Thursday, December 17, 2009

This Christmas

Some people leave milk and cookies for Santa. Others leave M & M candies. Michelle Obama said she was going to leave Santa some apple slices with her milk & cookies. I am not sure what I will be leaving Old St. Nick, but it will be something thoughtful. Maybe he'd like a trimmer for his beard because he is starting to look a little, um, unkempt. Or maybe I'll leave him a membership to a local North Pole gym because it's been said many times many ways, "Thin is in." I know I need to be hitting the treadmill myself before people start mistaking me for Santa Claus. And that's just not cute! But this is the season to show your appreciation for people who mean a lot to you whether through a kind word, gesture, or gift. So if that means doing a fashion intervention and telling your good friend to retire that colorful '80s Cosby sweater, then go for it.

Two nights ago, George and I had a fitting with Ila for the next 2 looks. FABULOUS! I cannot wait to see the finished dresses. This year's Christmas gift from my mother is a sample from the line courtesy of her checkbook. Can you say, "Fa, La, La, La, La!" I will be picking it up early next week so that it can be tucked neatly under my tree. And I've been talking to acquaintances and friends to see if it will be possible to stage a presentation during New York Fashion Week. It is kind of a long shot, but I remain cautiously optimistic. In fact, if all goes according to plan, I will be inviting you, my readers and supporters, to come take a look. As soon as I have a date, I will let you know. I haven't participated in fashion week for several years now, so I am bursting with excitement.

Every day is filled with the promise of possibilities. And it feels great to be able to live out those promises. I think one of the finest things about Christmas is that this time allows you to assess all the wonderful things in your life. That is, if you're not too jaded to recognize them. Listen, I gotta go now and put the finishing touches on my Christmas decor. But don't forget your milk & cookies. After traveling all over the globe, Santa needs a hook-up, too!

By the way, check out the latest from my diva friend The Mad Fashionista. She interviewed me and asked some very probing questions I was not expecting. I think you'll find it fascinating and fun reading. Perhaps you may even learn some tidbit I had not yet disclosed.

Peace & Fashion!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

O' Christmas Tree

'Tis the season for tidings of good cheer, but this week I've been jammed with more year end hustle and bustle than I am accustomed to, so I've been too worn out to impart much mirth and merriment. Besides dressing women, I've also taken on the task of dressing my tree. And although I've been in charge of tree decor over the last few years, this year I decided to try something a little different and make it a Kwanzaa Christmas. For those of you who have no idea what Kwanzaa is, it is a week-long celebration held in the United States honoring African heritage and culture. It is observed from December 26 to January 1 each year, primarily in the U.S. The impetus for me to declare this a Kwanzaa Christmas was the angel tree topper my mother bought so many years ago. Made out of African Kente cloth with raffia wings, she is a vision to behold. But her look clashed with the silver, gold, & white color scheme I've been rocking for the last couple of years. I grew tired of watching the kente clothed angel collect dust and wanted to get her back on top of our family tree. So I got all Martha Stewart and decided to create ornaments using Styrofoam balls from the local arts and crafts store covering them in kente. But my obsession, like Martha's bank account, grew and I couldn't stop with just the tree ornaments. So now I have my sister knitting Christmas stockings that I will cuff with kente, I've refashioned my wreath with a kente bow, and our table in the dining room where the tree stands will be draped in green silk dupioni accessorized with a kente runner and place mats. In the meantime, between trying to figure out what to give my niece, nephew, and goddaughter for Christmas and cracking the whip across my tailor's back as he finishes up 3 samples, I've got to figure out a clever package to send to since you were kind enough to nominate me for a style award. I am also inquiring about the feasibility of participating in New York Fashion Week. It's going to take a lot of volunteer elves to make that happen. And we are also in the process of following up with Gabourey Sidibe's L.A. based stylist to see if there is a chance that we will be dressing her for any event during the awards season. You know it's hard out here for a pimp! But I do find a few quiet moments to stand in the dining room and admire my beautiful and magical tree. Season's Greetings. . .

Peace & Fashion!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hold up, Santa!

The end of 2009 is fast approaching and I am racing against the clock to complete the collection for Fall 2010. As it stands now, I still have only one look finished. But George, my tailor, is hard at work on two more and I've discussed the details of another. Between the holidays and good cheer, there aren't many working days left to crack the proverbial whip. Just start referring to me as Ebenezer for the next few weeks. But don't get it twisted fashionistas, I am just as jolly as that fabled fat man in the fur trimmed red velvet suit. But since I am desperately trying to make a deadline, I've got to reduce my season's greeting from "Ho, Ho, Ho!" to "HO!" Last night, Ila, George, and I were up to our ears in adjustments for the second sample of my No One Gets The Prize style. Check out the photo to the left. Reflecting on the design, I'd say it has a Victor/Victoria flavor to it - a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman. A little confusing to be sure, but when it's done I think you'll be dazzled.

