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Fashion, News, Runway Review

#NYFW Fall ’16: Public School Resists Fashion’s Gender Gazing Problem

February 14, 2016

Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne of Public School have a lot on there plate these days. In addition to designing for the label they have successfully built into a must-see, award winning fashion and style brand, the two also now occupy the helm of the legendary DKNY. In a time when many are lamenting the death of creativity in fashion as a result of designer’s being tasked with too much to do, these two clearly still have steam as we saw in their recent Fall 2016 Menswear collection that slayed the runway, and now their Fall 2016 ready-to-wear collection for NYFW.

What I love about Public School is that, even when fashion sticks to basic notions of gender identity and expression in terms of clothes, and the fashion house does play by those old rules in terms of having a separate menswear and womenswear show (which, to be fair, is actually somewhat recent for their company), the fashion house and the clothes they produce do emerge from an aesthetic that is agender. The payoff of this, besides the obvious gender radicalness of it all, is that they can play with color and texture in their garments, but above all with silhouette’s as the form and function of their designs don’t appear to constrain on the basis of rigid rules of gender identity and expression we find in most mainstream fashion houses and others operating at the top levels as Public School. For this show we see large ponchos, oversized trousers and jeans, and layers that work to conceal rather than convey particular attention to any of the markers much of fashion draws the eye to in an effort to distinguish those features that denote men’s clothes and women’s clothes and rigid notions of what femininity and masculinity are and could be in and through fashion and style. In sum, I appreciate the cerebral nature of what Public School does each season and this collection keeps that going.

Here are some of my favorites from the Fall 2016 ready-to-wear line:

 

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Fashion, News, Runway Review

#NYFW: Christian Siriano Made us a Believer in Yellow.

February 14, 2016

I’ve said it before, and I’ve said it again. Christian Siriano is one of the best in the evening wear game. The risks he takes with fabrics for evening, his use of color, his imagination that what one could wear for evening could be something more than just a gown but something more edgy and fun are among his strengths and what make his collections one to watch for me.

For Fall 2016, I am most transformed by his use of yellow. Yellow has never been a color I love, but in both his Spring 2016 collection and this latest Fall show, Siriano used yellow in ways that have made be a believer in this “Big Bird” couture. And I mean that in a REALLY< REALLY good way. The yellow wasn’t all the same, some verged on a more pale side, others vibrant, and at least one leaned very chartreuse. All of them, in my eyes, were by far my favorites from the collection and are among my favorite for NYFW so far, and I don’t know what to make of that as yellow usually calls up my shade button. Here are my favorites from among them:

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I also enjoyed what Siriano did with so much knitwear for evening, and some that could also work for day. In addition to the yellow knit pieces above, there was other that really caught my eye:

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Staying true to his strength and signature, Christian Siriano’s gave us so many dresses that gave so much life. Among my favorites and most “RCR” (red carpet ready) were these:

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Fashion, History, Interview, On the Street, Pop Culture

Sankofa Couture: Interview with School of Thought Collection Creators

December 15, 2015

by Stephanie “Rhythm” Keene 

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photo credit: Mike Ryan/Brick x Birch (all photos in this post)

I recently I sat down with Maryam Pugh of Philadelphia Printworks and Donte Neal of Mars Five to discuss their fashion design collaboration, the collection “School of Thought.” The “School of Thought” collection “imagines a different world where colleges and institutions have been established based on the philosophies of Marcus Garvey, Audre Lorde, Ida B. Wells, Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver and James Baldwin. The collection represents the double consciousness experienced by” African diasporic people in America  “and creates a safe space for the praxis of liberation.” [Editor’s Note: The interviewer, Stephanie “Rhythm” Keene, is also featured in the “School of Thought” campaign photos wearing the ‘Tubman’ shirt]. 

Keene: How did this idea come about?

