Saturday, May 30, 2009

Is It Good Enough?

This is the weird part of every collection that I've designed. Just before it is completed, I start to wonder if it is any good. It is one thing for your friends and family to support you. The pats on the back and Good Job comments are reassuring, but what about that buyer in Saks or that shopper who doesn't know of my journey. Will they really like it? Is second guessing oneself just part of the creative equation? I confided in my friend, Cathy, who has had walk on parts on soap operas and been featured on those crime reality shows that employs actors to re-enact the felony. She's known me over 20 years and is very well-versed on my fashion odyssey. I really like her no holds barred 'tude and she just confirmed what I'd already known. Essentially she said, "Once you've done your best and worked from your creative core, then there is nothing more you can do. People are either going to love it or they're going to hate it. You have to take satisfaction in knowing that you've done something that you thought was special." So I am going to try and relax, stop worrying, and keep it moving. There is still much work to be done.
Peace & Fashion!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

All That Glitters Is Not Fashion Gold

How many times have you invested in something or someone only later to find out that he/she/it was not what you expected? You had, in fact, been bamboozled - hoodwinked - misled. Well, my fashion followers, that recently happened to me. One of the seamstresses that I hired for my biggest project ever swears that she is the product of a couturier from Thailand and blessed with a gift for clothing construction. She also claims to have worked closely with Marc Bouwer, a designer known for his clingy, sensuous gowns that have graced the backs of R-n-B divas like Toni Braxton, Whitney Houston, and Patti LaBelle. Her expertise clearly went out the window while working with me because I got shoddy, unfinished workmanship and a poor fit. But thankfully I quickly recovered after realizing that I had been handed a chunk of fashion fool's gold. I called on some of my trusted tailors that I have been able to forge strong working relationships with and they went to work immediately and aborted a major disaster from happening. What has resulted is cocktail dresses that are as pristine on the inside as they are on the outside. And I am just blessed to be in the esteemed company of such gentlemen. Today was one of the last fittings with Valencia, the goddess. This journey has been a revelation and a lesson in resilience. And it has also provided me with a great opportunity to meet some really gifted and talented dressmakers. I look forward to working on many projects with the quiet dynamo, Alaina. And my Hispanic posse of tailors whom Valencia has dubbed The 252 Crew has been patient and proven themselves time and time again. I can forge ahead next season knowing that these people have got my back creatively. Sometimes you can make the wrong turn and discover that you've actually struck pure gold.

Peace & Fashion!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I've Got The Fashion Magic!

So yesterday I wrote that I would be conducting fittings for my newest collection of cocktail dresses. And I did! It was a truly long day, but I see my vision coming into focus. Each silhouette offers something different for the woman who just wants to feel pretty and look original. Although I did not realize when I sketched the looks, there are echoes of Dior's New Look and Balenciaga's balloon chemise permeating through the line. I have conceived bold, yet tailored dresses expressly designed for those ladies who consider themselves charming and confident and sophisticated. Or really know how to fake it well! I am excited by the progress and how the details are taking shape. I am pleased with the work of my dressmakers and look forward to showing you the finished product. It is MAGIC! And David Copperfield has nothing on me!

Peace & Fashion!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My Fashion Saga Continues. . .

I've been crazy busy working with my tailors and seamstresses to fine tune the cocktail dress collection I will be launching in stores (God willing) for Spring 2010. So please forgive my absence. I have christened the line Wilbur. Simple, short, sweet, and totally me! And I am calling this collection Just Zip! Years ago when my sister Ashanti was a child and my father was still alive, she ordered him to "JUST ZIP" her jacket so she could go outside to play with her friends. And since my embellishment of choice for my fierce collection of frocks is zippers, the phrase just seemed perfect. Creatively, I am inspired by music. And I have a weakness for black women with big voices. During this process my ears were attuned to Ms. Whitney Houston, so each style is named after one of her recordings. So you might find yourself in the store asking to try on the "How Will I Know" or the "I'm Every Woman". Clever, right?! Last week I received my clothing labels that I had ordered online. Exciting. And tomorrow afternoon, I have another scheduled fitting with all my dressmakers, my fit model Valencia, aka The Goddess, and myself. Last week the fit was a little off, but my team has vowed to fix the problem and promises magic this week. I am not looking for any rabbit-in-the-hat tricks just my vision come to life. After all, this is only the beginning. My fashion saga continues. . .
Peace & Fashion!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Valentino In The Movies

In the midst of a hectic schedule packed with model fittings and meetings with dressmakers, I somehow found the time to get to the cinema to see Valentino: The Last Emperor. I thought it would be an important film to watch if only just to witness the artistry of celebrated couturier Valentino Garavani. And I had Vaughn, whom I have mentored over 10 years now, join me. For fashion enthusiasts and designers alike this is a must see movie. It documents the planning of the legend's 45th year anniversay celebration as a fashion designer and his last 2 years in business before his retirement. The audience is given carte blanche access to Valentino's many homes, backstage at his runway spectacles, and his workrooms where his seamstresses work painstakingly by hand on gowns that will sell for several thousands of dollars. The movie is a cross between Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and Project Runway. Vaughn and I were enthralled by it all, but mostly we could identify with Valentino when he remarked that fashion is his life and he could not have imagined himself in any other career. Fashion is the air we breathe and the food we eat and the language we speak. I can only hope to have an illustrious career like his that spans several decades.
Peace & Fashion!