In between Christmas prep, collection prep, and eating way too much Thanksgiving turkey, my family and I took a trip to the local multiplex to check out the movie Precious. I'd read the book, Push by Sapphire on which the film is based, years ago and was blown away by its grittiness, so I was really looking forward to quite a cinematic experience. And of course, it didn't hurt that all the reviews of the movie and the performances were positive. The movie did not disappoint. It's not a story for the faint hearted, but it is an outstanding piece. Mo'Nique's portrayal of an abusive monster for a mother is definitely Oscar worthy. But it is newcomer, Gabourey Sidibe in the lead role that really made me take notice. She is the heart and soul of Precious and carries the film with the unexpected deftness of a seasoned thespian. I was so moved that I've decided that I've got to dress her for the upcoming awards season. So with my small fashion company that can be compared to the the little engine that could, I called the movie studio, Lionsgate, to obtain her contact info. My sister and business partner in crime, Ashanti, crafted a fine email that included images of my work as well as the sketches that I conceived with Miss Sidibe in mind and forwarded it to her management. Miss Sidibe plays an underdog and that's the element of the story that I really identify with. Please keep your fingers crossed for me.

My request for donations continues. Please click on the donate button on the right side of this blog screen and help this struggling designer out today. So far, I've raised $335. And I am so grateful, but I really could use a lot more help. And your kindness will definitely be appreciated. I might just be desperate enough to sit on Santa's lap and give him my list of samples that I want to find under my tree on Christmas morning. It may not be the most stylish thing I've ever done, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And although I have been known to be naughty, I've mostly been nice this year.

Peace & Fashion!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Earlier this evening I swapped ideas with Ray. If you'll recall, I met Ray at a birthday celebration for my friend Stephen last month. And after speaking with him over the phone, I immediately knew that he is a creative force to be reckoned with. Actually, many of you ladies have probably worn some of his fabulous shoe designs for Coach or Nine West. The thing about Ray that is most endearing is that there is no pretense or fakery. He is just a vessel for creativity whether he expresses himself through apparel, jewelry, shoes, or fine art. And in the fashion world that is a rarity. I know you've watched Project Runway, so you know a little about the cattiness. And since I really wanted to get some input on the fall collection I am cobbling together from someone whom I truly respect, Ray just fit the bill. So I showed him my inspiration board which is filled with images, i.e. the pocket chain watch, the spat, the bow tie, etc. which are motifs of the dandy look. I showed him my first sample and described the jewelry which I am also designing to enhance the theme. And he thought I was really on the right path. After I had shared my work, Ray showed me some of his clothing designs from his college days as well as his presentation boards of his shoe designs. And it all just blew me away. We definitely have a mutual appreciation for each other's aesthetic. And before rushing off to catch my train home, we have vowed to meet soon and check out the latest exhibits at the Cooper Hewitt Museum and The Museum at F.I.T. He is a kindred spirit in fashion and connecting with him is something I can truly be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Peace & Fashion!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oprah & Me

Today it was announced that Oprah will end her daytime chatfest, The Oprah Winfrey Show, in September 2011. She is someone who has inspired me to pursue my dreams as a fashion designer. An anomaly when her show first aired nationally in 1986, she is an example that success is attainable despite one's humble beginnings. Part of my dream has always been, since I started my company 11 years ago, to meet her and be a guest on her show. So it doesn't give me much more time to get to Chicago to sit on that sofa. I've tried sending letters. Family members have tried sending letters. But something drastic yet fashionably fantastic, almost earth shattering, needs to happen between now and then. But if I've learned anything from watching the Queen of Talk, it's that if I do not make it to her sofa there is something better and bigger coming my way. But it sure would be nice to have a conversation with her broadcast over the airwaves.
Peace & Fashion!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Little of This & Some Of That

If you're reading and following my odyssey, then you know that last week I made a bold move when I asked you to make a monetary donation to help me finish my collection. I tried to figure out another way to complete the remaining 7 samples without having to resort to taking up residence on the streets, but it seems that I have run out of options. Of course I never thought of pole dancing, but I don't think I have enough of a fan base to justify those kind of moves. And besides, my talent really lies in fashion design. Already I've raised $250. Thanks Guys! But we are still quite a ways off from funding this endeavor. So please keep it coming. I've robbed from Peter to pay George who has begun work on the next look. And I am elated by the thought of having my model Ila come in and have the muslin fitted sometime this week.

