A 10-year-old girl from Queens, NY was constantly being bullied about her weight, and decided to put her sewing machine to work and designed a plus-size clothing line that debuted at New York Fashion Week.
Egypt Ufele, Ify for short, says she was inspired to start designing clothes after she was bullied at school. Ify told the Today Show that she wanted to turn the “negative attention into positive attention,” by embracing her style and creativity to start her own fashion line for people of all shapes and sizes.
Ify’s Instagram account is aptly called bullychasers, and she named her line “Chubiiline” to not only embrace herself, but also to make the world realize, chubby isn’t negative. To see video of Ufele and her story, click here:
Those of you dismayed by the backlash against university activism might wish that you’d attended an institution named after your favorite Black thinker, inventor or writer. Now, a new apparel line gives you the next best thing.
Philadelphia-based screen printing company Philadelphia Printworks just released the “School of Thought” collection, which features sweatshirts from fictional universities bearing the names of Black leaders. The company describes the inspiration behind the collection on their Facebook page:
The “School of Thought” collection, designed by Mars Five and Philadelphia Printworks, imagines a different world where colleges and institutions have been established based on the philosophies of Marcus Garvey, Audre Lorde, Ida B. Wells, Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver and James Baldwin. The collection represents the double consciousness experienced by African diaspora in America and creates a safe space for the praxis of liberation.
DesignerMars Five, whose real name is Donte Neal, elaborated in a statement emailed to Colorlines:
From a graphic design perspective, I’ve always appreciated the visual aesthetics of universities, colleges and similar institutions. I believe we all apply and belong to our own particular schools of thought. Though sometimes multiple, conflicting or harmonious, these theoretical institutions are where we take responsibility for our own educations. Where we craft our social, political and economical morals and values. In collaboration with Philadelphia Printworks, my goal was to give these schools a manifested and wearable pride.
The company’s other products explore similar progessive and anti-racist themes, with shirts reading “Assata is Welcome Here” and “No Justice No Peace.” Check out the “School of Thought” lookbook here.
Harlem’s Fashion Row has become a New York Fashion Week standard.
Founded and conceived by Brandice Henderson-Daniel, Harlem’s Fashion Row, known as HFR, held their 8th annual award and fashion show to lead off NYFW on Sept 10. A sea of people dressed in their most chic attires took over Chelsea Piers.
Some women stepped out in high-split bodycon dresses with sweetheart necklines, while others strutted in bright halter top jumpers.
But what made this scene different than many other packed New York Fashion Week events was the overflow of mahogany and brown faces congregating to support a group of entrepreneurs and creative minds that are widely overlooked.
Over the last 8 years, the event has become a hub where black celebrities and the black fashion elite collide, bringing together entertainers such as Sheryl Lee Ralph, Mary J. Blige and cultural influencers like Emil Wilbekin and Michaela Angela Davis.
One of the goals of HFR is to elevate and showcase up-and-coming designers of color. Most new designers struggle with finding the necessary funding to launch a line and what you’ll find here is a community that not only celebrates one another’s drive and goals, but one that also puts their money where their mouth is.
“Today we have fewer designers than we did in the 70s,” said Tai Beauchamp, host of TLC’s Dare to Wear. “What it really boils down to is financing and funding. The reality is that these designers have the talent and the will and the desire, but often times there aren’t any resources to do it.”
Davis noted that it’s harder for African-Americans to stay in the industry because of the amount of capital it takes to keep a line alive. “It’s not the same as writing or being a painter where you can produce without having a staff. In order to have full collections it takes a tremendous amount of work,” said Davis.
Harlem’s Fashion Row honored multicultural designers and prolific trendsetters, but most importantly, exhibited emerging fashion talent and provided them a platform to further bridge them to the fashion industry.
Tracee Ellis Ross: The Icon
The beautiful, funny and forevermore fashionable Tracee Ellis Ross received the Icon 360 Award. If you’ve followed Ross, especially on the red carpet or on Instagram, you would know that she’s become just as well-known for her bold style as her acting chops. She never shies away from showing off her figure in form fitting, body con dresses and playing with unique patterns and textiles on the red carpet.
