Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What Was He Thinking?

I am just so over the whole genre of celebrity oriented gossip magazines and websites that scream at me from the newsstands and the Internet on the daily. Every time I log onto yahoo or msn or at&t, their home pages have the latest about who did what to whom or who is doing whom or who is done. And I know it's because the general public eats up all that stuff. But don't you think it's gotten a little out of hand?! Poor Sandra Bullock. Poor Elin Woods. Poor me! There used to be a time when there was a certain amount of discretion in life, but because of the times we're living in I know that Heidi Montag has had a head-to-toe makeover thanks to her plastic surgeon. Who is she, anyway? And why is her plastic surgery fodder for us non-celebrities? I'm just saying! And when did we become so perfect that we could judge people who have fallen from grace. Has it gotten so bad where we have nothing better to do than to rake others over the coals in order to make ourselves feel better? It's just sad. Or maybe I'm missing out on all the benefits and pleasures of celebrity gossip. But when the paparazzi comes knocking at my door, I'm just gonna invite them in so that they can get flattering shots. In my mind, I am already a celebrity. It will only be a matter of time before some of you are tearing me down, too. But you won't have to wonder, "What was he thinking?"

Peace & Fashion!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

No Romance Without Finance

I've been journaling my odyssey for a little more than a year now. And I've divulged some pretty personal and intimate details about myself and my life. But now it's time to come clean. No more secrets. I have a romantic view of my life. Okay. There. I said it. I love a great romantic comedy like It Happened One Night or You've Got Mail or Notting Hill. And I guess I fancy myself a character from one of those movies where the music crescendos at the end and everything and everyone is beautiful & happy. But the truth is my life is a far cry from a romantic comedy. I am struggling with trying to find new ways to finance my dream besides robbing from Peter to pay Paul. And I am tired of dealing with fashion industry crazies who appear to be one way when I first meet them making lovely promises and then pulling back as I reach out to take them up on their offers. And I am just frustrated with working so diligently only to feel like I am running in place. Sure, you might say, "Cry me a river!" And it's the truth. My story is no different from anyone else's. It's called life. So I just try to bite my lip. . . without chewing it off. I've read stories about successful people who have achieved the American dream like Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey and they don't seem any smarter than me. But they sure have a lot more money than I do. Don't get me wrong, even in a romantic comedy, money isn't everything. But it would make my life a helluva lot easier. So I am calling on all of you to stage an intervention for me. I need to break my addiction to romantic comedies. I am still trying to take this journey one step at a time without basing each step on the the contrived fairytales that Meg & Julia & Claudette have starred in. And if I've learned anything over this last year, I've learned that there is no such thing as romance without finance.

Peace & Fashion!

Monday, March 22, 2010

This One's For You

So many times over the past 11 years, I have been encouraged and complimented on my fashions by family and friends. But whenever I hear someone praise my designs who is not related to me or who knows me personally, it is a real treat and an indicator that I've done something outstanding that I can be proud of. This Monday past, I received a lovely email from Marge who happens to be a curvy girl. She is dying to see the sketches that I created for Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe and admits that it is difficult to find flattering contemporary designs for the woman over a size 12 that are not frumpy or scream, "Here comes the fat lady!". And she really loved the dress I designed for the Mad Fashionista. Now I am about to let you in on a little secret. The dress that the Mad Fashionista received from me was not specifically designed for her. It was actually a design from my Fine & Dandy collection for Fall 2011. I made a minor adjustment by adding sleeves, but basically it was constructed exactly as I had designed it. So for all you larger lovelies who are reading this, just because you see a thin diva wearing a certain dress doesn't mean that it won't look good on you, too. The proof is in the pudding.

I honestly do love designing for women of every size. But the industry is segregated and you must do plus sexy (to borrow a term from my friend and fellow designer, Qristyl Frazier) separate from 0 -12. It confuses retailers and, unfortunately, alienates the small boned consumer if you offer a line, God forbid, in sizes ranging from 0-22. And maybe it's not smart, anyway. Each segment of the market comes with their own set of rules and demands. But I digress. Because Marge was so lovely and personable, I am going to finally share the sketches for Gabourey. I think I was holding back from the big reveal because it was an almost moment that did not materialize. I'd wanted to dress Gabourey for the Oscars SO badly and when it didn't happen I was really disappointed. And maybe this is the way for me to move on. So if you'd like to weigh in, then please leave a comment. Marge, this one's for you.