On Saturday night, I bumped into my friend Calvin C. on the commuter train. He admitted to being exhausted by his own fashion odyssey. I met Calvin several years ago after I had produced a runway spectacle showcasing my pieces as part of a charity event held at the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.). We were introduced by one of my models and he was a graduating fashion design student at the time. Now he has created a website called in order to help people in the fashion industry find jobs. He holds me in reverence because he says I just put all my business out there. And in an industry that is known for hype and smoke & mirrors, that takes guts. I confided in Calvin that writing this blog is, in a way, cleansing and therapeutic. It provides an outlet to get things off my chest and leave them at the alter of disappointment and disgust. This way I am not emotionally held back from pressing forward. And I think we all need to purge every once in a while. But I need it more than most.

A couple of months ago, a young man introduced himself to me on the 6 train. As I squeezed into a seat with my dresses hanging above me, Eric J. asked me if I was a stylist or a designer. We exchanged pleasantries and business cards during my ride before I quickly reached my stop. But I was impressed by Eric's audacity because nobody ever approaches me on the subway unless they're begging for money. Last week we met at a Starbucks close to the plantation. Eric is a very talented hairstylist who hails from the hinterlands of Texas. And I shared with him my vision for the collection and showed him the sketches, the first samples, and the shoes. He was positive and deeply spiritual and we hit it off just fine. And now we are planning to work together on the photo shoot in January. I think that this will be a fruitful collaboration.

I've got big dreams. Each time I finish a collection, I believe that this will be the one that has store buyers ringing my phone off the hook with orders and shoppers chanting my name and magazines begging to borrow the pieces for their shoots. And then other times I wonder if I am on the right path to turn my dreams into reality. But I am always encouraged by friends, as well as strangers, to just stay the course. And that is exactly what I plan on doing.

Peace & Fashion!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Prologue

Today was the final fitting for the first dress for the Fall 2010 collection - Fine & Dandy. And I think it went swimmingly well. George and his team were able to really articulate my vision and bring it to life. I am a vessel for my creativity, so it is essential that my perspective be clear, concise, and translatable. Because if it is not, George's skills would be squandered. Each season I try many different incarnations with materials and concept before I settle on one that best expresses where my head is at that given moment. I began to conceive and sketch this line mid-summer. It is important to me that my sketches - my work - tell a story. It must have a beginning, middle, and an end. Yet, after I had all my sketches together and laid out on the dining room table, the story was not unfolding. So I would tweak the shape of a skirt here and the bodice of a dress there looking for a narrative. And still the sketches were not transforming to sentences. And then suddenly, weeks after summer had ended, it was as if a light bulb came on. I had a moment of clarity and the story became crystallized. I settled on the dandified gentleman as the inspiration for the dresses. And then I feverishly re-sketched some of the looks because a couple of the dresses just didn't fit in with my new storyline. It is a process that requires patience. Yet once the flicker of an idea is ignited, I am able to construct entire new worlds. I look forward to visiting this world as each of my dresses is assembled. Silhouette, shape, and line will build on one another until my story is complete.

Peace & Fashion!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

When The Party's Over

If you've been reading, then you know my birthday was this past Halloween Saturday. And it was a marvelous celebration. I was treated to a Broadway show (Memphis), a Harlem gospelfest (Sing Harlem Sing!), and dinner at a fabulous Harlem-based soulfood boite (Billie's Black). And on Sunday, my boyfriend, mother, and sister pulled out all the stops when they invited my close friends to a dinner that they prepared in my honor. And I received numerous texts and phone calls and messages on Facebook that made me feel loved.

On last Thursday, I attended a different kind of birthday celebration in honor of my friend, Stephen E. This was his 2nd annual charity birthday bash at a lounge in Hell's Kitchen. Titled "Midgets & Cupcakes" (Stephen has a weird fascination with little people and he loves vanilla iced cupcakes), the proceeds from the evening were donated to the Ali Forney Center, whose mission is to help homeless Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender youth be safe and become independent as they move from adolescence to adulthood. It was a blast! And the evening also served as an introduction to a possible kindred fashion spirit. My sister & I noticed Ray S., who naturally stands out in a crowd, as he approached the bar. And we complimented him on his obvious talent with a make-up brush. It was then that we learned that Ray is a shoe designer by trade. But he also designs apparel, paints, is an amazing make-up artist, and can probably build houses, too! I am always excited to meet people who are passionate about their craft. And Ray certainly fits the bill. And because he and his partner have been together for 9 years, I know that he also possesses a stable character. I look forward to swapping ideas and learning from such a creative genius.

Although the party's over and I must begin to get back to reality, I do so with the understanding that I am truly blessed. I have great friends, an awesome family, and wonderful experiences that have enriched my life. And each day that I am alive, the possibilities are endless.

Peace & Fashion!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Happy Birthday To Me!

