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Ann Lowe Story

By Joelle Beauchamp

Ann Lowe will go down in history as one of the most significant designers in the fashion industry. As a pioneer of her time and the first African American woman to become a noted fashion designer, she worked tirelessly throughout her life to claim her status in the fashion world. She showed beyond doubt, the power and talent of African American designers.

The two incredibly skilled dressmakers Lowe grew up with—her mother and grandmother—made clothes for affluent white households in adjacent cities. These two influential ladies in Lowe's childhood taught her technical skills, and by the time she was 10 years old, Lowe was creating her own patterns and clothes.

Lowe first became established as a dressmaker in her state residence, Alabama, in the year of her mother’s death. Regrettably, she was unable to complete the dress she was supposed to make for the first lady of Alabama for a New Year's Eve ball before she passed away. After her passing, Lowe finished the garments her mother unfortunately left unfinished, thus establishing herself in the industry.

In 1916, Lowe was recognized in a department store by a popular socialite of the time, Josephine Edwards Lee, for her fashionable and beautifully constructed outfit. When it was discovered that Lowe made the dress herself, she was invited to Florida to work as a live-in seamstress to make Lee's daughter's wedding gowns.

Shortly after, Lowe submitted an application to the S.T. Taylor School of Design in New York City and was accepted. It was at this school that she experienced intense segregation by the director, although her designs were superior to her white peers.

After completing her studies in record time, she returned to Tampa in order to combat the demand for ball gowns. She created her own storefront, Annie Cone Boutique, and hired eighteen seamstresses to work under her. In 1928, with her savings and heart full, Lowe moved to New York and closed her storefront, to pursue her dream of owning a store in the city. She succeeded in her goal, as she operated many shops in New York, and created her own stores; Ann Lowe Inc., Ann Lowe Gowns, A.F. Chantilly Inc., and Ann Lowe Originals. The Ann Lowe Originals store was located on Madison Avenue, solidifying Ann Lowe as the first African American woman to own a shop on the famous fashion strip.

Through Lowe’s career, she had the opportunity to work for many famed design houses of her time, other than her own. Her perseverance, her dedication, and her talent will forever be recognized, and she will always be one of the most influential and memorable designers in the fashion industry.

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