Thursday, March 31, 2011

Literary and Fashion Adventures

Maybe a month or so ago, I finished reading a book that my mother bought decades earlier and has held onto all these years.  Its paperback cover is battered and mended with thick clear tape and the pages are yellowed and whisper thin.  Five Smooth Stones was published in 1966 and the story takes place during the turbulent Civil Rights Era.

It was my sister who first pulled the novel from my mother's "library" and began reading.  Each time we were together she would expound on the book's virtues stressing how it was a must read and that I would be reading it next.  I love my baby sister probably more than any brother should, but she can be pushy at times.  Yet in this case, as in most, her strong hand was greatly appreciated.  Five Smooth Stones is a triumphant tale of how love can overcome the worst odds, but I was stunned and completely thrown off-guard at the book's conclusion.   In fact, the night that I finished the book I found it difficult to fall asleep.  I had been drawn into the narrative and had come to know the characters like they were my friends.  Feeling their pain, my mind was crowded with their tribulations and disappointments.  The book candidly holds a mirror up to the history of our country exposing some of the ugliness of years past.  In fact, the author's true identity has been carefully guarded even to this day because the publisher feared she would suffer almost certain retaliation.  It is not "light" reading, but it certainly deserves a closer look.

Tomorrow evening is my final fitting with the legendary Lonette McKee before her almost month-long run at the historic Algonquin Hotel begins next Tuesday, April 5.  I am psyched and excited for her.  I am positive that she will not only be putting on a great show, but she'll be looking great doing it. And you know when music & fashion converge, magic happens.  Make sure you come out and watch the magic happen.

Peace & Fashion!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The BIG Reveal

Poster for "Sparkle"
Over the last few weeks, I have been writing about the amazing opportunity that I've been given to design a look for a legendary entertainer/actress/singer.  She is staging a comeback of sorts since being absent from the public eye for a few years.  She caught my eye as a little boy of 9 when I saw her on the silver screen playing a beautiful and sexy, yet tragic character in an all girl singing group.  That film was Sparkle and the actress whose beauty hypnotized me was Lonette McKee.
Lonette McKee in "Sparkle" mesmerizes

Gregory Hines & Lonette McKee in "The Cotton Club"
I've followed Lonette's career since then watching her stellar performances in the Oprah Winfrey produced television miniseries The Women Of Brewster Place, Spike Lee's Jungle Fever, Alex Haley's Queen television miniseries where she co-starred with Halle Berry, and in the Francis Ford Coppola directed The Cotton Club among many others.  So I am honored to now become a part of her history as she takes her rightful place in the spotlight again at The Algonquin Hotel for what is sure to be a fantastic evening.  Performances in the Oak Room begin April 5 and run through April 30.  There you will witness this very down-to-earth woman belt out some classic songs and command the room like the seasoned showbiz veteran that she is while you get a very good look at my creation.  It's an event you really should NOT miss.

Peace & Fashion!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Meeting with my Peers

Writer, Daryl Sturgis
On last Wednesday, I met an old friend for lunch.  It seemed like forever since we'd seen each other, but once we started  chatting the time gap quickly closed.  Daryl (that's his name) was part of the life I shared with my ex-.  For some reason, a lot of the people from my past life are missing from my current existence.  I am not sure how that happens; it just does.  Anyway, Daryl and I were reminiscing about old times and catching up on the new stuff.  He is now a self-published author and blogger.  His writing style blows me away and I love his voice.  I haven't read his book yet, but I am going to have to get a copy to read in my spare time.  For those of you who cannot  commit to the time investment necessary for reading a book, follow his blog at It's thought provoking and insightful.  And it gives me the kind of motivation I need to finish my memoir.

Puttin' On The Ritz - Wilbur's Design
Last Thursday I met with my friend Brandon Atherley, stylist to the stars, to go over details for the construction of the look I've designed for the legendary entertainer/actress/singer.  The time is winding down before she takes the stage for her triumphant return to the spotlight and we needed to fine tune the details so that she looks nothing less that SMASHING.  Tomorrow we will begin to fit the garment on her body.  She's been such a pleasure over the phone and via email that I imagine our face-to-face meet-up will be like that of two old friends who haven't seen each other in a very long time.  I'm so psyched!