When my grandmother was alive, she was the light in the room. The energy force that galvanized everyone from my great aunt & great uncle (her brother and sister) to my mother and her sister (my aunt) to all my cousins, my grandmother was the core and the center of our family. And she also knew how to have a good time. In the weeks and then the days leading up to her birthday, she'd loudly proclaim, "Happy Birthday To Me!" And it didn't even matter if it was someone else's birthday, we knew that if she was in the room it was going to be her birthday as well. She was really some kind of special.
This Saturday I will be turning 42 years old and I have begun to utter those words my grandmother did so may years ago. And remembering the celebration of life has brought me from a dark place. This weekend past, I learned that I was not selected as a semifinalist in the Supima Cotton Runway Competition. And it really did thrust me into a tailspin of disappointment. I was confident that the universe had provided this opportunity to circumvent the defeat my business partners and I experienced with our poor showing during Market Week. This kind of recovery would have been validating by reminding me that I am headed in the right direction. It would have confirmed my gut instinct that it is kismet for me to design cocktail dresses. After all, I thought my audition went rather well. The judges seemed to like my work and my particular kind of pizazz. So it was a crushing blow when the 12 semifinalists were announced and there was no Wilbur on the list. But now, I have learned that I must, more than ever, encourage myself. It's not easy. In fact, there are moments when the demons of self-doubt and self-worth attack me. And I question if my odyssey is just some vain attempt to distance myself from the modest and my talent is only mediocre at best. But I just keep trying to move forward because I know the answers to my questions, whether they are favorable or not, are coming. With each birthday I learn more about fortitude and accepting defeat of the smaller battles with grace. And it is truly cause to celebrate. Because I know more today than I did yesterday. Happy Birthday to me!
Peace & Fashion!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Keep It Moving

At the end of last week, my business partners and I decided to terminate Marla's contract. Although it seemed like she was initially committed to the cause of getting the line on store racks, she lost steam after our disappointing Market Week turnout. Ashanti and I tried several times over the past three weeks to contact Marla so that we could strategize our next move, but our phone calls went unreturned and our emails were unanswered. We are looking into other options as far as a sales professional is concerned and are hopeful. But our success is only guaranteed by a strong team who believes in the goals of Sorta Kinda Enterprises. In the meantime, this Tuesday past, I took a handful of dresses with me and visited 3 different Manhattan boutiques that we are interested in selling to. And the idea of the old school door-to-door salesman is dead. May he rest in peace. Because each one of the style emporiums that I looked into will only consider our goods through email correspondence. I spoke to my friend Chris this afternoon about this phenomenon and both of us thought it rather ironic. Because clothing is very tactile, most of us like to see the way a garment moves, how it feels, its weight. But modern technology has eliminated an integral part of choosing one design over another. And then, what if the buyer dislikes the way my photos are styled or my choice of models. Will that influence their decision? It's all quite precarious. But I've been emailing the images to every appropriate venue possible. All I need is a breakthrough.
Peace & Fashion!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Chosen

Last year I was selected by a panel of judges to participate in the inaugural runway design competition sponsored by Supima cotton. My mission was to create a dazzling evening look utilizing the world's finest cotton. It was such a validating experience. Until then I relied on my family and friends, who may have felt obligated, to assuage my anxieties about my designs. Was I really good enough to call myself a fashion designer? But when complete strangers and colleagues recognized my talent, my journey was legitimized. And I was proud to be one of the handpicked 25 whose frocks graced the runway that very warm evening during the summer of 2008.
Fast forward several months and Supima is readying for their 3rd runway competition. When I first caught wind of the announcement, it landed in my email box via the Mad Fashionista. At first, I was quick to dismiss it. Been there, done that, blogged about it! But then I looked over the information and noticed that there was a new component. Apparently, the winning designer will have their garment featured in Bloomingdale's and promoted by Supima. Jackpot! I am diligently working to get my collection into stores. My business partners and I hired a salesperson specifically for that purpose. Unfortunately, the person in charge of designer collections at Bloomingdale's declined to place an order for this spring. Maybe this would be a way to begin a dialogue with the powers-that-be and see if I can turn that no into a yes? I felt the universe beckoning to me. My first Supima experience provided the impetus to change direction and launch a more sophisticated, luxurious line. Who knows what possibilities lie ahead for me and Sorta Kinda Enterprises? So I had to answer the call.
My model, Vanessa, and I met up at the plantation where she changed into one of my denim cocktail confections. And we walked over to Bloomingdale's where we found camera men and sound guys with boom mikes recording the interviews that the judges were conducting with each candidate. It was amazing! I saw the team responsible for public relations with whom I worked when I was a Supima cotton virgin and greeted them warmly. And I was filmed as Topaz, the camera operator who is a west coast transplant, asked me questions about my past experiences with the Supima brand. When he questioned if I was nervous, I replied boldly, "Do I look like I am nervous?" I laugh at myself now, but it seems that all you have to do is turn a camera on me and I perk right up. And on top of that, the judges seemed to really appreciate my aesthetic. All I can say is that I really enjoyed today's excitement and pray that I am again one of the chosen.
Peace & Fashion!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

