Sunday, December 19, 2010

Vitamin Me

I have always held myself to an incredibly high standard.  My feeling is: If I'm not going to do my absolute best, then there is no point in me doing it at all.  Yet, lately, despite my best efforts, I feel like I am falling short.  I have promised to write in my online journal regularly, but I have not.  It is with the best intentions that I start my week promising to get back to my exercise regimen and start eating right so I can drop some of these unwanted pounds, but I have not committed to climbing out of bed at 4 a.m. so I can get to the gym before I head for the plantation.  And by the middle of the day, I am so frustrated that I just want to head over to Dunkin' Donuts and buy a half dozen of those chocolate glazed cake donuts.  And at 320 calories a pop, that kind of behavior is just really counterproductive - to say the least.

The truth of the matter is that I have just not been motivated.  With the holidays here and me trying desperately to stretch my dollars to make sure that there are gifts under the tree for my loved ones, I have become increasingly disgusted by my financial situation.  And I do not want to pour that kind of energy into this blog.  Earlier this year I wrote that I was only giving myself one more year to make a go out of Sorta Kinda Enterprises.  And after the less-than-stellar reception by retailers of my spring collection, I am feeling disconnected from my dream and beginning to wonder if this may very well be the end of an era that was filled with some triumphs, but mostly struggles.  I have almost always felt certain about my path in fashion - like the universe had called me to this career.  And although I have not yet counted myself out, I cannot help but start to wonder after 12 years if I have been on some crazy vanity ride.  I told my sister, Ashanti, who is also one of my partners in fashion crime that I have been put in a place of total surrender.  In the past, I have done everything outside of magic tricks to keep up the momentum of getting the Wilbur brand off the ground.  Any one who has known me during the last decade and change, knows that it's the truth.  But at this point, the well has run dry of all resources.  So as my church folks say, "I've got to let go and let God."  To that end, we are working with Nakeisha Jennings of Prime Planners who does brand building and raises money through corporate sponsorships.  She has quite a Rolodex at her fingertips and I am praying that she is the key to finishing and presenting my fall 2011 collection "Eye Candy" this coming March.

Wilbur & Kitty Kat are all smiles at the wedding reception of A & R

My dream has sustained me all these years.  Fashion saved me from a life without purpose.  And whatever the outcome, I know that there is something better around the bend.  I am wishing all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.  I am going to take a moment and revitalize my spirit and try to refresh myself so that I can be better prepared for this part of my fashion crusade.  See you in 2011!

Peace & Fashion!

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's All Me!

I lost track of time and before I knew it a month had passed and I hadn't posted anything to my online journal.  Truth be told, I've had a lot of things on my plate and the blog took a backseat to all my stuff.  So I am just going to have to take this moment to fill you in on all the behind-the-scenes fashion drama. 

Maryellen & Wilbur at November to Remember Event
Having nothing at all to do with fashion and just on a personal note, on October 31 I celebrated another birthday.  I am officially 43 and FANTASTIC!  It was all very low-key with the family and then I was among the thousands of people at the Halloween Day Parade down in the Village with my close friend, Chris.  There were lots of half-naked people masquerading as something ghoulish or sexy (I'm not sure which?) and I know they were cold.  In NYC, you can use any occasion to show off your stuff.  But pneumonia as a side effect is so not cool.  I'm just sayin'!  I've shunned big blowouts and costumes for awhile, but I think when I turn 45 I am going to have to reconsider. I am just happy to have reached this age in good health, loved, and pushing forward.

So you already know about my trials with Bloomingdale's and the less-than-positive meeting I had with the buyer for Special Size Dresses.  Well, it seems that all the powers-that-be are on the same page and are not interested in opening accounts with any new vendors.  This information comes directly from my favorite salesperson in the women's department at the 59th Street flagship, Scheffie, who met with the regional director and general manager.  I guess, all's well that ends well.  Next season I will perhaps have a different story to tell.  Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue also did not take the bait, so Ashanti and I have been chugging ahead and contacting the specialty boutiques.  We've heard some positive things from a couple of the stores.  So we're in talks to see what we can do to seal the deal.  I promise to keep you all in the loop.

Having written this blog for over a year now, it became apparent to many, especially my sister-in-law, that I have a voice.  And I was urged to write my book.  So I have begun.  I settled on writing my memoir and started early in the summer.  I asked certain people whose input I trust, like my friend Sheila Rule, a former New York Times journalist, to tell me if I was headed in the right direction.  Sheila assured me that I was a good writer and had an interesting enough story to tell.  But, she said, I was leaving out the meat and only providing the bones of the story.  I needed to give a full picture of my life.  I've had to re-live some parts of my life that I had forgotten or that I found painful.  But the process has been surprisingly very cathartic.  And I really like how I've been able to craft a visual by using words on a paper.  I am shooting to finish it by sometime in 2011.  And then I will have to tackle the whole publishing monster.  But right now I am just taking it one step at a time and enjoying the process.

