The fashion set braved a decidedly drizzly Wednesday evening — navigating intermittent showers and the accompanying stiletto-sabotaging puddles — to attend the 10th anniversary runway presentation and honors ceremony hosted by Harlem's Fashion Row. Founded by Brandice Daniel in 2007, the organization aims to amplify the visibility of and promote pathways for emerging design talent of color.
As Daniel opened the evening, she extolled the virtues of waiting for one's "moment," encouraging those in attendance to persevere beyond temporary trials and tribulations and to always keep faith that hard work does indeed pay off. It certainly has for this year's crop of honorees, selected for the manners in which they center Blackness within the style and culture dialogue: Claire Sulmers, honored with the New Media Award; Chioma Nnadi, honored with Editor of the Year; Audra Day, honored with Decennium Trailblazer; and Spike Lee, honored with the Icon 360 award.
Beyond race, Nnadi (stunning in spice-tone, crushed velvet) said, "I always wanted to showcase [people who] made a lot from a little." That spirit of resourcefulness factored centrally in the collections of four brands selected to show mini-presentations at the evening's culmination; Kimberly Goldson, Fe Noel, K. Rashae and Undra Duncan are all steadfastly bootstrapping their collections from sketch to sample, with the explicit goal of garnering the sort of sales that move them from the precarious (though buzz-worthy) phase of "emerging" to the covetable stable space of "established."
Duncan — whose presentation showcased a dazzling exploration of '70s-era prints — was enthusiastic to share her excitement for showing via Harlem's Fashion Row. "I've been following Brandice since the start," she gushed. Currently, she's focused not just on attracting traditional boutique orders, but also on developing a direct-to-consumer e-commerce business of her own.
Digital timeliness was in the air most obviously in the form of newly crimson-haired honoree Sulmers — whose Fashion Bomb Daily (@fashionbombdaily) Instagram presence boasts a jaw-dropping 1.2 million followers — but also in that of Lee's rebooting of his 1985 credit-card financed film "She’s Gotta Have It" as a Netflix 10-part series. Fans will be excited to hear that his shared style would play just as dynamic a role in the title's 2017 incarnation as it had previously.
For her part, Daniel remains focused on keeping the forward momentum, which has brought her success at Harlem's Fashion Row thus far, but it's clear that her future goals ultimately extended beyond her organization: She reminded the Riverside audience that the success of the talents on display hinged upon solid editorial placement, thoughtful features, high-visibility red carpet pulls and consistent retail orders. In other words: It takes a village to "raise" a designer.