B Michael Looks to the Future With Smithsonian Donations and FIT Commencement Address


Having published his first book earlier this year, B Michael is still magnifying his decades-long career, while simultaneously striving to inspire future generations.

The New York-based designer and his husband and business partner Mark-Anthony Edwards, who also serves as chairman and chief executive officer of the namesake company, executed the official deed of a gift to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The designer has donated 17 couture garments that he created for the barriers-breaking actress Cicely Tyson. Those designs have been officially added to the museum’s permanent fashion culture collection and will be featured in an exhibition at a later date, according to a company spokesperson.

Tyson had such a lasting influence on B Michael’s career that he penned the memoir, “Muse: Cicely Tyson and Me, a Relationship Forged in Fashion.” The book was published by Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers earlier this year. Tyson, a pioneering Black actress, who appeared in films, television and on the stage, died in 2021 at the age of 96. The designer had started writing the book in late 2020 with the blessings of Tyson, whom he first met in 2006. At that time, the designer had wholeheartedly agreed to dress the actress for Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Ball. 

The designer said the donations were a collaborative decision with Elaine Nichols, supervisory museum curator in the culture office of curatorial affairs. “My favorites in the museum collection speak to both aspects of my career: millinery and couture fashion. They are the hat Cicely Tyson wore to Aretha Franklin’s funeral [in 2018] and the historic Oscars gown [that she wore in 2018],” B Michael said. (The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored Tyson with a 2018 Governors Award on Nov. 18, 2018.)

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B Michael

Sue Coflin

The voluminous black hat earned social media praise from notables such as director Ava DuVernay, who referred to Tyson as “the queen.” In a 2020 video interview, Tyson explained that she did not want to wear the billowing hat because she was concerned it would block the view of those who were seated behind her. But B Michael had insisted, Tyson said in the interview. “It created a [viral] sensation. It went all over Europe and India with everybody sending me pictures. It was stunning…but don’t you see how that hat was humungous?”

The designer hopes his connection to Tyson and their respective careers in fashion and film will continue to inspire actors and fashion designers in the years ahead. On Thursday, he was tasked with championing young talent in a different way, by being among the speakers at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s commencement in New York City.

In advance of delivering his address Thursday, the designer said a few of the takeaways would be emphasizing  “what’s possible and the opportunity for this and the next generation to create impactful change in the industry of fashion.” He also aimed to impress upon them, “I am what’s possible.”

The designer said he planned to tell them, “Remember how far you’ve come, not just how far you have to go. You are not where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be.”

He added that, “Every generation inherits a world it never made, and, as it does so, it automatically becomes the trustee of that world for those who come after. In due course, each generation makes its own accounting to its children.”



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