New Alliances

The creative process often requires me to seek out the expertise of skilled artisans in other categories of design. For instance, last season for the "Just Zip" collection I commissioned my dear friend Comfort B., a shoe ornament designer, to create the zipper flowers for one of my dress styles. Once I formulate a concept for the collection, I have a very clear idea of how I want to develop the "story". This season my vision centers around the dandy - a refined gentleman who places particular importance upon physical appearance. And since a hat is often an important element of a dandified look, I needed to find an accomplished milliner who could translate men's styles, like the fedora, into something enchanting for women. So I asked my girl Yvette from church, who wore some killah styles for our Easter production, if she would make an introduction to the person who created her artful chapeaus. This Saturday morning past, I sat face-to-face with Otis Damo'n Holley, the young man responsible for those hats. He showed me a slide show of several of his creations and I was simply floored by his talent. When we spoke, it was as if we had worked together for years. We discussed my ideas for Fall 2010 and I shared my sketches, fabric swatches, and exactly what I wanted this collection to convey. And we've settled on 2 different hat styles to adorn the models when we photograph the collection in January. I am very enthralled with the notion of forming new alliances and working with undiscovered talent. I cannot wait to see the final outcome and how all my seemingly disparate ideas will come together. But there is much work to be done before that happens. Gotta get back to the grind.

Peace & Fashion!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rewriting The Scene

So it appears that Roger and I will not be collaborating after all. When we met, he remarked that he could tell I liked being the boss. But, honestly, being the boss is no picnic. As the heads of a business that has yet to take off, my partners and I are responsible personally for all the expenses including taxes, model fees, production costs, etc. We are, essentially, magicians who somehow do our best to turn a dime into a dollar. The business has not generated any revenue since its inception in 1998. And all of us work unsatisfying jobs on the side, funneling our monies into Sorta Kinda Enterprises. It is SO not glamorous. Honestly, I started my own line because I could not get a job in the industry. And although I lacked the experience, I was no longer interested in putting my dreams on hold. So I stepped out on faith. And I was willing to take that leap of faith with Roger. Unfortunately, he was not honest. When he did not return my last 2 phone calls after Monday's initial meeting, it became painfully apparent that we were not on the same page. My friend Kathryn M. was intuitive enough to caution me and point out that taking on a partner does not a fairytale make. And she is absolutely right. The decisions we make in desperation never end well. And blindly offering Roger a partnership before "courting him" was a sad, desperate attempt to decrease our production expenses. Better to have learned that lesson now rather than later.

On a sunnier note, today was the first fitting with my tailor, George, and my fit model, Ila, for Fall 2010. And it went very well. Even Ila, who seemed quite unimpressed when she glanced over my sketches last week, said she couldn't believe how great the muslin looked. I am always excited to see my ideas translated from the page to an actual garment, especially when it's done with precision and attention to detail. And I am just pleased with the initial outcome. Despite my money woes, my creativity is running rampant. This collection, in particular, has ignited an eruption of clever ideas and challenged me to explore further my notions of what is bold, modern, and classic. I have definitely hit my stride and I am going to continue to ride the crest.

So sometimes the script of our lives calls for a rewrite, but somehow we are where we need to be when the next scene takes place. And I am patient enough to see just how the story ends.

Peace & Fashion!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Act 2: Scene 2

So today I met Roger. Roger is a handsome and very tall (6'5") gentleman who hails from the island of Jamaica. He says that he's been sewing as long as he can remember. And he picked up his skills from his mother when he was a young 'un. He's worked in retail here in the Big Apple for Marc Jacobs among others, but now has a private clientele that he sews and designs for. He and I first chatted online some time ago when he sent me a message after noticing that we were cut from the same cloth, so to speak. Although we dialogued cordially, we lost touch. This Saturday past when Roger saw me online again, he sent me a quick "Hello." Unfortunately, I had not taken my ginkgo that morning because Roger had to remind me that we had exchanged pleasantries some time ago. But we quickly picked up where we left off and the conversation transitioned to the telephone. Something resonated for me during our talk and once I looked at photos of his designs I thought there might be a real connection. I've always been the lone creative prong in our business and for quite a while I've secretly wanted to work with someone who shared a similar aesthetic. We would be able to bounce ideas off of each other and come up with designs that are doubly fantastic. Plus, Roger's sewing skills are off the hook. We would follow in the footsteps of other great fashion partners like Badgley Mischka and Lazaro Hernandez & Jack McCollough of Proenza Schouler. After meeting Roger, it became clear to me that he might be the one to help elevate Sorta Kinda Enterprises to the next rung. Now I just have to convince my business partners that there is not only a need for another musketeer, but we could forge a clearer path with someone of Roger's caliber. Wish me luck!

