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Leonard Davis

Maker interview details

Profile image of Leonard Davis
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  • June 22, 2007
  • March 31, 2007


  • Category: StyleMakers
  • Occupation(s): Fashion Designer


  • Born: March 12, 1953
  • Birth Location: Washington, District of Columbia


  • Favorite Food: Soul Food

Favorite Quote

"The Will To Do Will Make A Way"
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Fashion designer, fashion event producer and Black Americana collector, Leonard Davis, was born on March 12, 1953 in Washington, D.C. to Jordan and Cleo Davis. He graduated from Coolidge High School in 1970 and earned his associate degree in applied science at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York in 1973. Davis then continued his education at the world famous L'Ecole de la Chamber Syndicale De La Couture Parisienne in Paris, France where he earned his “Couture Design” certificate in 1975.

After working as an apprentice for Jean-Louis Sherrer in Paris, Davis returned to New York and began his designing career working for Willi Wear. On more than one occasion throughout his career, Davis was the first African American designer to head a division for companies including Adrianna Papell, Josephine Chaus, Inc. and Donnkenny. For twelve years, Davis worked developing private label products at Liz Claiborne, QVC, The Home Shopping Network (HSN), Essence by Mail and retail stores including Saks, Nordstrom, Bloomindales, Macy’s, JC Penney, Sears, Ashley Stewart and Steinmart. Davis has also worked abroad as Design Director for several International fashion houses including Mihang International, (Korean) Sage Apparel, (India) Tanzara/Plus Impact, (India).

In 1990, Davis realized the necessity for an annual event to honor African Americans in the fashion industry. With the collaboration of The Fashion Institute of Technology and Fashion and Arts Xchange, Davis’ vision was realized. He produced several annual events which honored black fashion pioneers including Ophelia DeVore, Naomi Sims, Andre-LeonTalley, Iman, Geoffrey Holder, Carmen De Lavallade, Wesley Tann, Helen Williams, Audrey Smaltz, Susan Taylor and Stephan Burrows. The event was hosted by Diahann Carroll and Phylicia Rashad.

In 1985, Davis began collecting Black Americana. He has published two books entitled “Black Americana Price Guide.” Davis has appeared in numerous magazines and newspaper articles, and The Davis Collection has been featured on several television shows including “Antiques Road Show,” “Treasures in Your Home,” ABC News, and featured in Spike Lee movie “Bamboozled.”

Leonard Davis was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 31, 2007.

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Watch the full interview in the Digital Archive