I've also been busy supporting some of my colleagues in the curvy community.  Two Saturdays ago, On November 13, I attended my friends Jeannie Ferguson and Tasha Hill's presentation of their Big Girls United (BGU) Chameleon Collection..  And this Saturday past, my friend Dhylles Waight-Davis presented her Katwalk Katerers' November to Remember charity runway show.  I am always happy to support my friends in their endeavors and happier to be a part of the audience instead of the one running around frantic and crazy making sure everything is running smoothly.  The curvy community is tight knit and many times I see some of the same players.  But that's okay with me.  When I was creating fashions for the less ample, I always felt like an outsider and it is this sense of community that makes me feel like I am home.
Wilbur & Ashanti show some love to Jeannie of Big Birls United

P. Crawford, Wilbur, and Renee J congratulate Dhylles on her Novemeber to Remember Event

Ashanti and Wilbur meet face-to-face with Renee Jennings 
I am busy working on the next collection which my team and I will present here in New York City in March.  I've already started fittings!  We've got a full plate already for 2011 including a trip to Los Angeles to participate in a runway show for a fashion initiative called Kiss The Curves.  I feel like there are just not enough hours in the day.  For real!  But I promise to be more diligent about documenting my odyssey.  I'll be back after the holiday.  But until then, Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Peace & Fashion!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Like A Great Bra

Wilbur, Dee Dee, & Ashanti at WWD book signing party.

I may be experiencing some issues with finding a distribution channel so that my dresses are available for women living outside of New York City.  But I refuse to dwell on what I do not yet have and instead focus on what must be done next.  I am impassioned by my efforts to bring more fashion to the curvy woman and I know that the universe is creating a pathway for that to happen.  In the meantime, I press forward and rely heavily on my circle of sisters, the wonderful women who comprise the curvy fashion community and nurture my creativity and support me emotionally.

Keicia Derry wears WILBUR.  Photo: Jeff Fasano

On Monday afternoon, I had lunch with Tara Taylor. A makeup artist with limitless talent, I'd spotted her work posted on facebook.  Talk about beautiful!  I was awestruck.  And she is more lovely as a person than her skills could ever be.  We officially met at the 5 year anniversary celebration for another plus designer, Monif C., a couple of weeks ago.  And I told her that I just had to have her share her talents on my next project.  And so she's agreed to collaborate as I prepare my collection for Fall 2011.  But more than the work, Ms. T was there with assurance to let me know that, despite my less-than-stellar showing with Bloomingdale's, there is a plan and I just have to remain steadfast and focused.  After our 3-hour afternoon chat fest, I felt like there was a renewed sense of hope.  And for that I was grateful.

Wilbur & The Curvy Fashionista - Marie Denee

During our meeting, Tara informed me that The Curvy Fashionista, a blogger who'd written a lovely post about me a little over a month ago, was going to be in town.  I begged her to arrange a face-to-face meeting since The Curvy Fashionista, nee Marie Denee is west coast based and I wasn't sure when the next opportunity might arise.  Tara, who is connected to everybody fabulous in the curvy community, reached out to Madeline Figueroa-Jones, the founder and the creative mind behind the online glossy Plus Model Magazine.  It just so happens that the ladies along with Alissa, Ms. Stylish Curves herself, were all together for a style symposium hosted by Just My Size.  So before they made their way to dinner, I made my way to their hotel where we chatted and had a love fest.  It was just an awesome experience to be in the company of these positive curvy role models.  And feeding off their energy just inspires and motivates me.

So this group of women is really like a great bra.  Their support makes me look good and I look forward to a relationship where I do the same for them.

Peace & Fashion!

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Bridge Is Out

Yesterday I noticed that there is a serious divide going on in fashion.  I think I've always known it, but it became more evident as my day progressed.  Plus size is still fashion's ignored stepchild.  Despite the 62% of women who are a size 14 and above, it seems like the chasm may be permanent.  My fashion mogul friend and founder of Full-Figured Fashion Week, Gwen DeVoe, pretty much tried to convince me while we were laughing and chatting over cocktails a few weeks ago. "Wilbur, the big boys still have not invited me to the table," she said explaining that high fashion is an exclusive club reserved for the fabulously skinny.  Sporting my rose-colored glasses, I really didn't want to believe her.  After all, I have received so much attention for my creative efforts concerning the curvy woman.  Just to name a few recent gains by the curvy community - -  during New York Fashion Week this past September, One Stop Plus staged the first runway show dedicated solely to contemporary fashions for the curvy woman.  Clingy and sexy dress designer, Monif C. recently celebrated her fifth year in business.  And big girls continue to make "special" appearances in mainstream magazines.  But so many people don't want to embrace the curvy.  A couple of weeks ago when I was in Re/dress, the Brooklyn-based destination emporium for all things vintage for the curvy woman, I met a lovely young lady named Jessica.  Jessica and I fell into a deep conversation like we'd been forever friends when she confessed to me that she had recently gone down to a size 14 from a size 24.  And she shared something with me that has stayed on my mind since.  Jessica thinks clothing manufacturers do not put a lot of effort or style into plus fashions because most women consider the weight temporary and are always striving to become a more socially acceptable size 6 or 8.  Hello Oprah!  I immediately disagreed with her because if that is the case then my career choice is a big mistake.  But maybe there is a little truth to it?  Yesterday afternoon I met with the buyer at Bloomingdale's.  I felt empowered by the many women whom I have met online and in person who have asked me when and where they'll be able to buy my dresses.  So I carefully pulled out each of my confections explaining how we could accommodate her customer by adding sleeves or changing colors and fabrication.  I explained to her that the customer wants to celebrate her curves and is looking for pieces that caress her curves, not tent-like frocks that do nothing for her shape.  "She wants more fashion," I added.  I informed her that I have over 500 followers on facebook.  I write a blog that goes out to about 250 readers.  And we maintain a website as well. When she calculated the retail price of one of my dresses, she thought it was a bit pricey for the Bloomingdale's customer.  I assured her that the Bloomingdale's customer is not resistant to price if she is getting value and fashion.  She told me that she'd never seen a line like mine before - a statement I found a little ambiguous to be sure. When I left that meeting, the buyer said that she was unwilling to change the status quo and add a new designer to her mix of vendors for now.  I was disappointed as I walked to Bloomingdale's to inform the sales team who had been so supportive over the last couple of months.  As I rode the escalator up to the 3rd floor, I saw a lot of fashion happening in other departments that were bustling.  In the women's department it was quiet and overflowing with a lot of the same clothes by the same vendors like Jones New York that are found in other stores such as Lord & Taylor and Macy's.  So although I am on the front lines talking to the customer doing my best to accommodate her fashion and style needs, she's losing in the long run. The message that is being conveyed is that because she's bigger, her access to more fashionable items should and will be limited.

