’s just a habit for me,” says Hudson, who is now an official creator for the platform, partnering with the app to showcase his work through a series of Pinterest boards and exclusive content. Scroll through his fall 2021 inspiration board for a glimpse into his mind, of black-and-white images of Ross, Houston, Campbell, and Carroll dolled up in embellished gowns and statement blazers, as well as voluminous hair and chunky earrings. “I’m a mixer of different eras and kinds of women,” says Hudson.
Although the minimal aesthetic that Hudson has cultivated will carry over in the collection, he’s branching out this season into a a risqué technique: prints. “You will see me stepping out a bit,” he says. “You will see how I do prints in my own way.” He describes the collection as a “fresh revival.” For his fall 2020 collection, Hudson started with houndstooth — a staple of the ‘80s and ‘90s — on two of his pieces. Still, the rest of his collection remained largely monochrome, which he says “is just the best way to look chic,” with head-to-toe burgundy, hot pink, gold, turquoise, and white looks.
Over the past year, Hudson has cemented his presence among a new generation of Black designers that, he says, are “redefining what an American sportswear designer is.” Alongside some of his peers, including Christopher John Rogers and Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss, he’s becoming one of the country’s more recognizable names in fashion. "We’re pulling up to the party and saying ‘This is where I want to be and this is who I want to be,’” he says.
For Hudson, moments like this year’s Inauguration Day, when the Vice President chose three Black designers to create her looks, set a powerful precedent. “Even ten years ago, you couldn’t imagine that someone like me could design the outfit for a first lady to wear on Inauguration Day,” he says. Thanks to initiatives like the Black in Fashion Council and Black Design Collective, more spaces are opening up for designers of color to showcase their work during high-profile events like New York Fashion Week. “We don’t want to replace the old guard,” he says. “We just want to be considered a part of it.”