Have you ever had trouble finding that perfectly sexy one-piece or tantalizingly comfy bikini to show off your assets in the summer? So did a few designers we met, and they say it was their quest for a curve-contouring swimsuit that drove them to start their own companies.
When it comes to swimwear, these sisters are making waves. From itty-bitty, teeny-weeny string bikinis to formfitting, flattering one-pieces and everything in between, The Root has a list of nine bathing-suit designers who offer something for all shapes and sizes.
1. Tennille McMillan
Tennille McMillan began designing bathing suits in 2012 after fans of her clothing line, Nakimuli, wanted more from the Brooklyn, N.Y.-born and -bred designer. Her suits favor African-inspired prints, and she tells The Root that she has just started designing her own patterns, too, which come in all shapes and sizes. The 34-year-old designer says that Erykah Badu wears her line, as does Danielle Brooks from Orange Is the New Black.
2. Desiree D’Aguiar
Designer Desiree D’Aguiar does only one thing: swimwear. The 25-year-old started her Winifred Taylor label last year. Although D’Aguiar works in Toronto, where she grew up, the beach plays a large role in her life, thanks to her Caribbean roots. D’Aguiar tells The Root she gets her inspiration from artists, using their work to drive her collection. Her next collaboration will be with Tosh Jeffrey.
3. Altrichia Cook
Altrichia Cook is the designer behind the A. Lekay label. She’s been in the swimwear business for two years. The 28-year-old is based in central Florida, where she grew up. Cook tells The Root that her quest for a high-waisted swimsuit that would hide certain imperfections led her to start designing her own. It caught on with her Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority sisters, and the company was born. Nicki Minaj is a fan and wore an exclusive bikini in July’s issue of Cosmopolitan. This year A. Lekay showed its suits during New York Fashion Week.
4. Risque Dukes
Risque Dukes founded her swimwear company of the same name in 2013. It’s based in Miami, which seems like the perfect location for an über-sexy line. The 25-year-old Army veteran tells The Root that she always wanted to be an entrepreneur and designer, so when she couldn’t find a “selfie-worthy” bikini, she decided to design her own. Her current collection includes bikinis featuring prints of Haitian, Bahamian and Jamaican flags. This year Dukes showed her suits during New York Fashion Week.
5. Monif Clarke
Monif Clarke, the designer behind the Monif C. label, is from New Jersey but traces her roots to Barbados, where the 36-year-old gets some of her inspiration for her sexy, bright and tight line of swimwear. She was one of the first to introduce plus-size bikinis five years ago, when she couldn’t find suits she liked that fit her figure. The swimwear line is an offshoot of her clothing line, which started with the “Marilyn” convertible dress and is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
6. Kambili Ofili-Okonkwo
Nigerian designer Kambili Ofili-Okonkwo came up with idea for Kamokini a few years ago while living in England. The 27-year-old tells The Root that she wanted a swimsuit “that would make a woman feel confident when she might be at her most vulnerable.” So she sketched some designs and had them made during a trip to China. She started by selling to friends and family, then last year officially launched her company. Kamokini is a combination of her family name and “bikini.”
7. Marie-Jean Baptiste
New Yorker Marie-Jean Baptiste is the designer behind the Rue107 line, founded four years ago. The name comes from her own Haitian background. The brand, the “home of confidence and curves,” includes swimwear and caters to all sizes. Baptiste weaves the rich and bold colors of her home country into the feminine swimsuits, which she says are perfect for a day at the beach. Baptiste, who was studying nursing before pursuing her passion, tells The Root that her detour only helped her understand even more how to design for the body.
8. Shakedria Mathis
Shakedria Mathis’ swimwear company, 8th & Ocean Swim, was born in 2013 out of her love of travel and her obsession with finding the perfect bikini. She combined the two into the “travel-kini,” which she says is perfect for the “pretty young traveler or PYT, who loves and lives on vacation in a bikini.” The 29-year-old designer hails from Miami but lives and works in New York City.
