Friday, January 29, 2010

All That I Can Say

Although times have been a bit challenging lately, I am still pushing it forward. On Wednesday afternoon, I visited the Museum at F.I.T. where I perused the American Beauty exhibit. I was moved by the awe-inspiring majesty of great designers like Charles James who "built" gowns that could literally stand on their own to Ralph Rucci whose aesthetic and technical skills are so developed that I consider him a design genius. What these craftsmen and women have achieved with fabric is just beyond my realm of understanding. And their contributions to the fashion industry motivate me to do better. I've been sketching the collection for Spring 2011 which is influenced by the trench coat. I feel like I have a winner on my hands. I'm just saying!
I previously stated that the collection would be photographed on February 13 come hell or high water, but life has a way of making me eat my words when I become too assured. The good news is that my team and I have finalized the day for the shoot and it will take place on Saturday, March 6. I am glad that is out the way. And next week we will begin looking for the two models who will bring the dresses to life and strike a pose before the camera. I'm expecting nothing but great things in the coming weeks because I think I've filled my quota for fashion drama for the month of January. And that is all I can say for now.

Peace & Fashion!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Storm Before The Calm

Yesterday here in New York we were faced with a raging wind and rain storm. Trees toppled and residents in some parts of the city were even left powerless. A quick glance would suggest that, at this moment, my odyssey is like yesterday's rainstorm - raging out of control. But I know that this is only the storm before the calm.
This Friday past, I had to terminate the photographer I was slated to work with on the shoot for my fall line Fine & Dandy. We never really got along from the time we met a few years ago. But I thought that since some time had passed, perhaps we both would be able to forge a new, more amiable path. I was sadly mistaken. Devaughn and I are still like oil & water. But it was his unprofessional attitude when he announced that he had to work on the day of the shoot and instructed me to reschedule the date that really rankled me. I was incensed. When I explained that I had already secured the space and retained a portion of the glam squad for that day (not to mention that he was being paid for his services as well), he informed me that I was asking him to choose between his job and this job. Explosive text messages were volleyed back and forth culminating in a quick swipe of the delete button erasing him from my life for good. Although I have been lucky enough to call on my longtime photographer, Eric Hason, we are in the throes of finalizing the date since he too is unavailable for February 13. Increasing my anxiety, yesterday I got word from Minkie, my handbag artisan, that her circumstances have also changed and she may not be able to have the bags completed by deadline. When it rains it pours. And I am still counting every penny so that I can pay George, my tailor, for the remainder of my pieces. But I know that these are only temporary situations. I am sure that whenever the photo shoot happens, it will go off without a hitch and the pictures will be gorgeous. The handbags will be fabulous! And somehow I will find a way to pay George. I've got to trust the path that I have chosen. It can be unnerving, but in every life a little rain must fall.
Peace & Fashion!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Sunday night I went out dancing with friends. And I had a ball shaking my money maker to some of my favorite 70s R-n-B classics. But I just couldn't miss the Golden Globes, so I asked my mother to DVR it for me. Thank God for her! Early Monday morning I watched all the nail-biting drama unfold before I could be bombarded with images and news online. I'm crazy about the movies and I am always interested to see if my faves for the year are in line with the award voters. And since I LOVE the whole idea of glamour, I have my eyes glued to the red carpet. Although this is football season, cheering for my favorite couture clad actresses teetering on sky high stilettos is my preferred kind of spectator sport. And even with the soggy-from-the-rain red carpet, the ladies did not disappoint. A couple of my favorites included Jane Krakowski in an amethyst one shouldered number by J. Mendel and Halle Berry who was a knockout in her sexy, black form-fitting Kaufman Franco gown. Of course the actress I was waiting to see was first-time nominee Gabourey Sidibe. Since I have designs on her, professionally speaking of course, I was interested to see what direction she and her stylist had gone in. And I was pleased with the results. A jewel tone (emerald) is great for her dark skin tone and the Empire silhouette is perfect for her body type. But I think she would have really sparkled in one of my creations. I'm just saying! But I wait and hope that I will be able to clothe her for one of her future soon-to-happen red carpet appearances.
In the meantime, my fit model, my sister, and I got caught up in our own glamour moment when we glided into the New York Times event space on 41st street for the Supima Cotton Runway spectacle. Although I was not among the chosen finalists to show this time around, the powers that be were gracious enough to extend an invitation to yours truly, a previous participant from 2008. Although I've been mistaken for being quite reserved and modest (LOL!), I decided to make a splash for this event and have Ila wear one of the looks from my upcoming Fall 2010 line. She was quite an eye catcher even in the elbow-to-elbow sea of fashionistas. So much so that she caught the attention of a camera crew that immediately began to interview the two of us. Once I become aware of when & where that interview will be broadcast, I will share it with all of you. Coco Rocha, the mannequin of the moment and one of my sister-in-law's favorite models, announced the winners after a breathtaking runway spectacle. I definitely agreed with the judge's pick for Best In Show - Gina De Silva. Her work was impeccable and her aesthetic is sublime. Glamour was in full effect in each of her designs. Afterwards, my companions turned back into pumpkins as they doffed their Wilbur creations and slipped out of their pumps. It was back to reality as my sister and I made our way home to Queens and Ila caught the subway uptown. Now my wait to hear whether or not Gabourey will wear me continues.
Peace & Fashion!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What's Going On?

