theGrio’s 100: Nzinga Knight, designer who is making modest Muslim fashions fabulous

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Nzinga Knight

Nzinga Knight attends Harlem's Fashion Row 5th Anniversary during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Jazz at Lincoln Center on September 7, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images)

Who is Nzinga Knight?

Nzinga Knight is a black American designer whose style mixes a sense of chic born of her life as a native New Yorker with the modesty inspired by her Muslim faith. She has received the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America Award and worked with fashion luminaries such as Marc Jacobs — both rare achievements for blacks in fashion. Knight started her own fashion line, Nzinga Knight, in 2008 after graduating from the Pratt Institute School of Design in 2005.

Why is she on theGrio’s 100?

Knight’s beautiful clothes are a perfect blend of the glamorous and devout. At a time when the thought of Islam conjures for many images of women draped in black from head to toe, Knight has created a luxurious look book that shatters this stereotype. Full of color and flowing form that women of any religious denomination would enjoy, her line breaks barriers at a time when the world needs expansive messages that honor our society’s diversity.

In addition, Knight made headlines while showing her Spring 2013 collection during New York Fashion Week by famously hiring Dominican orphan Fior Mendez to walk in her show. For the model, who was also brand new to the city, it was a dream come true. “Just as my third casting session was about to be over, Fior Mendez walked in the room and did her walk and had this wonderful expression on her face, plus natural beauty,” Knight said about her fortuitous selection. “I was sold.”

Knight clearly has a knack for showcasing beauty and purity of spirit in many forms as it relates to fashion.

What’s next for Knight?

The devout Muslim of Trinidadian and Guyanese decent plans to continue using fashion to show that a woman does not need to be defined by revealing her body. “For most of the women who really make it, you know, they have to take their clothes off. That’s the game they have to play,” Knight said in a recent story about her work. “I’m telling a story that people aren’t telling.”

Follow Nzinga Knight on Twitter at @NzingaKnight