9. La’Daska Mechelle Powell
La’Daska Mechelle Powell started making swimsuits while in design school in Tampa, Fla., in 2009. One year later she launched her swimwear company, Ladaska Mechelle. The Texas native has designed for the Dallas Stars Ice Girls and Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. She tells The Root that she finds inspiration everywhere and makes most of the suits herself. The 31-year-old now lives and works in New York City.
Always impeccably styled in a button down, creased slacks and dress shoes, Moziah Bridges pins patterns and sews stitches after school. As noted in a promotional descriptor, we can find his youthful fingers on a sewing machine for hours or at least until his mother tells him it’s time for bed. He is young, gifted and Black.
While a fourth grader at Rozelle Elementary School in Downtown Memphis, Bridges started his career as a fashion designer at the age of 9 in June of 2011 with his exclusive line called Mo’s Bows. His creations are aimed “at playground pals and adults alike.” Moziah – “Mo” for short – delivered one of his ties to Fox 13’s bow-tie wearing weatherman Joey Sulipeck, who wore the gift on the air. Since then, Bridges has been a guest on The Steve Harvey Show and has been featured in British GQ, O Magazine, and Forbes.
“Oprah is big,” said Mo. “Nobody is bigger than ‘O’. I thought, ‘this is really cool.’ What kind of kid gets to be in an Oprah magazine?” Mo describes himself as a 12 year-old entrepreneur. Recalling his beginnings just three years ago, he says: “I couldn’t find fun and cool bow ties one day. So I decided to use my granny’s scrap fabric to make and sell my own.”
He adds that he likes to wear bow ties, “because they make me look good and feel good. Designing a colorful bow tie is part of my vision to make the world a fun and happier place.” Tramica Morris, Mo’s mom, said that “Old School” trends as mirrored by his well-dressed dad and grandpa inspired his love for fashion and instilled in her son the importance of dressing for success.
A huge selection of Mo’s bow ties are from his grandmother’s vintage fabric, respective selections of which date back more than 50 years. And it was, in fact, his grandmother who taught him to sew. Mo’s Bows is indeed strongly guided by his mother and grandmother. After stopping by his grandmother’s house to pick out fabric and patterns, he settles down with his mother and grandmother and starts stitching.
“He can sew a bow tie from start to finish,” says Morris in Sayle. “But there are some things he really doesn’t like to do, like the ironing. We’ll do some of that for him.” Says Mo, “I just pick whatever I see. It has to speak to me. It has to be fun. It has to be preppy.” Each bow design has its own name: “Night Magic,” “Beale Street,” “Paper Boy,” “Buster Brown,” and “Think Pink.”
Bridges has earned over $30,000 as of 2013 from his creations. He sells on his own website-accessible Etsy page. Mo’s Bows are also available in upscale boutiques in Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina, and in Arkansas.
After ten weeks of cutting, sewing and styling, South Carolina native Sergio Hudson came out on top as the winner of Rihanna’sStyled To Rock design competition. The pop star, along with judges/mentors Mel Ottenberg, Erin Wasson, and Pharrell Williams, chose the father of three over runner up Laura Petrielli-Pulice from Chicago, for his envelope-pushing aesthetic and strong structuring skills. Hudson walks away with a $100,000 cash prize, a fashion feature in Glamour magazine and a spot on Rihanna’s official design team.
