New Faces in Fashion
You can see it! You can sense it! You can feel it! The snap! Resist! The best! There is a new breed of black fashion designers on New York fashion scene today whose energy, urgency and potency have begun to surround us constantly. They have a certain style, a certain standard, a sense of breeding that comes through their designs and, their individual stamps are getting stronger and stronger, from season to season. They are young and Old, sharp, bright, brave, and talented — ingenious!
Because there are black Americans whose tastes are reflected in everything they touch, there is also the world of the black fashion designer. But alas, the world still remains relatively terra incognita clause (an unknown country). The fashion center of the world — Fashion Avenue (7th Avenue.) — can probably boast of the handful of black fashion designers who have reached the pinnacle of success, and, although these designers are highly regarded in the fashion world and we praise them for their achievements, ROUTES magazine realizes that there are many more who deserve recognition. How can we deal with this sad phenomenon? The answer is a simple one. We must try to avail ourselves of their talents.
The struggle of the Black designer and the Black community is similar, lack of communication outlets. For the designer, it is lack of exposure, and, for the consumer, it is for the lack of information. ROUTES Magazine asks “Why?” Maybe it is because we are so often self-deluded that we have no heritage in terms of fashion and often find ourselves mirroring others. When we leaf through the pages of our history, taking the time to carefully Peruse the wonderfully magnificent photographs of our ancestral dress, we discover the tribe of the mask “whose basic dress is a light cloak, simply draped and hung from the shoulders, perfectly practical and tremendously dramatic, simple, elegant, and to our industrialize eyes, eminently fashionable.”
In the Democratic Republic of Sudan, the Luba have, over the centuries, evolved a very complex, highly stylized, and visually stunning vocabulary of body painting whose dazzling, but subtle geometrics could put many modern artists to shame. In this country, our ancestors designed utilitarian garments that have become absolute standards all over the world, and as our society gain influence, very high standards of taste in fashion were set “only to become the exclusive property of the elite.” But we are gaining momentum.
Needless to say, Black people have always had a flair for fashion and, in many ways, we are first in creating a new sense of fashion. Think about it! Within the past few years, Black people have been largely responsible for incorporating African-derived garments such as caftans, capes and turbans, into clothing of standard elegance; in addition such closely related fashions as braided hair. I might add, that our skin color is wondrously suited to fashions of all kinds. Not only is the color of our skin the most immediately noticed facet of our appearance, but it is also our greatest asset in terms of fashion. Our hues, ranging from creamy beige to midnight black, work better with all colors of the spectrum than those of any other race.
The heritage of Black people’s fashion is an ever-changing tapestry of human creativity. This creativeness is clearly observed in the clothes we wear. Our colors are bright and gay; our materials are soft and smooth; and the tailoring is absolutely elegant. Black designers create clothes that feel good, clothes that give you a natural high, clothes that excite your senses, clothes that elevate your spirits, and clothes that are soothing to the touch. While enveloping you in a heady, contagious glow. You can see it, you can sense it, and you can feel it.
For the past three years, the combined talents of Dolores Outen and Deborah Lane have produced fashions for men, women and children. Joining forces when they were students at the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1974, Dolores and Deborah decided to venture out on their own after graduation. The result Designers’ Cottage. The custom made to order fashion house, located at 1360 Fulton St. in the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Center in Brooklyn. Their creations have been recognized by Women’s Wear Daily, Pierre Cardin, and have adorned the physique of Earl “The Pearl” Monroe of the New York Knicks, Hazel Kilpatrick, from the Kilpatrick Charm School and many others.
The latest addition to Designers’ Cottage is Mr. George Lewis, who designs under the professional name of Just George. George, designs the ultimate in men’s wear exclusively, but has created fashions for entertainers such as Ms. Vivian Reed of Bubbling Brown Sugar and others. Note, Just George is also a dynamite fashion model, recently appearing in a show at The Ruling Class — one of Queens’ most sophisticated nightclub-discotheques.
Another relatively new talent is Margaret Hinds of Hollis, Queens, New York, who began her career as “A mere seamstress” in her native home of Trinidad-Tobago. She has been designing sportswear to evening wear for the past 7 years. She came to New York 17 years ago and improved upon her craft at the Auditore School of Fashion and Design. Not only is she a fabulous designer, but she is also the proprietress of Glad Rags Boutique in Hollis, Queens. (212) 776-5335.
Fashion — ever-changing always evolving, constant revolution. And as the world around us seems to spin faster and faster, and the courses of our lives churn at a sometimes blinding rate, simple beauty becomes of utmost importance. Ah-h-h-h Simply beauty — something so many Black people possess. Quiet and strong, bright and free, burning and sensuous, complex — but simply beautiful. But beauty as we all know is in the eye of the beholder. ROUTES Magazine invites you to feast your eyes on these tapestries of creativity from Designer’S Cottage and Glad Rags Boutique. If we can be their vehicle on the road to their success by promoting and honoring them in a positive and, hopefully, profitable manner, we will have opened their world. In doing so, the Black consumer becomes aware of their talent, variety and availability.
Routes Magazine’s Fashion Statement: Support Your Local Black Designer