Neal: I had an art studio at the Window Factory in North Philly, and so did Maryam. I got to see the beginning of what Philadelphia Printworks was, and I always wanted to collaborate with them. Then in the beginning of 2015, we came up with this cool idea to do collegiate sweatshirts. I always wanted to do something that had a collegiate theme, and [liked] being able to do that with Philadelphia Printworks by way of using very significant black intellectuals.

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Keene: How did you choose which intellectuals to use? Will others show up later?

Neal: There was a much larger list. We wanted to, at least for this run, to do names that were a good balance between men and women.

Pugh: Any time we design a collection, there’s always that balance of trying to find people that we think are impactful and someone that has done things that we feel deserve to be brought to the light and recognized and honored. If it goes well, we can expand the collection to include other names and other products.

Neal: We wanted to make sure that we grounded ourselves somewhat in reality; if these schools existed, what would be the cornerstone of their educational system? So [for example] Garvey Industrial Institute. So we focused on the technology of industry, the building of factories, etc. Ida B. Wells was one of the writers who started writing about the lynchings in the South in the height of it, when it was going down. [Someone going to that fictional school] could be someone who maybe wants to be involved in politics, bringing important subjects to light regardless of what kind of adversity they’re [facing] at the moment. So we didn’t want to pick names out of a hat because these names are cool. These are the ‘schools of thought.’ These are the ideas of importance, and here are some people that represent these ideas.

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Keene: The timing of this project feels really important given the current state of affairs for black people, particularly in America. How intentional was that, and what are your thoughts about the images of this line, juxtaposed against images of what’s happening in America right now?

Pugh: Philadelphia Printworks has been doing this for 4 or 5 years and it’s interesting to see how the climate of the world affects the things we do. Specifically now, it’s very important that we have these positive images and think of ways we can manifest the future we’d like to see.

Neal: I hope this collection and this effort can bridge the gap between people who started with the same fire that [the youth] have now. It would be great to have youth adopt these names into their way of thinking and draw a comparison between what they’re going through now in their fight and what was going on in the times of the folks that appear on these sweatshirts.

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Pugh: Historically, the younger people are where the revolution comes from, but we can’t lose what we learned in the previous generations. It’s the idea of Sankofa – going back and trying to apply what we’ve learned from the past. With the concept of this collection, we were able to take past revolutionaries and apply it in a very futuristic way.

Neal: This is very Afrofuturistic. We are imagining our future, planting the seed for a manifestation of a bright future.

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Keene: The “A Different World” [late 80s and early 90s NBC sitcom about a fictional HBCU called Hillman College] connection is seamless. How did the idea to make that visual connection come about?

Pugh: “A Different World,” [the films] “School Daze,” “Higher Learning,” they all talked about really important topics, that unfortunately we’re still experiencing now. And I’ve seen the younger generation reach out to these shows [and films] that we grew up on and use them as a conduit, so it made sense for us to also tie our collection into it.

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Neal: For a lot of black folks, that alternate universe in which these characters existed, there was hope in this show. Being young and impressionable, seeing that show I was just like “Wow. Here are these completely normal… They don’t fit like a stereotype. This black person is like this and this black person is like that, and they’re friends and they exist in the same [space].” Seeing that was really inspirational. The impact and the positive influence that show had on black folks, that was imagined. That was written by somebody. If someone can imagine that and make such a great impact and inspire black people, why can’t we at any point imagine a product, whether it’s a book, a movie, a piece of clothing, art… We can imagine things and create a space in the future in which these ideas can exist. Who knows? Maybe one day we might have a Tubman University.

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You can purchase items from the “School of the Thought” collection here.