Later in the evening, I had the opportunity to attend the book signing of WWD@100 at Bergdorf Goodman.  Populated by fashion industry superstars, my model Dee Dee and I along with Ashanti were a breath of plus size freshness.  And we did get snapped by one of the evening's photographers.  But Dee Dee commented that the atmosphere was very "clique-ish".  I am not sure how to infiltrate the fashion cognoscenti's sphere of fabulousness, but I am looking to build a bridge so that plus-size fashion is no longer an oxymoron.

Peace & Fashion!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Riding The Wave

So it's been a month since my line of dresses for the curvy fashionista made its debut.  And what a validating experience it was.  So many supporters and friends came out to catch a glimpse.  But in the days that followed it was a bit of a comedown.  After working so diligently on the project for 4 months almost non-stop and surviving mostly on adrenaline, creativity, and expectations, I was like a junkie fiending for its next fix.  But I had to slow my roll and adjust my inner machine.  Moving on to the next phase was no longer about creating, but taking the dresses and seeing if my investment was going to finally pay off.  Sure, I was interviewed for a couple of online publications.  And even on Life Size Radio.  Check out and Daily Venus Diva to see what's been said about me. But mostly I need to see if I will finally realize one of my dreams having my dresses hang on racks in fabulous stores.  A verdict has not yet been reached.  But Ashanti and I are making inroads, it seems.  A couple of major department stores are giving us the opportunity to meet them face-to-face.  I don't want to speak out of turn, but I promise that as soon as I know something, you will too.  For now, I am just riding the wave to see where this road leads.

Peace & Fashion!

Friday, October 1, 2010

This Just In. . .








I could share ALL the background details involved with putting together my launch event during New York Fashion Week.  Pulling all nighters, loading up the SUV, and picking up all the supplies are commonplace.  And those tidbits are just plain dull.  But I am always humbled by the obstacles and validated by the smallest victories.  Being able to hold the presentation at such a grand space with about 100 people attending was surreal.  Because you don't know if anyone is really going to show up.  And if it's only your family in attendance, that can be a little disheartening.  Now it's on to the next phase and that means getting the collection into stores.  I've been casting my net and because of our price point we are reaching out to many of the department stores that carry clothing for the curvy woman.  I am not going to disclose who we've targeted just yet, but having the dresses accesible to the consumer is one of the most important components of the business.  There simply is no rest for the weary.  And I've already begun conceptualizing and sketching the followup collection for Fall 2011.  That being said, I still look at the photos from the event and smile as I realize that I think I am finally on the right track.  And it feels good.

Peace & Fashion!


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I'm Still Here

It's been awhile since I've written and posted anything here.  I am not neglecting you.  I swear!  It's just that I've been swamped with all the work it takes to become a fashion phenom.  After 13 years of pursuing my dream, maybe I am finally reaching the pinnacle that has been heretofore unattainable: OVERNIGHT SUCCESS.  If you have been following my odyssey, and I hope you have, then you know I was preparing my collection for New York Fashion Week.  It was with steely determination, focus, and a lot of help from my angels who inhabit the universe that I was able to present a small installation of 10 looks on Tuesday, September 14 at The Alexandre Gertsman Contemporary Art Gallery.  The story for this inaugural collection that has the curvy fashionista in mind was based on an American woman's journey around the globe with stops in exotic locales like Indonesia, Africa, and Latin America and how she collects pieces to accessorize her wardrobe.  Drawing inspiration from the recent Julia Roberts movie EAT, PRAY, LOVE with an added shopping subtext, I used classic sportswear fabrics like indigo denim, crisp men's cotton shirting, and tan khaki for the dresses.  My milliner, Otis Damo'n Holley, and I created linen fedora hats swirling with fabrics like taffeta, zebra print cotton, and organza that complimented some of the looks. Individualizing each chapeau, I dyed and accessorized them with feathers and painted wood brooches that I crafted from items I purchased at Michael's.  It gave the men's style hats a more artisanal and feminine feel.  I designed and sewed 6 handbag styles out of everything from denim to a vibrant cotton ikat to a tribal print linen I discovered at Mood Fabrics.  And the shoes were graciously supplied by Sergio Zelcer with me "filling in the blanks" with more styles that I "tricked-out" myself by adding suede fringe.  It was all time consuming to be sure, but I was so pleased with the head-to-toe looks, that I've been considering adding handbags to my repertoire.  And each look conveyed exactly what I wanted - a world traveler who, with accessories piled on, was the picture of chic sophistication.  The newest addition to my creative cluster is Steffany Allen who styled the ladies with fabulous jewelry.  She's a keeper because each piece told a story of a far-flung destination.  Victoria did a fine job on the dresses, although I had to keep the growing crowd at bay as the final pieces were late getting to the showspace.  But all's well that ends well.  And I think everybody who attended thought I really honored the ladies with tailored dresses that inspire curvy confidence.  Next step: Convince retailers that my dresses are must-have items that their customer will be clamoring for.  The merry-go-round never stops and if it did, I wouldn't want to get off for anything.  I live for this stuff!