Airing on Bravo, the music-meets-fashion competition series followed 12 up-and-coming coming designers, hand-picked by the pop-star, to create unique fashion pieces for some of the biggest names in entertainment. With celebrity guests such as Miley Cyrus and Kelly Osbourne, the designers experienced demanding real-life challenges, made to push their creative boundaries. Each week, with only a limited time frame, they were asked to create an innovative outfit and complete look based on the celebrities’ detailed brief. In the final challenge, the final two designers had to create two editorial looks specifically for Rihanna. Sergio’s denim ball gown and high-cut denim shorts were the stand out pieces. Continue reading “South Carolina Native Sergio Hudson wins Rihanna’s “Styled To Rock” Design Competition”→
Lameka Weeks founded Height Goddessbecause, simply put, she was sick of settling. For years—decades even—clothing brands and manufacturers have largely ignored the plight of the tall woman. Sure, petites and plus size have dedicated sections and even full stores aplenty, but tall women have had to settle for clothes that don’t fit and don’t flatter for far too long. Height Goddess is a contemporary line for women measuring 5’9” & taller. In 2007, with no formal fashion training,
Weeks sought out to find experienced industry professionals to assist her in developing premium denim for tall women. For over two years, she continuously worked to ensure each style embodied the confidence and beauty of a tall, fashion- forward woman who is innovative and timeless. All of Height Goddess’ garments are designed in house and proportioned for women 5’9″ & taller. Week’s garments are also made in the USA. After a few seasons the collection has grown to include dresses for tall women, tall pants for women and tops for tall women.
Through fashion, Weeks hopes to inspire women to love their height, embrace their uniqueness and spread the same confidence to others.
How did you launch your career and get to where you are today?
I knew at an early age I wanted to do something related to fashion catering to tall women. Initially, I thought to open a boutique but after researching for vendors who produced clothing for tall women there were very few and those that did were very outdated. I realized I would have to create my own brand. HEIGHT GODDESS is a contemporary clothing line designed specifically for the tall, fashion-forward woman.
What have you had to sacrifice along the way, if anything?
Because I’m building my business while working full-time my time is very limited and planning it a must. In the past I have been known to wake-up and decide I want to take a trip and within hours I’d be on a plane or in the car, not so much anymore. It takes a lot to run this business and I’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices but it’s been a great journey thus far. Continue reading “Lameka Weeks Designs Height Goddess Fashions for Tall Women”→
From established names like Tracy Reese to emerging designers like Azede Jean-Pierre, black designers were behind some of the hottest looks on the New York Fashion Week runways. Taking luxe liberties with classic sportswear shapes, presenting fresh takes on color blocking, and daring us all to flash flesh via sexy slashes and airy panels in many of their designs, these ateliers made a strong case for commandeering extra room in our closets in the coming months.
Black designers made quite an impact with strong representation, if not in the main tents of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Many independent shows and group showcases brought their looks to the forefront.
New black talent, center stage
The Spring 2014 season was a particularly strong one for new talent. Designer competition shows like Harlem’s Fashion Row, Elle Fashion Next, and, of course, Project Runway, introduced unknown designers to insiders and influencers while fresh faces enjoyed the crucial support of industry authorities. Charles Elliot Harbison, for example, formerly a senior designer at Billy Reid and LUCA LUCA, burst onto the scene with nods from TheNew York Times and WWD.com, while being featured in Vogue’s September issue. Shayne Oliver’s sport couture brand Hood by Air was praised across the blogosphere in addition to receiving coverage on GQ.com, Vogue.com, and WWD.com.
Stephen Burrows’s collection for Henri Bendel in Central Park in 1970. (Charles Tracy)
Every decade or so, Mr. Burrows has a moment, whenever his disco-era look of rainbow jersey dresses and lettuce-edge hems has an unexpected revival in fashion. This season, there was more than a hint of his influence on the runways of Diane von Furstenberg (color blocking meets glam-rock wrap dress) and Marc by Marc Jacobs (berry colors and groovy prints that suggest the ’40s by way of the ’70s).
People are also talking about Mr. Burrows because he played a pivotal role as one of the American designers who participated in the 1973 fashion spectacular at Versailles, an event recently revisited in a documentary by Deborah Riley Draper and the subject of a book planned by Robin Givhan. That show broke color barriers in fashion in a way that has not been replicated since.
As of March 22nd, in recognition of Mr. Burrows, who is 69, as the first internationally successful African-American designer, the Museum of the City of New York began the first large-scale exhibition of his early work. More than 50 of his designs, including a chromatically colored jersey jumpsuit that Carrie Donovan plucked from his boutique inside Henri Bendel in 1970 for Cher to wear in a Vogue photo shoot, are on display, along with videos, photos and one of his Coty Awards. Mr. Burrows was the first African-American designer to receive one.