Follow Philadelphia Printworks on Twitter, IG, and Tumblr: @philaprint

Follow Donte Neal of Mars Five on Twitter: @donteneal_

Stephanie “Rhythm” Keene is a Philadelphia-based writer and performer. She is a co-host of The Harvest, the largest open mic experience in Philadelphia. A proud graduate of The Lincoln University (PA), she is an ally and advocate fighting for the freedom of all people. Follow her on Twitter and IG: @rhythmkeene

Fashion, Runway Review

Pre-Fall 2016 Fashion Favorites: Volume 1

December 7, 2015

by Eric Darnell Pritchard

Sure, we are close to a year away from Fall-ish 2016, however all the recent Pre-Fall 2016 runway shows and look books from designers has us on a fierce fashion fast forward. Today I present Volume 1 of three installments of my favorite Pre-Fall 2016 looks thus far.

Altuzarra 

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credit: Bruno Staub via Altuzarra Altuzarra-PreFall-16

Burberry Prorsum

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credit: Burberry Prorsum

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Diane von Furstenberg

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photo credit: DVF

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Fendi

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photo credit: Fendi

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Michael Kors

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photo credit: Michael Kors Collection

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What are your thoughts? Any items among these looks that are at the  top of your Pre-Fall 2016 shopping list? Leave a comment below or share your opinion with me on Twitter and Instagram too. You can find me @glamourtunist.

Fashion

Can Fashion Heal?

November 16, 2015

Can fashion heal? — Fashion Conscious: A Column 

by Dominique Michelle Davis (photo credit: wellandgood)

Given all of the research and benefits of art therapy in the healing process, there stands to be a lot of advancement in promoting the therapeutic benefits in the world of fashion. In a culture shaped upon promoting unrealistic standards of beauty, there lies an opportunity to use creative expression in the healing process, but we are starting to hear more about the conversation of how fashion can be healing. In the September issue of Elle Magazine, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, spoke about her use of fashion as therapy. The Arthur Centre at the University Hospital of Marseilles in the United Kingdom offers fashion therapy to teenage patients to improve self-esteem and treat symptoms of depression and anorexia through dress up in garments of local designers. Richards Garnier, a psychiatrist and designer, has his own label, Dr. Jekyll.

According to the American Art Therapy association, “art therapy is a mental health profession in which clients, facilitated by the art therapist, use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self- awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem.” A goal in art therapy is to improve or restore a client’s functioning and his or her sense of personal wellbeing. Today, art therapy is widely practiced in a wide variety of settings including hospitals, psychiatric and rehabilitation facilities, wellness centers, forensic institutions, schools, crisis centers, senior communities, private practice, and other clinical and community settings. Research supports the use of art therapy within a professional relationship for the therapeutic benefits gained through artistic self-expression and reflection for individuals who experience illness, trauma, mental health problems, and those seeking personal growth. Art therapy helps people resolve conflicts, improve interpersonal skills, manage problematic behaviors, reduce negative stress, and achieve personal insight. Art therapy also provides an opportunity to enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of art making (American Art Therapy Association, 2015).

Fashion Coloring Book by Carol Chu and Lulu Chang; photo credit: http://kidcrave.com

Fashion Coloring Book by Carol Chu and Lulu Chang; photo credit: http://kidcrave.com/entertainment/the-fashion-coloring-book/

The use of the creative expression to start dialogue about self esteem and self image, diagnosis of depression and anorexia, trauma and other disorders provides an opportunity to transform a culture stigmatized in superficial ideology into a space that embraces differences and acknowledges the human experience of suffering. If we can remain conscious about our behaviors, understand and acknowledge our emotional states, this may also decrease process addictions and other mental health disorders by allowing individuals to not stifle their creative concepts. The use of art to reduce anxiety and improve social skills can continue to serve as a tool for those who struggle with challenges and other disorders. We have witnessed many artist who struggle with addiction and depression among other mental health disorders, designers Alexander McQueen, and actor Robin Williams to name just two of the legendary artists who suffered from depression. Creative arts is not a panacea for all mental health disorders, but it can serve to be a platform to create dialogue and promote social consciousness if used as a tool to start the conversation and ask deeper existential questions about life, happiness and self acceptance. I’m personally pleased to see the medical profession incorporate arts, fashion design, as a healing tool in the therapeutic process.