Peace & Fashion!

Thursday, August 5, 2010


I have opposing forces pulling at me.  On one hand, I am all Zen and connected to the universe as I invoke the preacher's words from Sunday's church service with declarations like "I am a winner!"  But on the other, I am worried that I will never quite measure up to the bigness of my dreams in the fashion world becoming just a small footnote that was never quite in vogue.  I wrestle with these 2 frames of mind often.  And so on the eve of what is to be my big launch, the angel and the devil are chillin' on my shoulders once again whispering in each of my ears as I try to press forward.  I'd rather listen to the angel with her ceaseless message of my success, but sometimes that devil encroaches and I become a panic-stricken fool.  My dresses are progressing nicely, though not at the pace that I would like them to.  Things are falling into place.  My creativity is through the roof.  But I just cannot get too overjoyed, yet.  Much still has to be done.  And I don't know how it's all going to play out.  But I just want to continue to trust my faith in myself and in my journey.  After all, a kind of paradise is on the horizon.  And it is filled with beautiful women wearing my dresses that they bought from the stores that I have always imagined carrying my line.  They are the kind of stores that dispense pretty shopping bags stuffed with tissue paper and provide unparalleled service.  Paradise is my destiny.  The devil be damned.

Peace & Fashion!

Monday, August 2, 2010

In The News

Last week, you could hear every curvy fashionista hoop & holler all over the blogosphere when it was announced that the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship store here in New York City would begin carrying sizes up to a 14 (and some beyond) of haute fashions from the likes of Oscar de la Renta, Chanel, Alexander McQueen, and others.  It makes dollars & sense considering the average woman is a size 14.  I say, "It's about time!"  I'm happy for all those fashion savvy curvy divas with lots of money to spend because now they have real access to the exclusive designers on the 3rd Floor.  But I hope my zaftig friends will also support me in my inaugural plus-size endeavor and continue up the escalator to Salon Z on the 8th Floor where (hopefully) you will find my line for a fraction of the prices on the designer floor.  I'm just saying!

I'm always ready to put in my 2 cents even when I am not asked for a contribution.  So when Gwen DeVoe, the founder of Full-Figured Fashion Week and super duper entrepreneur dedicated to all things fashionable for the fluffy girl, was a guest of the Life Size Radio show on I called in and offered my input.  Luckily, the host, Stephanie Arnold, and Gwen were happy to hear from me.  You can tune into the broadcast at Life Size Radio and weigh in on all the positive plus-size talk.  Since I am never weary when it comes to talk, I was invited once again to be a guest on my new friend, Muriel's show where she talks about Changing The Narrative.  This Saturday past I read an excerpt from my book Memoir of a BlackFashionDude which is only in its early stages.  And I discussed the fears that many of us harbor, including yours truly, when we decide to step out on faith and pursue our dreams.  I think you might find the broadcast enlightening and inspiring so please listen to it by clicking on Muriella's Corner.

That is all the news for now, I'm afraid.  But please look for my next blog entry where I will share more fashion and less talk.  All this talk has got my mouth kind of dry anyway.

Peace & Fashion!

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Roof Is On Fire!

It's been hot as hell!  At least that's what some have reported back to me after their visit to the fiery depths.  But the heat cannot impede my progress with the collection.  I've gotten a ton of advance praise for my aesthetic from my fellow bloggers who represent the curvy customer.  And I am so pleased.  I will admit that it feels a little strange to go from a fashion community that virtually ignores me to a tight-knit club who reveres my work.  But I ain't complaining.  I really appreciate it, ladies!  Thank you.  One issue that has remained constant, however, is how my business partners and I are always on the hunt for valid and creative ways to finance our endeavor.  It is quite a challenge.  And I know I am only speaking to the choir because all of us are faced with a similar conundrum.  This time, though, the universe has spoken and there is a demand for what I do.  Unlike any other time, women are more interested in learning how they can find the dresses for purchase instead of just congratulating me saying, "That's pretty."  A few weeks ago, I had a phone conversation with my milliner friend, OH, and my sister-in-law who is such a gifted photographer.  I was telling them that I think the secret to financial success is to stop obsessing about money or in our cases the lack of it.  We should just release it as an issue and not worry about it.  If we can focus on the joy that our craft brings and just continue to look for new ways to express our creativity, then I think the dollars will come.  Listen, I heard it on Oprah and she's got a little stash, so it must be the gospel.  So I am taking her advice.  And it's not just her.  It's a lesson that is hard learned, so it is a message that I read or hear from other successful people.  And I just need to live it.  I was born a winner.  I feel it in my soul.  And I know that all of you are winners, too.  Now that's what's up!  Check out some of the notices that we've gotten from some of my blogging divas by clicking on the following links:  The Curvy Fashionista, The Fat Apple, Madison Plus, The Fat Shopaholic, and The Bohemian Diva

Peace & Fashion!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Taking A Minute For Me

After this weekend, it's time for me to take a moment to recharge.  So I am hightailin' it to Maryland for a few days to hang with my boyfriend's daughter and her family.  But before I go, I am gonna fill you in on all the happenings in my world.  As you know, last week my Communications Director released a teaser for our upcoming September launch titled "Have You Heard About Wilbur?".  Using Diana Ross's classic I'm Coming Out as background music, we received some positive responses from many of you.  But we need all of you to get as excited as we are about this new venture and just start "biggin' us up", as they say in the 'hood, to all your friends.  I'm sure we each have a friend who happens to be a full-figured woman who we know can certainly benefit from wearing one of my fab dresses.  So tell her about me.