Peace & Fashion!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Something New, Something Blue

Early Thursday morning my new fit model, Ila, texted me to say that she might be late to our afternoon appointment with George. No worries. It gave me a little time to sort out finishes and details and purchase alternative fabrics for some of those details. I realized that the denim I'd chosen was just too heavy and stiff. There would be no movement. And the foiled leather skins that I purchased, although really amazing, would be all wrong with my latest cocktail confections. So instead I chose a more supple, lighter weight denim and went with a luxurious silk faille. Most people don't know a faille from a taffeta, but you can definitely feel the difference. And it's about $15 more a yard! Trust me it's not only going to feel more fabulous, it is going to look more fabulous.

Working with a new fit model, a new tailor, and different denims has me feeling somewhat trepidacious. Let's face it, venturing off into the unknown is always a little unnerving. But 11 years ago, I made a decision to pursue something I really loved. And it constantly calls for me to press the refresh button and start anew. While keeping things status quo makes me feel very comfortable, there is no growth and no evolution. And there is definitely no way for me to become the successful fashion designer I am meant to be if I am just maintaining. So the initial feeling of dread gives way to the excitement of possibilities. And that is why I try to welcome newness into my world. Because I know that I am only moving closer to achieving my goals.

Peace & Fashion!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Making Lemonade

There is an old adage that goes, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." And I am stirring my pitcher as we speak. AND I've added a little Bacardi to my brew. Because at times like these you've just gotta spike the punch. Yesterday afternoon, I was speaking to my seamstress, Alaina, about some of the details on the first sample for Fall 2010. It seemed like a normal enough conversation that we've had several times since we started working together this April past. But something happened. And I am not sure what. Because waiting in my email box early this morning was a "Dear John" message from her saying that she could no longer work with me. It sent me into a tailspin. What was I going to do? How could this happen to me - AGAIN? I left a voice message and sent an email begging her to reconsider. At the very least, I pleaded for her to finish the piece we discussed yesterday. Especially since she'd spent the entire Monday completing the preliminary pattern. But all my cajoling was for naught. Alaina is moving on with her life. And I've got to move on, too. So I called the number listed in an ad posted in my trade newspaper, Women's Wear Daily, that offered quick and efficient patterns and samples. Less than 5 minutes later, I was surrounded by sewing machines, cutting tables, and pattern pieces hanging from the ceiling at 7th Avenue Fashion Design. Amid the clutter and seemingly controlled chaos, George and I discussed construction, fabrication, and measurements as we dissected my sketch. We exchanged business cards and I assured him that I would return on Thursday with my new fit model, Ila, in tow. Time is something very precious that we all have very little of. I've got to make the most of what I have before January when we will be photographing the "Fine & Dandy" collection for Fall 2010. How I will pay for these samples is still a mystery, but I am stepping out on faith. Just like Alaina is starting anew, so must I. And after I finish this pitcher of liquid courage, I'll be ready to turn the page to the next chapter of my odyssey. Bottoms up!
Peace & Fashion!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Something In The Air

After my self-imposed fashion detox, I have begun to feel more like myself again. My creativity is in full throttle. And I am happy to report that my seamstress, Alaina, and I are beginning the work for the Fall 2010 collection. I think the crisp autumn weather may have unlocked a treasure trove of ideas that's given my vision a focus & clarity that has been absent over the last couple of weeks. Or maybe it was that epic fever I suffered this Monday past which caused uncharacteristic hallucinatory visions? Whatever the reason - I am in possession of a tote bag spilling over with sumptuous wools, the sheerest silk organzas, the most exquisite silk/wool, the softest foiled leather skins, and the fiercest premium denim. My sketches are taking shape and I have created a story for the season that has my intrepid fashionista borrowing from the boys. The title of this collection is Fine & Dandy and the theme is based on the English Dandy - that very well turned out gentleman who wears clothing with finesse and style and panache. I searched the web to find contemporary images of a dandy and, once found, I translated them into something sexy, yet attainable for the modern woman. I applied motifs that are common for the dandy, such as the bow tie, the dress shirt, and the pocket watch with chain. But the shapes & silhouettes are very womanly. Some are voluminous, while others are body conscious. Each style will be named after a music diva's songs - just like spring 2010. And since I am "youtubing" a lot of vintage Diana Ross circa the 1970s, I have chosen her for my musical inspiration.

As Marla & I diligently work to get the spring 2010 collection on store racks early next year, I continue to follow through with my dreams and goals. And it requires that I tap into my reserves and commit to what I love most - conceptualizing and sketching beautiful new dress designs that women will hopefully covet. And sometimes the outside noise can wear me down and distract me. But I am never down for too long because there is something in the air. And it beckons to me to just keep on.