Monday, May 4, 2009


Last week the Vogue magazine team descended on my part time job for a fashion photo shoot. And I had front row seating to view it all. Exciting! I have arranged and produced my own shoots for my designs, but my budget is nothing compared to Vogue's. Present was Richard, the shoot's producer. I met him before anyone else from the Vogue team. And he kept us employees apprised of how everything would unfold. Then I met the prop stylist, Rick, who made sure that all the furniture and, well, props were satisfactory for the photos. Rick worked with the very adorable Taylor, who closely resembled the actor Jason Lewis. Both Rick and Taylor were really quite lovely. And they entered loaded up with bouquets and bouquets of beautiful, fresh cut blossoms in a melange of vibrant colors - for the shoot. Next, I met the fashion editor for the shoot, Elissa Santisi, as she led renowned photographer, Terry Richardson and his posse of assistants around the office to discuss angles, locations, and props before flashbulbs began to pop. All of you, I am sure, have seen the work of Mr. Richardson as he has turned his lens on so many brands including Belvedere vodka, Jimmy Choo shoes, and Tom Ford eyewear. So when he introduced himself to me, naturally I quickly replied that I already knew who he was. My familiarity seemed to catch him by surprise. To top off the day, Lily Donaldson, one of the fiercest mannequins of today, made her dramatic entrance surrounded by hair, makeup, the accessories editor, and the guard there to make sure that no one try to slip away with any of the expensive baubles selected for the shoot. Lily was tall and thin and breathtaking and my eyes followed her as she glided to the the designated room for the shoot towering over the fashion wizards responsible for her camera-ready transformation. Unfortunately, I was abruptly awakened from my reverie and thrust back to reality. I had to rush off for my 2 o'clock appointment in downtown Brooklyn to meet my new dressmaker. But I am waiting with bated breath for the July issue to hit the newsstands. Because it will take me back to the day that I was almost in Vogue.

Peace & Fashion!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Fashion Trials

It has been 11 days since I posted something new. And I hope that there are people out there still interested in traveling with me as I navigate the road to fashion superstardom.
This was a trying week that ended in triumph. No, I did not win Lotto. But I did start Monday in panic mode when I had to dismiss yet another tailor. When they say that good help is hard to find, they aren't kidding. My tailor, apparently, entered into a subcontract with a woman who was to sew my pieces. And initially, everything was fine. She created the muslin (a version of the dress in a cotton fabric that is used for fitting purposes before rendering it in the actual material) for two of the looks and we had a first fitting with my model, Valencia. But then two weeks passed without further progress. In fact, she was supposed to be on site to have more fittings and discuss any issues about the design details, but she never showed up. So when I met with my tailor and the seamstress at 1 p.m. this Monday past, I was not a happy camper. Long story short, after a nasty confrontation, I left panic-stricken with all my fabric, my $300 deposit, and nothing to show for that month of work. I scrambled to a nearby internet cafe struggling to carry the bolts of fabric so I could log onto my email. I had the forethought to place an ad on craigslist for a freelance tailor/seamstress when things started going downhill with my longtime dressmaker. Having already received responses from the posting, it was imperative to parcel the work out immediately. After all, I am on a deadline. What ensued that Monday afternoon was sheer craziness. I was shuttled by NYC taxis and subways from 57th street and 8th avenue down to 11th street and 2nd avenue back up to 37th street and 8th avenue and back down to 11th street and 2nd avenue and onto the theatre at 59th street between Park & Madison avenues in time for a 6 o'clock dramatic reading. Wheww! You know it's hard out here for a pimp! On Wednesday afternoon, I met with Evan, who hails from Louisville, KY, at the Starbucks at Atlantic Avenue mall in downtown Brooklyn. He will be completing the last look for me. He is the fourth and final clothier in my menagerie of freelance seamstresses and tailors. At least, that is what I hope.
On Thursday afternoon during a 4 hour period, Valencia and I raced from 37th street and 8th avenue to 11th and 2nd avenue and then up to 135th street off Lenox Avenue in Harlem. Each stop consisted of a quick strip down of her clothes and a slip on of my pieces where she was pinned, marked, and ordered to sashay in sky-high platform sandals. And I am pleased so far with the workmanship and the look of each piece and each muslin. I know this collection is going to knock 'em dead. I am triumphant.
Peace & Fashion!