Archive | February, 2010

“Fashion Starts With Fashionable People”

3 Feb

I spent this past weekend in New York. To be quite frank; I don’t usually enjoy my time spent there. In the Big Apple people don’t say “good morning” when you make eye-contact with them on the train on the way to work like they do here in DC. But since I am such a fashion maven, when I grace the city that never sleeps with my presence, I mentally convince myself that I can make it there; because as they say if you can make it there you can make it anywhere. So between hailing cabs, getting on the wrong train and walking endless avenues; I try to sandwich in as many audiences as possible with my fashionable friends.

Fashion starts with fashionable people“. This is the belief on which legendary American fashion designer Halston built his iconic label. Roslyn Johnson is truly one of the most fashionable people I know. She and I met at a program in college and we were both wearing well-tailored suits. Her first words to me as she clutched my arm and whispered in my ear were “Thats a Benneton suit; I can tell”.  She and I may not see each other very often but when we do; we unload. Everything from gossip, to men, to work; we play a game of catch-up that usually leaves me exhausted and inspired.

We met for Sunday brunch at Amy Ruth’s in Harlem. Over a meal of fried catfish and baked macaroni and cheese we updated each other on our lives. She’s in love (while I am still searching) and she is learning a lot as Assistant Outerwear Buyer for Saks Fifth Avenue. The last time we were together in New York was a little over two years ago and Ros had just moved to the city without a job and was trying to make her way in the fashion capital of the world.

When we she asked me whats new; I told her about this blog and the clothing line I am working on. Ros shared with me that she’s also working on a line. Its called Inkwell and like Ralph Lauren it’s based on classic all American values; the difference is Inkwell is based on Black American values. The Inkwell is a part of the beach on Martha’s Vineyard where well-to-do African-Americans have vacationed since the early 1900s. Inkwell, like my line, is in its early stages and its first finished piece is a black and white strapless cocktail dress. The bodice is made of hand woven and hand dyed West African mud cloth.

I am really proud of Roslyn and happy that we can share this journey together. We are two fashionable girls making our contribution to this world of ours; look out for more to come from her.

Inkwell Mud Cloth Cocktail Dress

What Extraordinary Looks Like

1 Feb

Tonight the BET Honors Airs on BET at 9pm est. The award show celebrates those who have been contributors to the Black community at large in some capacity. They are celebrated with video packages that highlight their achievements and musical tributes by some of the music industry’s best. I had the opportunity to attend the awards which were filmed here in DC at the Warner Theatre last month. One of my friends form college, Brent is an Associate Producer at BET and he hooked up the tickets. As long as I’ve known Brent, he was a producer. In college while I was hanging out with friends and going to classes, Brent was also going to classes but he skipped the hanging out part for an internship at BET Networks in DC.  By the time he graduated, he had production credits on some of the networks major programs. Now he is in New York promoted from a lowly Production Assistant to an Associate Producer of a new show.

When I heard the show was going to be right here in town, I asked if I could go and he procured tickets like magic. When Brent, who knew this year my goal was to make all my own clothes, called me to let me know he had secured the tickets asked me “You know this thing is black-tie; what are you going to wear”. I thought about it but I said “A gown; and I am going to make it myself”. Brent laughed and said ok and hung up. With the dial tone still ringing in my ears I thought to myself… can I really make a gown?

The theme of this year’s BET Honors is “What Extraordinary Looks Like”. I knew the toast of the town would be at the theatre in their finery competing with the Hollywood celebrities in the audience. So I headed to the fabric store and bought 3 yards of aubergine silk charmeuse, matching thread and lining. I cancelled all my social engagements and locked myself in my apartment with my sewing machine and shears. I had three days to produce a red carpet worthy gown. By 5 am the morning of the show I had completed my gown and was satisfied. Like when the Lord created the oceans the Bible says “…and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.”. I looked at that sea of silk fashioned into a gown and I saw that it was good.

I took a nap and grabbed a bite to eat and waited for my date Brent to escort me to the awards. Brent arrived in his black 2009 BMW coupe in a black evening suit with black shirt and black tie looking good. He looked red carpet ready. I looked down at my gown and it wasn’t so good anymore. I don’t know why, but it just wasn’t so good anymore. Where I had once saw perfection I now saw a puckered neckline and less than smooth seam finishes and I didn’t want to wear my dress anymore. So I made him wait a little bit while I chucked my creation into a corner, walked into my closet and pulled out a sequined evening dress, threw it on and headed out the door.

I was pretty silent for most of the car ride. In my mind I didn’t know if I had made the right decision. Seated in the fifth row right behind NAACP Award winning actress Tichina Arnold and right in front of GRAMMY Award winning vocalist Mya I was the picture of what extraordinary did not look like. In my store-bought dress I just didn’t feel authentic. I began to feel so enraged. I was so upset with myself for not wearing my creation. Sitting next to my friend who was young and on the fast track in his career I was so upset that I had doubted myself. While my footing is still a little shaky; I too am on track for my career.

As the show began and they  paid tribute to the honorees I felt rejuvenated. The honorees were Sean “Diddy” Combs, Queen Latifah, neurosurgeon Dr. Keith Black, president of Brown University Ruth J. Simmons, and Whitney Houston.

For weeks friends have asked to see the dress and I’ve made excuse after excuse until today. I finally pulled out my gown from its discarded corner and it looked good. A bit wrinkled; but good. I let my insecurity about this new found career path undermine my creativity and my craftmanship. I am really proud of this gown and even though I didn’t wear it I am proud to showcase it. I plan to redo the bodice and make the skirt more form-fitting. I want to take it from a black-tie award show gown to an avant-garde evening gown and add it to the collection I am working on.

Check out my first evening gown because this is what extraordinary looks like. Make sure you watch the BET Honors tonight and allow yourself to be rejuvenated in your dreams too.

BET Honors Gown