Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Essence of Fashion

My mother has subscribed to Essence magazine for as long as I can remember. With its tag line "The Magazine For Today's Black Woman", I knew that when it landed in the mailbox each month I was going to be schooled in beauty, fashion, lifestyle, and fierceness from a modern diva's perspective. And I would be introduced to glamorous sistahs who were breaking barriers and climbing the proverbial ladder to success. Oftentimes, I would hover waiting for my mother to finish reading so that I could dissect the content from cover to cover. Essence really is just a darker version of Vogue. So when I started my clothing line, it was one of the first magazines I targeted. In my heart of hearts I was convinced that once my pieces made it onto the glossy pages of Essence, I would be a bonafide success. I pleaded with one of my connections, Deborah Gregory who would later write the Cheetah Girls book series, to make the introduction. A couple of weeks after my very first runway show, I proudly hauled all my samples to the offices at 1500 Broadway where I met the most wonderful fashion team. I will acknowledge that this collection was not the greatest. After all, it was my very first foray into this new and magical world. But everyone treated me with kid gloves and encouraged me to continue and return once I had completed my next collection. And return I did. But it would be a few seasons later. It was when I picked up my own copy of the September 2000 issue that I noticed it had a new look and attitude. Host unlimited photos at for FREE!After gazing at the very slick, polished photos, I glanced at the masthead to see who was responsible. There was a new team and I knew them! How serendipitous! The fashion director was now Pamela M. whom I had met years earlier at Henri Bendel when I was shopping my dresses around. She didn't think they were right for the store, but she urged me to try Lord & Taylor since it was known as "The Dress Address." I remember thinking that she was so helpful and possessed an easy smile. From time to time, we would bump into each other on the subway platform and exchange pleasantries. This was all before her rise to one of the top spots at the magazine. Immediately, I dialed her to see if I could schedule an appointment to meet with her or forward a press packet with photos of my new collection. She wouldn't believe how far I had come. "This is Pamela M. in the fashion department at Essence. Please leave a meesage after the tone," was her outgoing message. I knew it would only be a little while before my "friend" would call me back. She didn't. Sometimes I would reach her and she would tell me that she was on deadline, but promised that we would get together soon. She expressed excitement to see what I had been up to. But most times I got the voice mail. It was maybe a year later when I bumped into Pamela M. and Susan L. Taylor, the editorial director, on Madison Avenue coming from a bridal show. "Oh my God," I shouted. I could not believe my luck. I told them both how I'd been trying to set up a meeting and that they should really see my stuff. Susan didn't know a thing about me, but seemed interested in learning more. Pamela M. said she would tell her all about me and I handed them both business cards as they eased into their Lincoln Town car and sped off. Still I heard nothing. It was not until years later, after Pamela M. left (or was ousted, depending on who you ask) that I learned that she was not feeling my line and made it her mission to make sure that anything to do with skwilbur would not appear in the magazine. And all this time I played the fool. You live and you learn.
Peace & Fashion!


  1. This makes me so angry! A woman in her position should know how to dole out rejection (and do it properly), and not continue to string people along. That's the kind of stuff that makes you want to break glass!

  2. Mmmh, I agree with Donelle. Friend, associate or not, when it comes to business you better be honest and not worry about people getting their feelings hurt. Along with rejection, honesty is one of the many characteristics of the fashion industry, so it's a shame she couldn't be straightforward with you. Anyways Divo(a)s always persevere!