Peace & Fashion!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fashion Detox

Although I love fashion, it can be, at times, overwhelming. Even for me, a self-proclaimed style arbiter with the vested power to arrest perpetrators of fashion felonies & misdemeanors, the swirl of 24/7 non-stop fashion can be dizzying. With the crush of New York Fashion Week followed by intense preparations for Market Week, I was exhausted. And so the choice was detox or die. My counselor advised me to carefully, little by little, dip my toe in the waters of panache and elegance, but I never learn so here I am fully submerged doing the backstroke in an Olympic size pool of style. Inevitably, I will suffer from fashion burnout again. But for now I am restored to fabulous status.

My expectations for Market Week were not unrealistic. I know I am the new kid on the block. And without the working capital to hire a publicist, I also know getting my line of cocktail dresses out into the retail universe is going to be an uphill battle. But I had carefully selected my friend Mike's home on the east side in midtown as the space to show the collection to potential buyers. My boyfriend helped me carry all the dresses, a clothing rack on wheels, and framed poster size photos of the models wearing different styles into Manhattan on the train. I thought it would be a good idea to host a cocktail party for buyers in the evening so we could introduce ourselves in an atmosphere that was less serious, so I bought fresh cut flowers and the ingredients for a cocktail my mother (a sometime mixologist) created called the Wilburtini. My sister Ashanti rented martini glasses and asked her friend Christina to serve for the evening. Ashanti crafted the disc that was brimming with all of Whitney Houston's dance classics since it was the musical inspiration for this collection. We created the invitation which was emailed to all the targeted store buyers. Marla, our sales pro, was fit for a dress from the line so that she could truly represent. And I asked Vanessa, Goddess #2 from the June photo shoot, to please be present to do a little informal modeling. But as the time grew closer, I started to feel like we might not have the turn out I had hoped for. And since the drama at the U.N. had caused whole city blocks to be closed down, I thought it might deter a few from attending. So I began to invite some of my fashionable friends whom I have dressed asking them to please come by and help us celebrate. Smart move. Because not one buyer showed. Years ago I would have fallen into a deep funk, but I can cope better now because I have a better understanding. This is not the end for me or my dresses. I am a winner. So collectively, my team and I have got to knock on some doors and knock down others to make sure these dresses are on racks come spring. And God willing that is exactly where they will end up.

Peace & Fashion!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What Are You Doing For FashionWeek?

As a fashion designer, I am asked "What are you doing for fashion week?" dozens of times in the days leading up to Fashion Week. But the truth of the matter is, this week is not as fashion-y as it could be. Sure, I cavorted around Manhattan last Thursday for Fashion's Night Out - the opening day of fashion week. But it's been decidedly low-key for the BlackFashionDude. Years ago, I was front and center at Bryant Park parading my models on the sidewalk outside the tents in an effort to elicit attention from passersby, as well as the fashion press and fashion's elite. And they definitely took notice. But it wasn't the kind of publicity that was bankable. So that's why I had to change my strategy. I've written more about Market Week recently. It begins next week and store buyers from all over the country, perhaps the world, will be visiting my fair city to look at collections and, hopefully, place orders. After all, this fashion endeavor is not only about indulging in my passion to create beautiful clothes; I also need to get PAID. And then at some point in the near future, I will be able to give the plantation my walking papers. But I am not so focused that I have forgone my need to delight in a little fashion frippery and frivolity during this week. So on Monday evening, I went to a show hosted by Hauteaholics Anonymous. Not too long ago I'd read about this organization that sponsors a runway show each season featuring the work of emerging fashion designers. I was curious to see what it was all about. Because if the show brought in all the "important" destiny-changing fashion figures, I would need to sign up asap. Unfortunately, it did not, but it was loads of fun. And I got to see more work from Erna Leon who also participated in the Supima Cotton Runway Challenge I did last summer.

Tomorrow night I will be in the crowd at BoConcept furniture store which is hosting a runway presentation. Vaughn Jereaux, the young man I've mentored over the past 9 years, will be showing his collection of frocks. It is the final day of fashion week. For me, the real challenge awaits next week.
Peace & Fashion!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Issue With September

