Gasparilla: First internationally-recognized Black fashion designer started in Tampa


Tampa, Fla. (WFLA) — Ann Lowe was the first black fashion designer to receive international recognition, and her career began with a dress design for Gasparilla.

Born in Clayton, Alabama in 1898, Ann Lowe learned to sew from her mother and grandmother. In her early childhood, she developed a fondness for using scraps to create flowers that resembled those in her family’s garden, which later became her signature designs.

Rowe started sewing at the age of five. In 1916, at the age of 18, she moved to Tampa after her local socialite Josephine her Edward her Lee bumped into Lowe inside a New York department store. Lee liked Rowe’s clothes and how they were made.

“Mrs. Lee had a large family here and needed someone to make clothes, so she invited Anne to come back to Florida with her and make her house a residence for her.” I set up

This changed Rowe’s life. After she moved and made her clothes for Lee’s family, Lower soon became the go-to designer for Tampa’s elite.In 1924, she was chosen to design a dress for Gasparilla. . Her three of those dresses are on display at the Henry B. Botanical Museum as part of the Gasparilla collection.

Two of the three dresses are part of the Henry B. Plant museum’s Gasparilla collection.

“Sometimes you get a treasure like an Ann Lowe dress,” Carter said. “We started him with one. The museum association got him one from the members. He got two more, all of them related to Gasparilla.”

Dress made for Sarah Likes Keller, Queen of Gasparilla, 1924. This features the famous flowers of Lowe. Another dress she made in 1926 was born by Catherine Broaddas. The third was a silk dress with tulle flowers and pearls, worn by Rebecca Davis Smith in 1957 at a Gasparilla event called Jewel Circle.

“At the time, she was living, working, designing and making money designing Gasparilla costumes,” said Andrew Brown.

Browne is co-owner of fashion and art brand The Paper Bar. He studied Lowe’s contributions to the community.

“She was invited to work with Christian Dior in the ’40s and said, ‘I want to do it, but here in America,'” Brown said. “If she wasn’t here in Tampa, she wouldn’t be where she is today.”

As the company’s director of education, Brown has taught several students about Lowe. In fact, he and his partner Jason Radcliffe had students interpret his 1947 Oscar dress that Law made for Olivia de Havilland. Presented the final design, mood board and illustrations at the 2021 fundraiser.

After spending several years in Tampa, Lowe moved to New York to attend the ST Taylor School of Design. When she arrived, she was not welcomed by the school principal because of her race, in fact, Lower was segregated from her classmates because she didn’t want black women in the same room.

Despite being discriminated against, Rowe’s design abilities were far superior to those of his classmates. Her designs were used as examples of the outstanding work of her other students. Due to her skill level and her ability, she graduated from the program in half the time required.

Lowe went on to design clothing for major design houses, celebrities and royalty. Lowe designed Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding and bridesmaid dresses, in fact, when she went to deliver the dresses, they tried to let her through her back door because of her race. she refused.

Lowe never got the recognition she deserved because of her skin color and the racial climate of America.

“Anne didn’t label her clothes. No one knew. She was just a black woman designing clothes and a fashion seamstress,” Carter said. rice field. “She wasn’t very well thought out.”

Because of that lack of recognition, Rowe was never properly compensated for her work, which caused her to file for bankruptcy multiple times.

Lowe was the first black internationally recognized fashion designer who didn’t get flowers. It is on display at the Botanical Museum and more.

Lowe’s dress is on display at the Botanical Museum until March 5th.



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