Although this blog documents my journey in fashion, I simply cannot ignore the catastrophic earthquake that has recently brought the country of Haiti to its knees. My heart hurts for the thousands who have perished and the loved ones left behind. But it is at times like these that I really count my blessings for all that I have. I have struggled throughout my career, but I am rich in friends, family, and shelter. And beyond that, I have the capacity to dream and pursue my dreams. Please make a contribution to the relief efforts because the people of Haiti are severely lacking. We have got to help our fellow man. And I just believe that every little bit helps.

It seems weird to segue into fashion. But I need to honor the odyssey and, now more than ever, embrace my passion for fashion to its fullest. This week has been turbo charged with activity as I continue speeding towards the date of the shoot. The new collection will be photographed on February 13 - come hell or high water - so preparations are underway. My milliner, Otis D. Holley (I call him OH for short), is hard at work on the chapeaus the models will be donning. He's finished a couple of styles and I wanted to see how well the hats complimented one of the dresses. So at the fitting on Tuesday, I snapped a photo of my fit model, Ila, working it. I thought she looked HOT! She was the epitome of Fine & Dandy mixed with a little Smooth Criminal.

On this Saturday past, I met one of my sister's old friends from her junior high school days who happens to be a true artisan. We were celebrating Ashanti's 30th birthday at BLT Burger when I noticed Minkie (that's her name) carrying the most chic clutch handbag. When she admitted that she was the designer responsible for it, the wheels in my head immediately started turning. She didn't know this, but I had designed a bag to accompany the looks for this collection and had priced it out at a couple of manufacturers here in New York. It was just too exorbitant and it seemed like I might not have the good fortune to use one of my original designs. But I am positive that Minkie coming into my life at this time is kismet. I am bursting with anticipation to see the final product.
Yesterday, I placed a followup call to Gabourey's stylist, Linda M., who is out on the west coast. I was a little nervous - partly because I would really LOVE to dress Gabourey. And also because in the past when I've tried to make celebrity connections, I have often been met with the sound of crickets (SILENCE). So imagine my surprise when within a half hour Linda returned my call. Apparently, she never got our previous emails and calls so she asked me to send another email with images. Again, Ashanti crafted a great pdf presentation. Linda & I spoke again today and she seems to really want to work with me. The possibilities of a collaboration of this nature are endlessly positive. But I am trying to keep my cool. But wouldn't it be great to see Gabourey walking down the red carpet in one of my custom designed dresses?! Boy, am I happy that after almost 12 years in the trenches, I can still dream.
Peace & Fashion!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How Precious