"Fashion Conscious" with Dominique M. Davis

“Fashion Conscious” with Dominique M. Davis

Fashion, History

Rewind, 1970-1999: A (Bill) Blass from the Past

November 12, 2015

by Eric Darnell Pritchard (photo credit: Richard Avedon)

“Red is the ultimate cure for sadness.” – Bill Blass

“When in doubt wear red.” – Bill Blass

The proof is Lauren Hutton, photographed by the iconic Richard Avedon, wearing a gorgeous Bill Blass red handkerchief dress in georgette, a dress that is timeless, elegant, and indeed for any style ennui (that’s french for boredom!) we may be suffering now or ever.

This month, fashion wunderkind Chris Benz’s long awaited debut has creative director of legendary American fashion brand Bill Blass finally came true. And from the looks posted in stories in the fashion press, and the items currently available for purchase on the company’s site, Benz, did not disappoint. I’ve already eyed a piece I will be buying as a gift for a friend.

Blass, the son of a dressmaker mother and a salesman father, had been obsessed with style and designing his entire life. Indeed, the double-B logo for what would become his company emerged from sketches he had done from as early has his pre-teens. In 1970, after working in fashion since 1959 and eventually becoming the head designer of the fashion house Maurice Rentner, Blass purchased that brand and renamed it Bill Blass Limited, formally establishing a brand that would go on to great success for the next three decades until Blass’s retirement in 1999. Following his retirement, several designers were installed as the head of Bill Blass Limited and charged to keep the fashion brand’s legacy going starting with Steven Slowik (who was Blass’s choice to succeed him), Lars Nilsson,  Michael Vollbrecht, and finally Peter Som (a former assistant to Blass). Blass passed away from cancer on June 12, 2002, and  Som’s leadership would be the last big attempt at keeping Bill Blass Limited alive until, in October 2014, when it was announced that Benz would be the creative lead of a relaunch of Bill Blass, the latest chapter in a story of returns for a fashion house that once epitomized the ideal of American sportswear. This chapter, however, looks to be the perfect combination: Blass’ chic, attainable glamorous Americana aesthetic, and Benz’s irreverent, sophisticated, and whimsical approach to design.

With the roll out relaunching Bill Blass underway, it is both imperative and impossible not to take a brief, though glorious trip down memory lane with some of the best in the company’s history under its founder’s creative leadership.

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Blass in his element

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Blass also designed menswear his career, his own personal style is a glimpse at that part of his career.

 

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Get into the sofa pillow with the Bill Blass logo on the sofa. Blass had a fondness for interior decoration, and his impeccable taste was also evident in his Connecticut estate.

 

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Socialite, designer and Anderson Cooper’s mama, Gloria Vanderbilt, wearing a giraffe print Bill Blass tunic and pants in the 1970s

 

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A beautiful Bill Bass turtleneck dress, and also a beautiful model with the most glorious afro. I live!

 

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It’s time to play “Name that fashion decade …”

 

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Chris Benz at work for Bill Blass today. Good luck, Mr. Benz and so far, so good. We’ll be watching.

 

 

Fashion, Runway Review

Chicago Fashion Week: Alexander Swain (Review)

November 9, 2015

by Dominique Michelle Davis (photo credit: Dominique Michelle Davis)

The 2015 Chicago Fashion Week presented a runway showcase called “Fashion Focus: Style Bias, Street Style.” The event was held downtown at Block 37. This was my first year attending this particular event for Fashion Focus Chicago. What intrigued me about this event was the platform to highlight and promote Chicago street style, local designers and boutique owners. In addition to presentation of collections there were performances by Huey Gang.

Artist Alexander Swain designed what I found to be the most intriguing collection. The collection included the repetition of multicolored patchwork as a detail in many of the garments, paint splatters on vests and pants, and really wonderful accessorizing on men’s and women’s looks, including some really chic hats and a unique make-up looks on many of the models, some of whom appeared to have face jewelry and other make-up looks that gave texture to the face. Among my favorite looks was the long patchwork shirt dress (pictured above).