On Friday, Ashanti and I attended the opening night Meet & Greet of the Young, Fat, & Fabulous Bloggers Conference at Re/Dress boutique in Brooklyn where we met the faces behind some of the most influential blogs having to do with body confidence and fashion & beauty for the curvy fashionista. Alli McG, the supermodel, accompanied us wearing the premier look from the upcoming spring 2011 collection.  We were received with warmth and adulation by all the attendees who remarked that the dress I had conceived was awesome.   If we can continue this kind of momentum with retailers, then, who knows, I may be able to finally quit my job at the plantation.

On Saturday, I started my day as a guest on a radio program on  My friend, Marcia, made an introduction to Muriella whose show Muriella's Corner is about changing the narrative.  And she thought it was important to have me as a guest since my mission is to remove the stigma of ugly plus size clothing by creating wearable, classic, and modern dresses for the full-figured woman.  If you missed it, you can still catch it if you click on Changing the Narrartive.  Immediately following the broadcast, my team began to arrive for a photo shoot for the follow-up to the "Have You Heard About Wilbur?" video teaser with my sister-in-law driving up from Maryland to do the behind-the-camera honors. It was an awesome experience with all the ladies involved looking magazine cover ready.  My new make-up artist, Lakia McCoy, is beyond talented and really worked the ladies faces as if she was completing works of art. And she was.  Once the images have been selected they will be released for all of you to become witnesses to the magic of fashion.

On Sunday, Ashanti, Alli McG, and I were once again in the throes of another fashion happening as our friend Dhylles launched her new venture called Katwalk Katerers.  At a chic little spot down on the lower east side in Manhattan, we watched as she presented an informal runway presentation (with Alli McG donning my dress for the 3rd day in a row) and announced that she would be more democratic with her approach to fashion by including models no matter what their size or height in her cavalcade of  upcoming events.  I think this will be empowering for all those men and women who feel that they've been ignored by mainstream agencies.  I wish her much success and prosperity.

So now you know why my tank is on E.  And I am happy to get away.  I'll be back in a few days, but until then let's keep on movin' up to a place of fulfillment and enlightenment.

Peace & Fashion!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Have You Heard...?

We are revving up for the launch of The Superwoman in September.  We LOVE it and you should too!  Check out the teaser below...

Peace & Fashion!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sex in New Jersey?

Before Sunday when the heatwave came crashing into the tri-state area like an uninvited barbecue guest, I visited the quaint resort town of Asbury Park, NJ for the opening of the eclectic art exhibit "Made Out Of Beautiful" at the Parlor Gallery.  I'd never been to the Jersey Shore despite the current rage in reality tv land and so my boyfriend and I piled into my friend Gillian's SUV along with my very dear model friend, Marcia and hit the GW Bridge.  I didn't really care if I saw any of those reality celebrities like The Situation or Snooki, I was going for purely personal reasons.  You see, my photographer friend Miles Ladin whom I've known for more years than I care to count was showing a batch of his vintage black & white prints at the gallery.  Miles has worked for The New York Times and turned his lens on everyone from Rihanna to Steven Spielberg.  He has also turned his lens on some of my career's biggest moments.  When I staged the unsanctioned renegade sidewalk fashion show using masks of the characters from Sex and the City during New York Fashion Week almost a decade ago, Miles was there documenting my watershed moment.  One of the photos that was on display was the image from that hot day in September 2000 that was published in Women's Wear Daily.  It was also the image used to promote the exhibit and I felt extremely honored.  Marcia is featured prominently in the foreground and was equally excited to join me on my trip down memory lane.  Sometimes I forget how important some of these moments have been to me and how they've validated my decision to pursue a career in fashion design.  And it was just a pleasant experience to recall how I skyrocketed from obscurity to become an ALMOST celebrity myself for just a little while.  Thank you Miles for showing the fashion world that a black man from humble beginnings has a voice.

Peace & Fashion!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Let's Get Away. . .

As I sit here with a laundry list of things that need to be completed to make my September launch of the Wilbur plus-size dress collection a success, what really stands out in my mind is my need to distance myself for a moment from the day-to-day grind.  Don't get me wrong, I am still a fashion-obsessed designer that sleeps, eats, and speaks creativity.  But I could certainly use a break.  A week and a half ago, when my baby brother was here for Father's Day, he announced that he would like to spend his 40th birthday in Hawaii with the entire family.  I am definitely down for that!  But it's not until December and it just cannot come fast enough.  Lately, every magazine I pick up has a piece on the Pacific paradise.  Elle Decor has these great photos of Waikiki complete with places you must visit and Departures features the right kind of things to wear while acting like an "Aloha" native.  Coincidence?  Probably.  Or the universe is dropping me subtle hints that Hawaii is a locale that I need to revisit.  And fairly soon.  My mother took me during the summer of 1986 before I returned to college.  We went with my aunt and my cousin.  That was when I had hair and learned that a luau was the best kind of party comprised of unlimited Blue Hawaiian cocktails.  I've already put my time in at the plantation and so now it is Hawaii or bust.  For now, I bide my time.  Patiently, I suppose.
On Monday, I met with one of my fit models, DeeDee, and my seamstress, Victoria, for our first fitting.  I can no longer squirm out of my commitment to this new venture because it is really underway.  And I keep on getting a positive return of energy.  DeeDee was a doll.  And the site of the dresses on her made me smile as they have begun to take shape.  It really doesn't matter if I am dressing a woman who is a size 4 or a size 14 or a 24.  There is a giddiness that takes over my soul when I see something I dreamed up come to life.  I am sure it's like that for every designer, but since this is my blog I am going to act like it's all about me.  Too focused on the matter-at-hand, I forgot to snap photos of the experience.  But when these dresses are complete, I promise to share the raw footage.  DeeDee so believed in my talents that she saw fit to make an introduction to a business associate.  While I wait for a response from this connection, I am reminded of my sister's words last week.  This is going to be a success.  Just wait and see!