Late last year I wrote about how I wanted to dress Gabourey Sidibe, the lead actress from the film "Precious" (, for the upcoming awards season. With her full figure, she may seem like an unlikely celebrity for me to have a fervent desire to clothe, but her spirit, confidence, and talent are an intoxicating persuasion. Besides, I embrace the curvy girl because of the beautifully robust women who populate my family and my circle of friends. So after I called the film's distributor, Lionsgate, in California and was able to procure her manager's contact info, Ashanti, my company's marketing & communications director, immediately drafted an email that included sketches and photos of my work. About a week or so passed and we heard nothing, so Ashanti began to call. When Gabourey's manager did respond, she wrote in an email that she had forwarded the images to the star's stylist. Fortunately, she included the stylist's name. Unfortunately, she did not include the stylist's contact info. After several Google searches failed to yield that information, I turned to my diva friend Josette who is a fabulous public relations pro. But even with her access to industry-specific search engines, she could not track down the stylist. But she did find an online resource that charged a nominal fee that might produce the missing morsel of information we so desperately needed. Armed with my debit card, I dutifully registered as a user of the site. As soon as I was allowed access, I typed in the stylist's name and up popped her email and her phone number. BINGO! Even her list of celebrity clients, which, of course, included Gabourey, was revealed. So Ashanti crafted another email and away it went. A week passed and we still heard nothing. Silence really is quite common, but after almost 12 years in the industry I still find it unnerving. While we waited for the stylist, Linda M., to respond to us, I discovered that Gabourey and the film's director, Lee Daniels, were to give a discussion at The New York Times event space. How serendipitous! I immediately bought 2 tickets online. I began to visualize how Gabourey and I would meet and become fast friends and how she would trust me the way my sister does to create glamorous frocks for her. And she would wear my gowns exclusively the way Renee Zellweger wears Carolina Herrera. Talk about an active imagination! But there was work to be done. Ashanti and I collectively decided that she would wear the denim gown I designed for her last year since we were proposing gown designs for Gabourey. Never mind the talk was to take place at 12 in the afternoon. It would certainly make a statement! We really didn't know if we would be given the opportunity to approach her, but we were stepping out on faith. Caught up in a crazy schedule, I forgot to actually put a package together to give her. So late Friday, the night before the discussion, I culled together sketches and fabric swatches and made plans to race and have color copies of 6 of my most elegant designs made and place them in matte boards so that they would resemble works of art. I ran to Staples and to the art supply store and hailed a cab to get back to Staples to pick up the copies. I made it to The New York Times auditorium in record time. Ashanti was already sitting in the front row resplendent in my gown. We tied the 6 works of art together in a scarlet grosgrain ribbon and anxiously awaited the arrival of Lee and Gabourey. They received a standing ovation before the lively and informative discussion began. Gabourey was every bit of the down-to-earth starlet I had watched on Oprah, Jay Leno, and Live with Regis & Kelly. And I found Lee's outlook on things similar to mine. When the discussion was opened up for questions from the audience, I quickly walked to the mic. Although I was last to speak, I feel like I brought a distinct quality to what I had to say. "Good Afternoon," I started. "My name is Wilbur. I am a fashion designer and I want to dress YOU, Gabourey." She answered with a good-natured confidence, "Yeah, you do." After I directed my question to Lee, I made my way back to my seat as his eyes followed me to my front row perch. The talk was over and after a few light bulbs flashed with star, director, and moderator being snapped in front of the New York Times signage, audience members clamored to the stage to get closer glimpses and autographs. I handed the package to Gabourey who remembered my name and thanked me. And out to a cordoned-off area she disappeared.

I am not sure what the outcome will be. I've tried every possible avenue I can think of. But if Gabourey does decide to wear something I've designed, it will be one of my life's most "precious" moments.