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What I found most provocative was a garment with an illustration of a caricature in black face. Initially this detail gave me pause, and I wondered about the inspiration behind this collection given this reference of what is racist iconography. The look was a shirt with the face of a person that accessorized with bandanas and handkerchiefs put you in the mind frame of the antebellum south and the ways gingham bandanas and head scarves were often depicted as being worn by the Mammy figure, a representation of enslaved Black women and free domestics as popularized in films like “Gone With the Wind” wherein Hattie McDaniel played a character named Mammy, a role for which she became the first African American to win an Oscar in 1940.

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Hattie McDaniel, Actress

Hattie McDaniel, Actress

My awareness of Swain’s artistic commitment to fashion being seen as on par with other visual arts, and the other ways in which race and diversity were so deliberate in this runway presentation, made it clear to me that this reference of a painful racist iconography was not a haphazard reference, but deliberately trying to evoke a  conversation about the complex relations between race, art, and retail or commerce.

Despite the ways Swain’s historical reference transported one to the past, the music kept one consciously anchored within and aware of the present. To that point, in 2015, in light of the culture of frustration, distrust, and anger many people (including African American Chicagoans) feel for Chicago’s political scene, and with Chicago widely known to be one of the most segregated cities in the United States, this collection was timely in its provocative commentary. Alexander Swain’s collection spoke volumes and created the appropriate context for intersecting conscious art and fashion. I would definitely rock his collection and add a piece from his collection to my wardrobe.

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In addition to Swain, other collections presented in the showcase include the following fashion labels: Ameerah Vania, The Albert Ray Collection, Royal Apparel, Bornmade, House of Lerenn, Daniel Jacob, Urban Threads Studio, Stefan Meier and Aqua Vita.

Fashion, News

5 Black Designers Who Could Next Lead Christian Dior or Lanvin

October 30, 2015
(clockwise, top left: Olivier Rousteing, Tracy Reese, Carly Cushnie, Stella Jean, B Michael)

by Eric Darnell Pritchard

Yesterday, I shared a commentary in which I argued that Black designers are not appearing on lists of designers who would be potential replacements as creative directors at historic ready-to-wear and haute couture houses, and specifically Dior and Lanvin after the sudden exits of Raf Simons and Alber Elbaz, respectively. In a social media economy in which name recognition and visibility matters, and given the continued shifts among creative directors at the top houses, it is imperative to provide some direction for a future leader of Dior, Lanvin and the historic fashion houses to come who may be looking for leadership, and are invested in considering many of the very talented Black designers for such a position. Certainly this list risks becoming yet another among the long and ever growing wish lists of potential creative directors to be considered, but as this list centers the qualifications, contributions, aesthetics, and promise of Black designers exclusively and deliberately so, and as argued in a previous commentary Black designers rare (if ever) appear on such lists, this is a much needed addition to the usual list of those being considered. Also, I was to stress that these are my personal five favorites for the job, and stress that there are many, many other Black designers who have everything it takes to get the job done:

Stella Jean

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A rising star in fashion, the Milan based Jean is a favorite of fashion critics including Franca Sozzani editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, and fashion critic Suzy Menkes. Jean’s feminine, pretty aesthetic is very much so in line with that of Dior and Lanvin’s own design codes. She also has a European fashion sensibility in her clothes that would be appreciated by haute couture die hards.

B Michael

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With nearly two decades of experience of making glamorous gowns to order, B Michael would bring the skill set a historic house of haute couture would be looking for to fulfill this responsibility of the position. He also has an already impressive roster of clientele who come to him for custom made garments including Halle Berry and the Williams Sisters, and this would be a built in client roster Dior and Lanvin would be used to and continue to court.