After Mr. B, as I often refer to him, and I finished with the minutiae of our collaboration we found ourselves discussing, oddly enough, the world of fashion.  I am sure the topic comes as no surprise, but what did surprise me is that we have very similar opinions where the fashion glitterati are concerned.  We are both attracted to the glamour and fabulousness of a world that includes Donatella Versace and Marc Jacobs and Stella McCartney.  But in the midst of such fashion royalty, the drawbacks of existing in that kind of universe are quite apparent.  Smoke & mirrors are only a part of the issue.  This world has a veneer of fakeness and also seems to thrive on bitterness.  Brandon has attended collections in Europe and I've attended some here in NYC and we've both observed how unpretty fashion can be.  So while we both sometimes wish to be mentioned in the company of such esteemed talent, we understand that being a part of that world means selling a piece of our respective souls to the devil.  And neither one of us are ready to make that deal. . .yet.

Peace & Fashion!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Don't Hate!

Okay, so it is time for me to come clean.  Earlier in my career, not that long ago, I would analyze the careers of some of my more established colleagues.  And I'd compare their seemingly meteoric rise to fashion stardom with my plight as I continued to languish in fashion anonymity.  Struggling to find creative ways to finance my dream, my reality was the cause of much consternation.  How had the young cat with the curly hair made such a splash and become the new darling of Seventh Avenue?  Why wasn't it my creations that magazines and store buyers and celebrities spoke of so impassionately?  Secretly, I wanted all the adoration and riches that young designers like him enjoyed and the fact that I had been passed over plagued me.  I thought I was as talented, if not more so.  I had integrity.  And I listened to all the constructive criticism that was provided by industry vets.  But the brass ring was still handed off to others.  "Damn them," I thought.

As I get older, I get wiser.  Now, I no longer compare myself to anyone else.  My path is unique and it is all mine.  I realize that all the riches and blessings in store for me are meant for me.  And me alone.  The current darlings of Fashion Avenue may have surpassed me for the time being, but we all know who won that race between the tortoise and the hare.  And I don't feel like I have to measure myself against the golden children of fashion.  I just want to be my best.  No more hating!  And I am moving along at my own winning pace.

Peace & Fashion!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What About Me?

My 30th B'day Costume Party - 1997
This blog provides me with a platform to share my triumphs and disappointments where my fashion odyssey is concerned.  I've also weighed in on elements of pop culture that have excited me or caused me to take a second look in disbelief.  Since I first introduced myself to you via this format, I have remained dedicated to actualizing my dreams for fashion success.  It is unfortunate, however, that I became so involved in my mission that I neglected some rituals that are important for my personal well-being.  And one of those habits was my almost daily workouts at the gym.  They began to taper off without much thought.  One day less wouldn't make much difference, I reasoned.  And then it became two days less each week. My work load which included writing the blog, networking, constructing accessories, running around Manhattan for fittings and meetings, and conference calls, in addition to my necessary employment at the plantation, wore me out.  But I felt I was doing what was needed to ensure my future success.  I was disillusioned after the completion of each collection when the results did not match the effort or energy I expended.  Before I knew it, my gym time had dwindled to none.

Celebrating at a birthday party - 2011

I've always loved eating cakes, cookies, donuts, ice cream, etc.  As I began indulging my rapacious sweet tooth with total abandon, I started to pack on the pounds.  They attached to my frame gradually.  A pound here.  A couple there.  I could excuse my widening waistline with a wave of my hand.  But now, after looking at recent photos, I feel like it's a critical time and I need to take action.  Last time I saw my doctor, he even advised me to lose weight.  That had never happened before.