Peace & Fashion!

Friday, March 19, 2010

How Do I Look?

Each morning I try to read an inspirational passage from the Daily Word. My mother started reading them to my brother and me as kids and now before I brush my teeth, sometimes after, I will pick it up and take a moment for pause. It helps me to start my day on the right note. Today's passage was about beauty, it's passing quality, and staying connected to a higher power so that you do not base your worth on something that is bound to fade. And it's all quite paradoxical for those of us who find ourselves in the business of beauty. After all, advertising and media would have us believe that if we don't wear the right make up, dress the right way, or weigh a certain amount then we are all destined to be unhappy losers. But I try to put out a different message. Beauty really is an attribute that should emanate from within. And my dresses should be a way to express your inner beauty. I am not here to make anyone believe that if they slip into one of my dresses it will magically transform you from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan - contrary to what those makeover shows teach you. Really, you've got to have confidence and be lovely on the inside to pull it all off. Because if you don't, it doesn't matter how stunning you are on the outside. You will soon be found out. And everyone will see you for what you really are - ugly to the bone.
Peace & Fashion!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

An Offer I Can Refuse

On this Sunday past, I received an email from A.J., a fashion blogger and writer. She was interested in featuring pieces from my spring collection in a story for an online magazine called Liberating Style. I was flattered. I perused her blog and the webzine to make sure it was a quality publication that I would want to be associated with. It was well done. And besides, I thought it would also increase my audience. So I responded. I needed to know readership and hits and what she wanted from me. She requested the look book and provided the site's stats that I asked for. I promptly emailed the look book to her. When she wrote back she explained that the editors had scrapped the idea of the story for Liberating Style and told me that they would run photos from the look book with style descriptions. But she did offer me a consolation prize of being featured on another site she wrote for. Although I was disappointed, I thought, "Why not?!" And after speaking to Ashanti, I was convinced. A.J. told me that all she needed now were a couple of my samples. After all, they could not recommend a designer without first seeing the workmanship and construction of the garments. In closing, she said that they had no policy with regards to returning the samples. I then explained to her in the following email that although they had no policy with returning samples, the way it was going to work was that we would charge her for the shipping & handling and the samples and once she returns them in pristine condition, we would be able to credit her for the samples. She then wrote back saying that since her company does not require payment for featuring designs like print magazines do, they then require that they get to keep all samples at no charge. She also implied that because they have a wide audience I should be fine with giving my dresses away for free. I was really quite outdone by her boldness and obvious entitlement and I had to spell things out for her. Below is my final response.
I am well aware of the influence of webzines as well as print media as I have been featured many times in both mediums. And because of my vast experience over the last 11 years in the fashion business, I am a little troubled by your policy. Perhaps I should explain that it takes a substantial amount of capital and hard work to bring my designs to life. A great deal of detail goes into the selection of fabrics, trim, and construction and I am not in the practice of giving my gifts away for free. When you approached me first about the feature in Liberating Style I was very flattered indeed, as I did state this in my reply. But then you told me that you would only be using the images I sent you with detailed descriptions of each style and not featuring me in an editorial capacity as you first had stipulated. Although I was a little disappointed, I assumed you did not find my pieces edgy enough for editorial. And you did offer to write a piece about me on the Models & Moguls site as somewhat of a consolation. And now it seems that you want me to send you my dresses for free? What is the guarantee that you will even write something favorable about me once you receive them? Did all the designers that you feature on the site, such as Prabal Gurung, send you samples from their lines for you to keep? Something sounds fishy with this arrangement. So, unfortunately, I am going to have to decline your offer. But when I show during NY Fashion Week in September, I'd love for you to come as my guest. You will then get a bird's eye view of how well the dresses are constructed and that they also fit to a t.

Selling my soul to the devil was never part of my business plan when I started on this career path. And this devil wasn't even camouflaged in an A-list publication like Vogue. I have sacrificed way too much to get to this point. And I need to honor my dream and all the hard work and money I've put into it. Not give it away.