Carly Cushnie

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Cushnie, one half of design duo Cushnie Et Ochs, is known for women’s wear designs with the hallmarks of strength, passion, sexuality as central themes of her work. Trained at Parsons School of Design, and a former assistant in the design studios of American designers Proenza Schouler, Donna Karan, and Oscar de la Renta, the London born Cushnie’s designs for Cushnie Et Ochs have been wor on many red carpets by celebrity clientele, including Rihanna the current face of Christian Dior.

Tracy Reese

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A favorite of FLOTUS Michelle Obama (above), Reese has almost twenty years of experience heading her own fashion label. Reese’s designs are known for their traditionally feminine flourishes, and bold use of color and print, both of which would be a good match for the visual vocabulary of  Christian Dior or Lanvin.

Olivier Rousteing

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The reigning fashion king of social media, Rousteing has managed to make Balmain a “must see” show during Paris Fashion Week, not only for his sexy, modern, and edgy designs, but also for a runway show front row of attendees who are also friends such as Kanye West, Kim Kardashian – West, and Rihanna, while supermodels Jourdan Dunn, Joan Smalls and Kendall Jenner all stomp the Balmain runway each season. Just this week, Rousteing launched “Balmain x H&M” a one off collaborative collection bringing the luxury retailers aesthetic to the department store H&M and its more affordable price point. His current successes would give Dior or Lanvin attention from a generation of luxury brand consumers who would grow with the label.

Who would be on your list of potential replacements as creative director at Dior or Lanvin?

Beauty, Fashion, Runway Review

“The Art of Fabric”: African Fashion Week, Chicago (Review)

October 30, 2015

by Dominique Michelle Davis / Photo Credit: @ChicagoFashionDiva

The 2nd African Fashion Week of Chicago hosted at Victor Hall proved to be another great success. For the second year running, founder and CEO, Christianah Ajanaku, has managed to pull talented designers together to create a runway show inspired by the art of fabric. Designers in the show included the brands 828 Collection, Cocushubi, St. Frimpong, Akese Stylelines, Abayadake, Anzhelika Crochet, Binta Sagale, Maryam Garba, Slice by Cake, Simply Cecily and Tiffney Deo Allure.

This was a unique experience in comparison to the standard runway show. What separates this fashion event from others is the way its producers incorporate the arts (visual, music and textiles) in a way that is inclusive to all artists, including the broad and diverse range of the models for the runway show.

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The theme of this year’s event, The Art of Fabric, inspired designers to use a variety of textiles, prints and colors with a range of motifs. The theme also invited designers to challenge the traditional structural design of garments. Vibrant earth tone hues of green, blue, orange and yellow were consistent among all the collections, and what what is currently on trend for the 2015-2016 in fashion generally. Of all the designers, Simply Cecily, Maryam Garba and St. Frimpong were among my favorite collection pieces.

The production of the event was a definite progression from last year’s event, which was held at Jackson Junge Gallery in Chicago. However, with a theme this broad, and with the ability to work with other art form incorporated into the show’s production, I would have liked to see the art of fabric imbedded in more than just the designer’s collections. For example, the “art of fabric” as a theme give the opportunity for the interior design of the location to be incorporated into the runway show, as well as the integrating of the theme with the wonderfully venturous hairstyles and accessories could have been amplified to create a cohesive beauty look for the shows that used hairstyle to showcase fabric. This would also exhibit the diversity of hair textures and hairstyles among the broad range of wonderful models for the show, as well as among the event coordinators for African Fashion Week – Chicago.

Despite this minor critique of those very few details, and even in the absence of what my thoughts on what would have been additional compliments to the show, I applaud Christianah Ajanaku for her leadership, creativity, inspiration and ability to be a trailblazer. Ajanaku has created a platform for artists to debut and present their creations in a great way. I look forward to African Fashion Week – Chicago 2016 and to following Christianah Ajanaku and the designers to see their creative visions flourish for what will undoubtedly be many years to come.