This week I started my early morning workouts again.  My 4 a.m. wake-up call is tough, but the hours after I leave the plantation are filled with commitments for my odyssey.  I wish there was somebody who could do the workouts while I reap the benefits, but that is about as likely to happen (and possible) as John Galliano being reinstated as the creative director at Christian Dior.  In actuality, I have a sense of accomplishment after I step off the treadmill and elliptical machines each morning knowing that I am getting into better physical shape.  Finding a balance between my odyssey and my personal life is the key to my happiness and improved health.  I love fashion too much to let it kill me.

Peace & Fashion!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Big Girls Are Beautiful, Too!

Okay, so this Friday past I posted my personal views (How You Like Her Now?) about Jennifer Hudson's drastic weight loss.  Many of you who follow the blog on Facebook weighed in with very insightful observations and strong opinions.  Some of you agreed with me while others believe that secretly many women who are a size 14 or more would trade in their curves to live their lives as skinny J-Hud clones.

Amber Riley
Amber Riley
I cannot begin to fully comprehend all the pressures that women face on the daily to fit into our narrow ideas of beauty.  Once upon a time, only fair-skinned women were considered beautiful.  And then our tastes evolved and now we consider women of darker hues just as comely.  And a long time ago, back in the 16th century, a vanguard Flemish artist  created THE standard of feminine beauty when he painted portraits of women who were plump and attractive. His name was Peter Paul Rubens.  And the term rubenesque was born.

I love women who are small, medium, or large.  I love women of all ethnicities.  And I love women who are confident and have a healthy sense of humor. But right now I am most concerned about full-figured women who aren't always validated as beautiful, sexy, and intelligent beings.  So I've presented images of some of my favorite glamorous celebrities who really seem to embrace their curves.  Without remorse.

Peace & Fashion!
Queen Latifah
Queen Latifah
Queen Latifah
Recording Artist - Adele
Ashley Fink

Amber Riley

Peter Paul Rubens - The Three Graces

Thursday, March 10, 2011

How You Like Her Now?

Jennifer Hudson is on the cover of the latest issue of Essence magazine.  In fact, as of late, it has been difficult to overlook the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and Academy Award winning actress and Grammy Award winning singer since she became the latest celebrity spokesperson for Weight Watchers.  J-Hud's svelte new figure is featured prominently in print ads and can be seen gracing billboards all over New York City. Her commercials for the weight loss brand are in heavy rotation on network television and last month she discussed her dramatic weight loss (80 lbs.!) during an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show.  But there is something that I find disturbing about all this attention being paid to her now size 6 frame.

I remember first catching a glimpse of Jennifer on American Idol.  I thought she was beautiful and talented.  Unabashed by her robust figure, when she performed she commanded the attention of her audience.  And she seemed to own her killer curves.  She was dismissed from the competition too soon, in my opinion, but shortly thereafter she resurfaced as a movie star winning acclaim for her role as Effie White in the film "Dreamgirls".  Each time she graced the red carpet, people took note that she was a beautiful, curvy girl who was stylish, graceful, and gave a lot of fashion fabulosity.

But now it appears that Jennifer has become just another pawn in the celebrity game who has bought into Hollywood's conventional definition of beauty.  It was revealed that she needed to shed weight in order to portray Winnie Mandela in a yet-to-be released film.  Since she gained weight and won an Oscar, I thought losing weight might bring her the same acclaim.  But then she continued with the program, her waist whittled down several inches, the evidence of its former girth only believable because of old photos circulating the Internet.  While no one wants to be considered fat, I do feel that the celebration of Jennifer's transformation is a slap in the face of every curvy woman who struggles with self-esteem and image issues.  We hold women, in particular, to a higher standard without considering the ramifications of all our judgements. Don't get me wrong, I applaud Jennifer's dedication to her weight loss program and exercise regimen, but she was just as lovely when she was a size 16.  My wish is that we are more accepting of ourselves and others who may look less-than-perfect from the outside.  Because beauty flows from within, no matter what the scale says.