Peace & Fashion!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Be Patient

I'd wanted to do a presentation during fashion week next month. Not a runway show because that would be way too much to tackle. But some kind of an installation at an art space. I wanted to invite the fashion press and some select celebrities and anyone who reads this that's interested in the circus called New York Fashion Week. It would have been akin to a debutante ball formally presenting me to the fashion scene and igniting interest. "Who is Wilbur?" would no longer be a question on the lips of those in the know. Retailers are really impressed by that sort of thing anyway. "Did you do anything during fashion week?" and "What press has the line received?" are questions that store buyers often ask before they check out your stuff. My clothes could look like shit, but if Jennifer Aniston is wearing them, then it's HOT shit. Yet even for a small presentation, there are a lot of puzzle pieces that must fit together properly for it to really work. First, I need the clothes. And they are coming along nicely, but I am still trying to figure out how I am going to pay for all 8 or 9 looks. I thank all of you who made donations totaling $345, but today George, my tailor, handed me a bill for $1270. GASP! So there is definitely a shortage. What is Lotto up to today? After that, I needed a FREE space. I spoke to my friend, whom I will refer to as The Russian who recently unveiled the fruits of his labor - a beautifully renovated grand loft space in NoHo. Renowned in Russian art circles, his gallery would have been perfect. Unfortunately, he turned me down cold because I could not guarantee him that the people attending my affair would be potential art patrons. And I guess he needs to make a living as much as the rest of us do. My Plan B space may not be available either, so that news really put a damper on things. I would also need a fashion public relations company to handle all of the inviting and making sure the Who's Who Glitterati made appearances making me look like a really important, not-as-young-as-I-used-to-be, emerging designer. I did reach out to several over the holidays and only 2 responded back to me. One woman said she was going away on vacation and she would review my online materials once she returned from holiday. The other company, during a conference call, conducted a fierce interrogation asking a lot of who, what, when, where, why, and how questions making me feel like my reasons for wanting to do something during fashion week were criminal. After the interrogation which spanned numerous emails and 3 phone calls, Nancy & Felix delivered the final blow. They advised me to wait until my company was on more solid ground. Perhaps if I start working with them now to build buzz, I may be ready by September. But my collection needs to have 20 to 30 looks in it. I couldn't tell them that I had a hard enough time getting 9 looks made. At an average of $500 a pop, it is a luxury for me to pursue my dreams. But you know, just when all hope is gone a silver lining seems to come into focus. I guess that's why I decided with this collection each of my dresses would be lined in a slinky, silver silk blend fabric. It seems that a store in Atlanta may be interested in carrying a couple of styles from the spring line on consignment. All thanks to my friend Deirdre who did some investigating down there. So while my ambitious plans for fashion week have been put on the back burner AGAIN, I proceed with cautious optimism as I continue to take small steps toward my goals. At some point, hopefully soon, someone is going to recognize my talent and propel me to the next level. But I've got to remain faithful to my vision and dedicated to my odyssey.

Peace & Fashion!

Sunday, January 3, 2010


As a new year approaches, I always make an assessment of my life. Where am I as a human being? As a fashion designer? What happened this past year that I am proud of and what can I do to improve my life and perhaps the lives of others? I thank God that I am still blessed to be able to pursue my goals and for the wonderful people that support me, challenge me, and propel me forward.

2009 was a year of a few firsts for me. I threw caution to the wind and made the decision to design a line of cocktail dresses. I'd wanted to do a line of more tailored and sexy looks for a little while now. But with things being the way that they are and it being difficult to break into a market crowded with well-known names and faces, I had put that part of my dream on hold. I was informed by an industry expert that what I really wanted to do accounted for less than 20% of consumer dollars and made more sense for me to turn my energies toward a line of tops for the young contemporary/junior market. There it would be less difficult to get my big fashion break. But it never took off the way my business partners and I had hoped. I have not yet found anyone willing to invest in my line of deliciously vibrant, rainbow-hued tops or my brilliant business model to sell them online to digitally astute young women between the ages of 15 & 22. After all, this is where they socialize (twitter anyone?) and share (facebook) and learn (wikipedia). I've gotten far more interest with the dresses than I did with the tops. Experts be damned!
I also started writing this online diary, at the urging of Ashanti & Serosh, my two fashion partners in crime. They felt like people would want to hear more from the man behind the seams. "What you have to say is important," is what they tried to convince me of. I always feel like such a small fish in a big pond in the fashion game and that's probably never going to change. But this blog has given me a voice to share the good times and some of the bad. I've been able to release some of the bad just by sharing it with you. And you've read that so many factors come into play with this industry defined by glamour, smoke & mirrors, and ego. By now you've learned that I am an eternal optimist and feel like my proverbial ship will definitely come in. My entire being feels so connected to this journey and I know the universe will provide the answers to all of my questions. I just have to keep doing what I do so that I can get to where I am supposed to be.

With each collection under my belt, I become more and more confident in my creativity. As I look back and see my growth as a designer, I wonder to myself how I got to this place. I've evolved beyond my own expectations and I know I've got more growing and more learning to do. It is my wish for 2010 that all of you accompany me on this odyssey, every small step of the way, and celebrate my evolution and my maturity. Hey, you may even learn something new about yourself in the process. So Happy New Year and Welcome to 2010! It's going to be great!

Peace & Fashion!