Fashion, News

Black Fashion Designers Must Be Considered to Lead Historic Haute Couture Houses

October 29, 2015

by Eric Darnell Pritchard

Reports that designers Raf Simons and Alber Elbaz will exit their positions as creative directors of legendary fashion houses Christian Dior and Lanvin respectively, has been the talk of the fashion world. Fashion has played this steady game of musical chairs among the top fashion houses, as one house or another finds itself searching for a new artistic leader after another resigns about as often as a socialite is in search of her next couture gown. As fashion critic Robin Givhan notes, gone are the days when a designer takes over a fashion house for the duration of their career. The minute news of these resignations was reported much of fashion turned immediately to this question: who will be the next creative director of Christian Dior and Lanvin? While responses regarding Lanvin are just beginning to emerge, with Dior there has been a constant stream of names emerging as potential replacements for Simons, some more frequently than others, including American designer Joseph Altuzzarra, Phoebe Philo of Celine, and couturier Bouchra Jarrar. Each of these designers would be extremely exciting for everyone in fashion, and each of them offer the opportunity for Dior to take an important step by appointing a person of color or a woman as its leader for the very first time in its history. However, with the exception of Olivier Rousteing of Balmain (which no longer has a haute couture designation) it also remains true that the role of creative director at Dior, Lanvin or any of their peer haute couture or other historic fashion houses has never been held by a person of African descent, and given the frequent critiques of industry racism and the lack of diversity in fashion, this highlights yet another barrier that must be broken.

Perhaps more concerning is that among lists of potential new creative directors at Dior and other houses that have had vacancies in recent memory, Black designers are rarely (if ever) named on what are sometimes exhaustive lists of potential replacements. Google search ‘Black fashion designers’ and you will be directed to posts like “25 Greatest Black Fashion Designers” or “15 Black Fashion Designers You Should Know.” However, those same designers are never discussed as potential leads of historic fashion houses. The frequency of such lists show that Black designers appear in the historical and social imaginary of the fashion industry as being in a perpetual state of either people who did great work but who fashion history forgets, or contemporary designers who are doing great work but who are being overlooked as we speak. It is incumbent upon fashion to do better to make sure that Black designers are at least a part of the conversation when legendary fashion houses are looking for new creative leadership.

One counterargument to the lack of Black designers on the list of potential players for the top job at Dior or other historic haute couture houses is that whoever is selected will be required to design haute couture. Haute couture, or “high fashion,” is an original garment made custom by hand from beginning to end by a designer. In France, where the most historic haute couture houses were born, the label haute couturier is a heavily policed title, and is bestowed only by invitation of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. Unless Chambre approved, a garment is not considered haute couture. With so few designers of any race or ethnicity holding haute couture recognition, one might argue that this is the reason why Black designers are not on the list. But this argument only highlights the need for fashion to make an even greater effort to invest in the careers of Black designers in order to be solvent around the lack of diversity at the leadership at historic houses of haute couture. In 1988 designer Patrick Kelly from Vicksburg, Mississippi was admitted into the Chambre making Kelly the first person of color, first Black person, and first American so admitted. Since that time the number of haute couture houses led by Black designers has remained extraordinarily rare. In 2011, as previously mentioned, designer Olivier Rousteing was appointed creative director of the historic fashion house Pierre Balmain. However, though Balmain is historically recognized as a former haute couture house, it has not produced a haute couture show in at least twenty years. Thus, Rousteing is the sole Black designer working at a legendary fashion house among the many that exist, but is doing so without a haute couture designation.

As many have stated, fashion is about art and commerce. Making a historic statement of selecting a person of African descent makes good sense on both counts. As many designers of African descent come from a lived experience wherein Black cultural aesthetics are part of their background, a sense of what the Dior archive or the archive of any historic haute couture house would look like through such a dimension could prove rewarding in more immediate and lasting ways than much of the fashion industry may imagine.