Peace & Fashion!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Raw Side of Fashion

Fashion really is all smoke and mirrors. What is presented to the public is an airbrushed image of fashion. Behind the scenes before all the imperfections are erased, it can sometimes get ugly and gritty. And that is a far cry from the glamour of the catwalk and ritziness of tony emporiums like Bergdorf Goodman and Barney's New York. Admittedly, I was drawn to fashion because of its beauty. And I am still entranced by its heady mix of creativity, personality, and gloss.
This Saturday past was a culmination of several months of hard work, sacrifice, sweat, and worry. But when I saw the raw photos from our shoot before the sheen of photoshop had made them slick & magazine-ready, I felt more grateful for having the opportunities to live my dream. Because despite the imperfections and the bumps, I'm doing it. Almost twelve years ago, my cousin, Leroy, urged me to, "Just Do It!" I was making excuses afraid that I didn't have the chops (or the skills) to cut it in fashion. And I am still not sure if I do. But I have found something that makes my heart race and energizes and excites me. So I think I am pretty lucky. And that is the truth.
Today we launched the revamped company site, so check out I think our new web designer (who also happens to be a really talented photographer), Jeffrey French, did a remarkable job. And a select group of dresses from the spring collection are now being carried at Rhinoceros in Atlanta. So if you are down in the dirrty, dirrty check out the store. There is still more work to be done so I am just going to continue living my dream. No matter how raw it gets.
Peace & Fashion!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Oscar Who?

Last night, I, like millions of others, watched the Academy Awards presentation on ABC. And I was really pleased with many of the choices that the A-list actresses and their stylists made. And I'd like to begin with my favorite for the evening. Jennifer Lopez. She was an absolute vision in Armani Prive. And no other actress could hold a candle to her in that frothy & dreamy pale pink confection. Other standouts included Amanda Seyfried (also in Armani Prive), Demi Moore, Queen Latifah, best actress winner Sandra Bullock, and Penelope Cruz.
Not to be outdone by the drama of the Oscars, I had my own fashion-filled weekend. Saturday was the photo shoot for the look book for my fall collection Fine & Dandy. All of the members of Team Wilbur were assembled at the designated space at the designated time. That is - all except for one. After about an hour had passed and there was no sign of our second model, I began to panic. I had created a story for two women. I had prepared and drawn a story board to keep my photographer and I focused on each frame set up. I also came prepared with shoes and dresses and jewelry and hats and make up styles for 2 different women. Ashanti called her, but went directly to voice mail. About half an hour later, Ashanti texted the missing mannequin and then we waited. Finally she responded writing that she had been up very late the night before and was feeling sick and she was sorry she would not be able to make it. But please have an amazing day! After I yelled and screamed, I went into Make It Work mode. Because we had hired everyone and secured the space, I couldn't very well reschedule. As my mother used to say, "One monkey don't stop the show!" So we photographed Alexis wearing all the pieces. It took us a lot longer to finish, but judging from the raw images that I have seen already, it was a smashing success. . . luckily.
On Sunday, before I sat slumped in my easy chair like a typical couch potato glued to the Oscar program, I attended The Queens Fashion Week wrap up. I net-worked the crowd, was interviewed for a local program complete with television camera and reporter and had a model photographed wearing one of my signature looks. As awesome as it all was, I was happy when it was over and I could rush home to my cave. Because sometimes it is more fun to be in your sweats observing fashion from the sideline than to be in the thick of it.
Peace & Fashion!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Point, Click, and Shoot

I haven't been writing much about the photo shoot that's going to take place this Saturday. I've been diligently and quietly working on all the details. Yes me - QUIET. Did I mention we also have someone updating our website to reflect the new direction with the dresses? And we are about to ship a small order of the spring collection to Rhinoceros - a tres chic boutique located in Buckhead, an upscale neighborhood in Atlanta. So please forgive me if I am a little distracted. But I've got nothing but love for you.

We were supposed to conduct a casting this Sunday past, but we really didn't get enough of a response from models, so we cancelled. Thank God for Queens Fashion Week where I was able to meet some lovelies who are enthusiastic about working with us on this shoot. And by the end of the week, I should have all the pieces delivered in pristine condition by my tailor, George. We're still short on cash, but I know the universe is not gonna let me go out like that. And I'm treating our shortage like a non-issue. I gotta have faith that it will all work out. But yesterday, I was singing a different tune as I stressed about where our windfall was going to come from. I even had trouble sleeping. But I am moving on. So many opportunities seem to be coming our way. And I am just going to focus on that. It truly has been a long time coming. And with each one, I will keep you in the loop.

Peace & Fashion!