Peace & Fashion!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lean On Me

As I recovered from the excitement of Full-Figured Fashion Week which ended on Sunday, I had to reacclimate myself with my work groove.  And then I began to hit panic mode.  I awakened to the reality that time is quickly flying by and we still have not yet secured a corporate sponsor whose generous donation will fund our September launch.  I have survived panic mode in the past - BARELY.  It's really not attractive because it usually leads to desperation.  And desperation is the ultimate fashion faux pas of which I have been guilty of on more than one occasion.  I thought it prudent to seek the counsel of  a couple of acquaintances who are industry movers & shakers to see if they could possibly direct me to potential resources who might be able to assist with my company's financial shortage.  Yet, after sending them beseeching online messages, all I've gotten in return is the sound of crickets.  You know, when all you get is silence - save for the crickets whose melody informs you that your voice may have fallen on deaf ears.  It's just a little observation I picked up from my early days of watching Daffy Duck get no love on those Bugs Bunny cartoons.  Earlier this week I expressed my concern to my sister, Ashanti who is the company's Communications Director.  She confided that she'd also worried about our window of opportunity slowly shutting.  And today when we received news from one of our prospective corporate partners that their plans, which do not include Sorta Kinda Enterprises, are already pretty much set for the rest of the year, it was somewhat of a let down.  My sister, who is my partner, friend, and confidant then said something that silenced the voice of panic that had been rising up inside my head.  To paraphrase, she told me that we are going to be a success with this line of tailored dresses for the plus size woman.  The embrace from the plus size community supports it.  So success is already a given.  Our timeline may have to be adjusted, but we are going to move forward as best we can with the resources that are available to us so that we are prepared when the time comes.  I am not sure where my baby sister came from with all that knowledge, but she reminded me to continue to believe in the dream so that we can make it a reality.  There is surely power in words.  And Ashanti has spoken.

Peace & Fashion!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Take Me Home

So this Wednesday past was the opening night of Full Figured Fashion Week.  And if you've been keeping up, you have read about my exploits prepping for the BIG event.  It was my civic duty and design responsibility to make sure my sister/Communications Director, Ashanti, was representin' so I had my seamstress, Victoria, create a one-off look from the collection which will debut in September.  And I was very pleased with the dress.  To be perfectly honest, Ashanti was FLAWLESS.  But flawless can only be achieved with serious preparation, so I staged a "run-through" the previous Saturday at the house to make sure everything met my standards including earrings, shoes, mani-pedi, and handbag.  It turned out that the Kente Handbag I created was a huge hit with many of the attendees.  So when Ashanti met me Wednesday evening at the fab club BLVD on Bowery here in NYC, I knew she would be magazine ready.  The great thing is that so many of the women in attendance were magazine ready.  It was a moment that just soothed my fashion sensibilities and made my heart sing.  One of the first ladies I met while waiting behind the velvet rope was Ms. Christina Lewis who writes a blog called Musings of a Fatshionista.  What caught my eye with Chrisitna was the band of brilliant plumes that encircled her neck.  It was a moment that brought to mind a festooned Lisa Fischer - the fabulous R-n-B diva who wore a feathered confection when she picked up her Grammy in 1991.  At this point, I knew that these curvy girls were about to show me what FIERCE style should really look like.  After Christina and I talked for a moment she pulled out her camera and snapped photos of both Ashanti and me.  It made me feel like I might start showing up on someone's fashion radar and that was so validating.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I Don't Fit Into Your Box

It's business as usual as I plug on with my plan for fashion world domination.  With love and respect to all the big girls, my focus is to elegantly demonstrate that beauty is not about a size.  Because I have seen ugly in a size 2.  But I've also seen it all the way up to a 22.  Really.  Wilbur is more about tapping into the sexier, more confident, more fabulous side of the size 14 or higher set.  Since I've been casting for the photo shoot and our big event in September, I've met a dozen or so models who do not fit into society's narrow definition of beauty.  And these women have been gorgeous on the inside and out.  I know I've heard people, especially women, on more than one occasion say, "Oh, she has such a pretty face. . ."  And I am just sitting there waiting for them to finish the sentence with ". . .but her body is a HOT mess."  I am not condemning anyone because I may have shared the same thought at times myself.  But it's time for us to change our perception.  The model industry has celebrated all kinds of quirky and gawky looking women and elevated their flaws to celebrity status.  Remember Lauren Hutton's famous gap-toothed smile or the odd looking Penelope Tree.  Why haven't they pushed for a beauty who is the same size as the average woman?  Sure there is Emme, but how about all the other curvy cuties who exist?  And it seems like the extremely thin ones are being manufactured conveyor belt style at some plant on Venus.

