February 7, 2012, the first day of New York Fashion Week, featured many firsts by Harlem’s Fashion Row (HFR). It was the first time Harlem's Fashion Row presented during the February iteration of the semi-annual New York Fashion Week. It was also the first time that Harlem's Fashion Row showed collections at the historic Apollo Theater. Conversely, this was also the first time, in recent history, that the Apollo Theater hosted a New York Fashion Week show by an all black designers collective. That these firsts took place during Black History Month was not lost on the attendees, many of whom were proud Harlem natives.
Seven talented designers, handpicked by Brandice Henderson - CEO and Founder of Harlem’s Fashion Row, showed their Fall 2013 capsule collections to an audience packed with fashionphiles and HFR movement supporters. The designers; Chantell Walters, Diedre Jefferies, Evelyn Lambert, Kahindo Mateene, Kimberly Goldson, Sandro Romans and Shauntele were also competing for a chance to show during Harlem’s Fashion Row’s Spring ‘14 New York Fashion Week presentation.
However, before the models took to the stage, celebrities took to the red carpet to show their support for the HFR movement. They included; Spry Lee Scott - Celebrity Stylist and Host of BET International’s “Mad Swagg,” Tyson Beckford - International Supermodel, Bethann Hardison - Iconic Model Maker & Fashion Activist, Tonya Lewis Lee - Award Winning Producer & wife of Spike Lee, and Terrie Williams - Legendary PR Maven & Author of Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting.
After posing for the paparazzi, Bethann Hardison and Tyson Beckford joined the judges table alongside Idil Tabanca - Editor-in-Chief of BULLETT Magazine, Shawn Outler - Macy’s Group VP of Fashion Forecasting & Operations, Leased Businesses and Multicultural Development, and Tatijana Shoan - Editor-in-Chief of AS IF Magazine. The judges’ votes counted towards 75% of the decision as to which designers would go on to show during Harlem’s Fashion Row’s Spring ‘14 presentation. The audience’s vote accounted for the remaining 25%.
ESPION by Diedre Jefferies opened the show with a collection that stood out with unexpected details. With bold, exaggerated eyebrows models showcased pieces with leather contrast collars, raised seams, peek-a-boo floral lining and exposed zippers. The clear crowd favorite from Jefferies’ line was a black, floor length ensemble with leather cap sleeves and an architectural take on the peplum that would make Haider Ackerman do a double take.
Shauntele by Shauntele followed with a line that was fiercely feminine and fashioned in seductively flowing fabrics. It also stood out for its incorporation of Rorschach inkblot test designs and asymmetrical, tiered hemlines. Shauntele’s most successful design was a yellow and black jacket & dress combo that fluidly translated flirty and sophisticated into a look that women across the fashion spectrum would covet.
Evelyn Lambert by Evelyn Lambert was the third designer seen in the historic Harlem’s Fashion Row Fall '13 presentation. Lambert’s line was distinct in its use of uber exaggerated neckline bows and origami-ish ruffles. Judging by the crowd’s cheers, Lambert designed the evening’s most popular gown. Indeed, the cheering did not stop until the yellow, mono-sleeved, floor length, turtle necked gown accented with a kelly green patent leather belt left the stage.
Next up was Sandro Romans by Sandro Romans, the only line in the show by a male designer. Aesthetically, the presentation suggested that the “Romans Man” could be the metropolis dwelling lovechild of an Orthodox Jewess and a Tuareg trader with a serious baseball and leather fetish. Romans’ line was filled with pantsuits featuring long hemlines, lowered crotches and lots of leather. As if signifying his place among other designers, Romans chose to have the faces of his models painted with a large, black star.
Chantell Walters then provided a welcome break from the black that dominated the runway with a flurry of light hued dresses and separates. Paired with chunky platforms, Walters’ shoulder accentuating designs featured plunging necklines, high contrast insets and embellishments in bright blues and metallics. Walters was the only designer to offer a casual, street ready look in the form of a sweatshirt and leggings outfit with knee and neckline accents.
MODAHNIK by Kahindo Mateene followed with a line that was marked by its juxtapositions. Solids against print, stiff against flowing, pastels against black, and micro against macro. Black panels were often used to accentuate and create hourglass figures. These elements were best combined in Mateene’s mint green skirt & zipped top ensemble. Fans of Tracy Reese looking for a bit more edge and overt ethnicity will undoubtedly love this line.
Kimberly Goldson‘s eponymous line was the last to show, boasting eye catching sequins, satin, jewel tones and shiny bold prints. The audience’s obvious favorite pant suits were Goldson’s Le Smoking tuxedo suits in magenta & black brocade and gold & blue stripes. The boisterous reaction to her designs was clearly enjoyed by the beaming Goldson who walked out on stage and accepted the applause as a well earned reward and perhaps redemption for Project Runway.
While Brandice Henderson ended the evening thanking Smart Water for their sponsorship and commending all of the designers for their efforts, only four would go on to show for Harlem’s Fashion Row Spring '14 presentation. By the next day the votes were tallied and the designers that had advanced were Diedre Jefferies (ESPION), Kahindo Mateene (MODAHNIK), Kimberly Goldson, and Sandro Romans.