On Sunday, after church service and immediately following a quick stop at Pathmark, I decided to take a trip to the multiplex and check out The September Issue, the new "Anna Wintour" documentary. Actually, the film is not so much about the famed editor-in-chief as it is an examination of the detailed steps necessary to assemble the largest issue of Vogue magazine. Filled with an eclectic cast of eccentric characters, we witness the drama unfold as the overwhelmingly talented Grace Coddington, a visionary and the magazine's creative director, locks horns with Ms. Wintour over content. We are also invited to watch the imposing, yet affable Andre Leon Talley, Vogue's editor-at-large, deliver over-the-top and amusing sound bites wearing equally over-the-top and amusing ensembles. And then there is the scrutiny and dissection of Sienna Miller, the actress and the issue's cover girl. Her hair is a mess and her teeth need to be photoshopped. In fashion periodicals, everyone is perfect because flaws are erased. If only I could, with the swipe of a key stroke, get rid of some of my physical shortcomings before leaving the house each morning. But back to reality. Perhaps what I found most fascinating about the film is that the power that Ms. Wintour wields in the fashion industry is very real. Retail titans and accomplished designers around the globe seek the approval of the fashion star who is notorious for her icy disposition. And she is often asked by super brands, like Gap, to recommend designers for their company's top creative positions. I found that aspect of the movie a little depressing and daunting as I have no relationship with Anna Wintour. In fact, I am not even on her radar. How am I supposed to advance in an industry so crowded with fashion starlets in the making? Either I will or I won't, but, in all reality, the odds are stacked against me. Only time will tell.
As a movie, I found The September Issue to be a little plodding. It was not compelling enough to recommend to anyone not in the fashion industry. For a breezier and more interesting story, check out Valentino: The Last Emperor.

Peace & Fashion!

Friday, September 11, 2009

EXPERIENCE: Fashion's Night Out

Fashion's Night Out was a huge success judging from the throngs of fashionistas who poured out onto the New York City streets by the hundreds with yours truly among them. I started my party off at 5:15 p.m. when I arrived at Macy's Herald Square to purchase Michael Kors' intoxicating new women's fragrance, Very Hollywood. With my purchase, I received a special edition tote bag and the chance to have my photo taken with the fashion designer and Project Runway judge. And it was the perfect gift for my mother. I'd already invited my diva friend, Josette, to join me for the night's festivities and she met me while I was waiting for the man of the hour to arrive.
And, oh, what an arrival it was. Madness ensued as the CEO of Macy's, Terry Lundgren, introduced Michael Kors and his very special guest, Debra Messing. For those of you who don't recognize the name, it's Grace from Will & Grace fame. Flashbulbs popped and the mostly fragrance counter crowd squeezed in a little closer to catch a glimpse of the fashionable twosome. And as I assumed my perch between MK and DM, the crowd of onlookers went wild. Well, at least in my dreams they did. Debra was so lovely and personable and Michael was everything I thought he would be.
As soon as I collected my photo, Josette and I headed up to Bergdorf Goodman. Unfortunately, we were met outside by a mob of fashion savvy revelers about 12 deep who were also trying to get into the posh fashion emporium. Perhaps they had heard about the celebrity bartenders, Ashley & Mary-Kate? But my diva friend and I were not about to wait on another line, so we just eased on down Fifth Avenue until we got to the Salvatore Ferragamo store where the grooving music and the lively crowd beckoned to us. When the clipboard lady asked us if we had RSVP'd, I was caught off guard. Wasn't this supposed to be an open celebration for all?
I wanted to tell her to just move outta my way! But once I told her we would be shopping, she did anyway. I headed straight to the bar and ordered a glass of Veuve Cliquot champagne for my guest and me. As we sat among the shoe offerings for the well shod with lots of money to spend, we bounced to the sounds of vintage Jackson 5 songs. Oh, how I miss Michael! Not one to let grass grow under my feet it was off to our next location - Saks Fifth Avenue. I'd read that Mr. Sexy Back himself, Justin Timberlake, would be making an appearance.
But before we got very far, we stopped in Versace where I posed with model-of-the-moment Chanel Iman. Such a sweetie, she asked if she could first be photographed with her boyfriend before she and I were framed together. Never the jealous type, of course I agreed. And besides she's not even drinking age, yet! After inching a few yards in the elbow-rubbing crowd, I spotted a live mannequin posed on a perch just beneath one of the store's crystal chandeliers. She looked so unreal that it was hard to believe that she wasn't an escapee from Madame Tussaud's in Times Square.
After playing shutterbug, Josette and I hit the streets once more until we finally found ourselves in front of Saks' massive doorway. By this time, however, we had missed the Justin Timberlake madness. But the music was still throbbing as we held court with my favorite fragrance specialist, Jayson at the Thierry Mugler counter. After exchanging pleasantries (and collecting a little swag), we headed up to the 8th Floor, the ladies shoe salon. And between the Christian Louboutins and the Roger Vivier pumps, I came face-to-face with Pamela M. You may remember her from my Essence Magazine story. Ever the fake, she smiled broadly and asked how I was doing as she bussed me on the cheek. Even Josette remarked about her mock friendly tone. After perusing the fierce shoes, it was time to end the evening. After all, it was back to reality (and the plantation) the next morning. But as I parted ways with my diva friend and got a ride with my designated driver, M.T.A., I gazed at the photos on my camera screen and thought about all the fun I had for Fashion's Night Out.

Peace & Fashion!