My sister recently gave me a book to read called Such A Pretty Fat. It's a hilarious look at a big girl's battle with the bulge.  In the end, the heroine doesn't downsize to skinny girl status, ala Jennifer Hudson, but she becomes a healthier, more fit big girl.  Although the focus is dieting, anyone who has ever struggled to reach a goal can identify with the story.  And I think it just challenges us to see the humanity in everybody.  And that's something I can get behind.  My sister, Ashanti, had the opportunity to meet the author, Jen Lancaster, when she was in New York promoting her latest published tale and she told me that she is just as animated and entertaining in person.  Someone who is talented and has the ability to make me laugh who is also quite pretty sounds like the complete package to me.  So now, Jen Lancaster has become my girl crush.

I've gotta go, but I will be back soon.  And if you pick up Jen Lancaster's book, holla back and let me know what you think.  I guarantee it will have you in stitches.

Peace & Fashion!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fashion Persists

On Memorial Day, I paid my respects to the Motherland by taking a short trip to the African Street Festival - the annual celebration of African culture held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). My best friend, Donelle, invited me to join her and her daughter (my goddaughter), Anaya, and our friend, Lisa, for the festivities. My sister, who is a Brooklyn resident, also joined us. I hadn't been in so many years. I think the last time was when I had my own Brooklyn address on Washington Avenue. So I was really happy to be hanging with the ladies as we browsed rows and rows of booths filled with African garb, jewelry, art, and other sundries. I was inspired by the beauty and majesty of all the richly colored fabrics and vibrant baubles and plucked a number of business cards from a few vendors. These wares will be added to the mix of accessories for the collection I am currently working on. There were the typical food vendors as well who sold fresh fruit, corn on the cob, cakes and pies, the ubiquitous funnel cake, and freshly squeezed fruit juices. And although the sun was merciless as it beamed down on us, everyone was pleasant and cordial. In fact, there was a real sense of community as we greeted vendors with a friendly hello and passersby with a smile. It would be nice to spread that feeling all over New York everyday. But then, I guess, it wouldn't be New York.
Today is my niece Samarra's 6th birthday. And you may ask why I am mentioning it in the context of ". . .Odyssey." Truth be told, she probably has little to do with my journey. But Samarra is such a little fashionista who appreciates the feminine side of dressing preferring to wear frilly dresses and cute shoes. And, of course, I encourage it because you can never have too much fashion in your life. Even when you are 6 years old. And when you see that kind of fastidious attention to style at an early age, you know there is an icon in the making. Happy Birthday, Samarra! May you continue to wave your fashion flag.
Peace & Fashion!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Fitting

I love creating fashion for women. Whether she's a size 2 or 22, every woman wants to feel beautiful. And I delight in the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when I am the one responsible for helping her feel that way. This past Tuesday, Ashanti, my Communications Director who also happens to be my sister who just happens to be a curvy cutie had her final fitting for the dress she will be wearing to the opening runway event of Full-Figured Fashion Week on June 16. I persuaded her to pose before removing the dress for its final edits. My seamstress, Victoria, will be completing it and dropping it off to me this Friday. It may be a little difficult to discern, but it is made out of cotton shirting fabric that has a little stretch in it. The rich color is a cross between rust and burgundy with gold stripes woven throughout. It wasn't an obvious choice of color, but one that is complimentary to Ashanti's warm brown complexion.
By now, you know that I am making moves and trying to create a name for myself in the plus-size industry. It's almost non-stop networking and introductions. And I am always down for meeting new people, especially those who are friendly and living their lives with purpose. I think I am most excited about the possibilities that this new adventure can bring. Fresh ideas and different personalities will challenge me and help me to grow as an artist. I am already encouraged by the number of people who have been receptive to my design direction. Truth be told, obstacles were always hindering my progress when I created collections for the under size 14 market. I was not being embraced by retailers, stylists, or celebrities. I felt like I was running in place. My decision to switch gears did not come lightly. But I think it was the right decision for me. The spark is back and maybe now I will make some money, too. I only have 1 year to prove myself and make it happen. And this time, I think it will.
Peace & Fashion!

Monday, May 24, 2010

I've Got A Feeling. . .

My Communications Director, Ashanti, and I will be attending the opening night runway event for the 2nd annual Full Figured Fashion Week on Wednesday, June 16 at BLVD. Started last year by plus-size trailblazer, Gwen DeVoe, Full Figured Fashion Week looks like a great initiative that celebrates the curvy fashionista as well as businesses that cater to her. So I will be there workin' it and connecting with store buyers and personalities as we prepare for our debut during New York Fashion Week. But you know that Ashanti, Wilbur's original curvy girl, has got to represent. So she will be wearing one of the designs from the new line in a fabric and color that I chose with her in mind. This Sunday past we met with my seamstress Victoria who nearly had the dress complete. And it was obvious that Ashanti will be a knockout.
On this Friday past, I held a casting at Mood Designer Fabrics to meet a batch of curvy cuties who would potentially model the new line. It was such a pleasant experience. No diva attitude and all the ladies were ready with a word of support. I am feeling positive about this new endeavor and I don't think it's going to take as much arm twisting as it has in the past to get retailers to invest in my aesthetic. Although I've been carried in quite a few stores over the years, none of them welcomed me or got excited about building a real business relationship. But I've got a feeling that my luck is about to change. . . for the better.

Peace & Fashion!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Here I Am!

