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!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fashion's Night Out

Shop 'Til You Drop!

It's time to party! This Thursday, September 10, from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m., the entire city is playing host to it's own block party. And we're all invited! This includes Queens, too! (All my peeps from Queens throw your hands up!) Fashion's Night Out is a global initiative being implemented to revive the heartbeat of the now beleaguered retail beast. Several stores, uptown - downtown - and across town, will feature appearances by celebrities, designers, and models. There will also be music and cocktails. I am going to be scouting locations for the best mojito! Don't worry, I've got a designated driver and his initials are M.T.A. No DUI drama from the BlackFashionDude. A specially designed t-shirt will be sold for $30 at all participating stores with profits going to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Fashion with a purpose. What a novel idea! I think I may check out Michael Kors at Macy's Herald Square. Maybe I'll share a mojito with him. He's such a character on Project Runway. And we can exchange double entendres and witty banter. Hey, you never know! In my world, everyone is my friend. I'll be starting my trek on the upper east side and easing my way downtown. So if you see me on the street, just holla and join the parade! I'll be the one in full fashionista mode.
Peace & Fashion!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

See Jane Shop!

Today I delivered one of our look books to a store in SoHo. No, I am not too grand to play messenger every now and then. I will do whatever it takes to get me to the next level. So as soon as I stepped off the subway at Spring street, I immediately realized I was just a little out of my element. Dorothy, you're not in Kansas anymore! Everyone on the streets was young and happenin' and pretty wearing a variation of the hipster uniform. You know the one - white t-shirt with ripped jeans and dark boots and just enough attitude to stylishly pull it all off. I, on the other hand, was in my Daffy's $70 linen suit complete with pocket square and lace ups. But I had to work it the best way I knew how. Confidence, baby! So I walk into Kirna Zabete on Greene (dangerously expensive, yet oh-so-chic) and hand the woman behind the counter the large manila envelope containing my look book. It is literally my passport to hang on the racks beside better known designers like Narciso Rodriguez and Jason Wu. I just hope it gets stamped and I am granted entry. Then I decide to look around and see which designer's pieces are hanging there for fall. They are all very well-made and a little edgy and I start to wonder if my dresses are a little too ladylike. My self-doubt is quickly interrupted by a handsome salesman who is escorting Jane Krakowski around the store. You know the actress from Ally McBeal who is currently starring in the very funny, Emmy-winning comedy 30 Rock. She is lovelier in person and I compliment her on her beautiful photographs in the current issue of Town & Country magazine. As I walk out into the sunlight and back towards the subway, I think to myself, "My dresses are exactly what this neighborhood needs." An infusion of ladylike elegance with a twist certainly wouldn't hurt SoHo. So I am going to wait and see.
Peace & Fashion!