Peace & Fashion!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Star Wattage

My friend HOWARD
I've known Howard for a minute.  He's tried to convince me that he came into my sphere back when I was a kid going to dance school.  But I don't really remember that.  He used to hang tight with my cousin Lamesha back in the day.  He's also vacationed with my mother and aunt when they flew to New Orleans for the Essence Music Festival.  So he's pretty much an integral part of the family dynamic.  This weekend he sent me a message on facebook informing me that a legendary actress/singer/entertainer was looking for a New York based fashion designer who would provide her with an original look for her "comeback" engagement at a renowned NYC area hotel.  "Wow," I thought, "it sure would be cool to work with her."  I remember, as a kid, falling in love with her after I watched her movie portrayal of a tragic member of a soul singing girl group consisting of three sisters.  It is believed to have provided inspiration for the Broadway musical Dreamgirls.  On that screen, she was beautiful and glamorous and sexy and my eyes were immediately drawn to her.  I watched her career progress as she starred in movies, television miniseries, and had lead roles on Broadway.  So I immediately banged out a message introducing myself and pressed send.  I was surprised when I heard back from her almost immediately.  After a couple of back and forth emails, we chatted on the telephone.  And her down-to-earth disposition was so refreshing.  In a matter of three days, I have designed something that blurs the line between masculine and feminine, she's approved it, and I've already met with my friend Brandon who will be overseeing the construction.  As we move full steam ahead, I will keep you posted on more of the intimate details.  And stay tuned for the big reveal when I disclose her name and her outfit as the opening of her cabaret show draws nearer.

Peace & Fashion

Thursday, March 3, 2011

AdDRESSing Fashion

Spring 2012 Preview

I am doing what I do, as my 5-year old nephew says, by diligently working on the sketches of the collection for Spring 2012.  I know it seems really far away, but time is swiftly moving.  And this coming season I need to be ready.

My nephew NILE

I've named this collection Out Of The Dark because it reflects triumph over disappointment.  It's about my emergence from my blue period and how I am beginning to see the light of promise.  The silhouettes are crisp, yet easy and the colors (onyx, cocoa, dove grey, cream, and tomato) are fairly subdued.  There's not a whole lot of embellishment, but an interesting mix of textures and fabrics.

I am standing on the universe's promises that I will obtain all that I need to translate this collection from paper to reality and that the stores will finally be ready to embrace my aesthetic.  That is my prayer and that is what gives me the vitality and the spirit to press on.  So stay tuned. . .

Peace & Fashion!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Dealio

Sheila Rule
I am in the midst of writing my memoir.  My friends Sheila Rule and Marcia Fingal, whom I hold in incredibly high esteem, have given me such invaluable input and I've called on them on several occasions for their expertise.  After over twenty years, Sheila retired from her career as a journalist for The New York Times newspaper to begin the second chapter of her life as the owner of Resilience Multimedia, a publishing company that gives voice to the plight of  the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated.  Marcia, a  graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in journalism, is righting the wrongs of social injustice through her work as a documentary filmmaker as she continues her career as a commercial model.

Marcia Fingal & Wilbur
Although some of their comments have been tough with very little consideration paid to my delicate artist's ego, I know that they are dispensed with the purest of intentions.  My ladies want to see me write the best book  I possibly can.  And I am grateful for that.  They have challenged me to go deep and dig through some of the unpleasant memories of my past.  But I've also been able to relive so many of  the moments when I've experienced joy or felt a sense of accomplishment.

Someone asked me why did I think my memoir will be a book that people will want to read.  And while I don't think that my life is extraordinary, I believe that I have a fine way of telling a story.  Besides, my experiences speak to the experiences of many who have dreamed a different, more fulfilled life for themselves, who have mustered the courage to pursue those dreams, and who have weathered the storms - those obstacles that, in the end, strengthen our resolve so that we become better, more resilient individuals.  I would like to have the book completed by summer's end so that I can begin to see if there is interest at some of the established publishing houses.  Even if I have to self-publish, it is a story I look forward to sharing with all of you.

Peace & Fashion!