Okay, so it's been a minute since I last wrote something here. Maybe some of you have been wondering where I've been. And the truth is that I've been crazy busy. And now we've gotta play catch up.
A couple of weeks ago I attended the opening of the new exhibit American High Style at the Brooklyn Museum. This is not to be confused with the very splashy opening night gala of the American Woman exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan that was attended by celebrities like the Oscar De La Renta clad Oprah Winfrey and fabulous fashion royalty. No sirree! No red carpet or television cameras or popping flashbulbs or overcooked chicken breast. There was, however, a bar stocked with wine, sparkling water, and soda and tables with assorted finger snacks like cheese and crackers and hummus that were a big hit with many of the ravenous visitors. This was the kind of event attended by the everyday fashion enthusiast, some of which were wearing shorts and flip flops. Pretense and posturing were absent as we were all just there in that great exhibition space to enjoy the majesty and workmanship of garments created by the likes of Norman Norell and Charles James. And the gowns were awe inspiring. But I think that sometimes it is nice to wear shoes and pretend to be a little more civilized. The dried chicken, however, should remain optional. I'm just saying!
Peace & Fashion!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Baby Got Back (Pain)!

On Monday morning as I made my best attempt at being Suzy Homemaker with my Hoover vacuum cleaner, I bust a move that my back was not happy with. And as a result, my body was racked with pain. I couldn't even make it into the plantation this week. GASP! That's how bad it was. But I couldn't let it stop my game or alter my journey. So I did what any struggling designer and business owner would do, I presided over my empire (LOL!) from behind my computer screen. I'm not sure how we ever survived without the Internet, but I would have been dead in the water if it had not been for my Internet explorer.
On Monday, my good friends who are public relations professionals and I finished up a proposal we started working on last week requesting sponsorship dollars for my company's big debut to the plus size industry during New York Fashion Week in September. I've envisioned it more as an event than a runway extravaganza. The theme is The Super Woman and I am doing my part to empower and excite and clothe the curvy fashionista through my dresses. It's going to be a blast!
On Tuesday, I emailed the proposal to the company that we are interested in working with. Afterwards, I let my finger strokes do the walking as I posted an ad on craigslist for full figured fit models for this endeavor. I asked for measurement stats and photographs and added my height requirements. Some women just sent a photo and a phone number. One woman responded who was not even plus sized. I just don't know how to make it any clearer. But I got a lot of great responses. And Victoria, my seamstress, and I are holding a casting this evening to meet all the lovelies. Wish me luck!

On Wednesday, I tried to rest as much as possible during the day because I knew that I was surprising my honey for his birthday with tickets to see Diana Ross at Radio City Music Hall that night. After spending over $200 on those tickets, come hell or high water we were going even if I had to be carried in. Luckily, it did not come to that and I was able to work it out despite my back pain. This being my first Diana Ross concert, I had high hopes. And Ms. Ross did not disappoint. It was 1 hour and 40 minutes of delight with her singing some of my favorites.
While I am feeling a lot better, I must admit that it is difficult trying to be Mr. Fashion when you are walking around at half mast grimacing with pain. But like I always say, "You've gotta fake it, until you make it!" No truer words were ever spoken. Now please excuse me while I struggle to stand up straight and make it into Manhattan for some business I've got to handle.
Peace & Fashion!

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Time Has Come

This weekend I did some serious soul searching. The catalyst for which was a very lengthy and introspective phone conversation I had with my friend Alexandre, the successful art gallery owner and purveyor of fine contemporary Russian art. An article published in this past Saturday's New York Times about the disappointing demise of Michelle Obama design darling Maria Pinto's business also contributed to my weekend of reflection. It forced me to take a closer look at my life. And I must, somehow, come to terms with the fact that my circumstances may have hindered my chances to be a successful fashion business owner. I've known from the beginning that I've had more than my share of handicaps. The business is severely under capitalized. I do not possess the technical skills like sewing and pattern making which might have made a small difference for my success. And I do not know the "right" people who would have catapulted my line to star status. But I always felt that the universe was speaking positively to me regarding my fashion odyssey. And it was telling me to keep on, persevere, and my monetary rewards were just on the horizon. Now 12 years later, I am unsure and tired. But I have given myself a year to give it the old college try. I need to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat. And I am hoping that my plus size design endeavor is that magic trick. But if it's not, I will reinvent myself and become something more fabulous. Hey, if Madonna is the poster child for reinvention, then I certainly can become the postcard version!

Peace & Fashion!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Fashion in the 'Hood

Early this morning, on my way to the plantation, I walked through the garment district. Nothing is open before 8 o'clock, but workers entering from stage left and stage right were starting to take their designated places for today's drama that would soon begin to unfold. It was almost serene. And this is such a stark departure from the kinetic energy and hustle-as-if-your-life-depended-on-it attitude that pervades between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. As I hurried quickly to my destination, I gladly welcomed the quiet moment. But I could feel the excitement and the intensity of the neighborhood bubbling beneath the surface preparing for both established and emerging designers to make their appearances center stage as they begin their daily grind.

Earlier this week, I found myself searching the maze-like grid of city blocks between 36th and 40th streets stretching from 6th avenue to 8th avenue for stores that sell wood buttons. Since I am creating 8 handbags which will accessorize my Spring 2011 looks, I wanted to apply earthy elements like wood, leather, metal, and stone giving them that nomadic, been-around-the-world feel. I needed 80 buttons to compliment one bag's ethnic pattern and it was a task that could only be completed in fashion's epicenter. After striking out at several spots that either didn't have the style of button that I was looking for or didn't have enough of a particular style, I finally settled on a rough hewn look that I discovered at M & J Trimming. And although I consider them the Bergdorf Goodman of the trim world, their selection is unsurpassed. I am very fortunate and extremely lucky to live in a city that fosters the kind of dreams that I possess. Armed with my imagination and a few bucks, I am only a subway ride or a short walk away from finding the necessary tools and hiring the most skilled artisans to make the visions in my head come to life.

Peace & Fashion!