The impact that Harlem has had on the black community is undoubtedly profound. From the renaissance to the strength of unity, this beacon of Manhattan sitting above Central Park serves as a pillar of hope for the past and future.
While all watchful eyes normally gaze to Manhattan’s Garment District for fashion innovation, Harlem is reviving its place as a fashion icon.
As an attest to its impact on fashion, Harlem’s Fashion Row (HFR) showcased a select few of its own emerging designers Lialia, Dinna Soliman, Jose Duran and EPPERSON at the Harlem venue, The Gatehouse.
Julia and Natalia Alarcon are the brains behind the classically elegant brand, Lialia. Using their diverse personas and skills to create high-end day and eveningwear, the Alarcon sisters are letting their detailing and craftsmanship do all the talking and has put them on the 2008 top emerging designers list in Women’s Wear Daily and Gen Art’s Fresh Faces in Fashion. Lialia’s Spring/Summer 2010 collection was a cohesive offering of glimmering jumpers, pleated dresses and harem pants shows the progress of the Parsons’ alum as sagacious designers.
Dinna Soliman, an FIT alumna and experienced designer is well on her way to mastering the kind of femininity that exudes utter confidence. Embodying the essence of outdoors, the Spring/Summer 2010 collection under her namesake is well-suited for today’s modern girl and features a practical take on staples like the little black dress. Offset with an updated bouffant, oxfords and a silver knotted necklace, Dinna Soliman is bold enough to capture all of our attention and feminine enough to make us appreciate the little things.
Menswear designer Jose Duran used his avant-garde designs to tell a story of utilitarian and uninhibited fashion for the edgy man. Amassing acclaim in indie fashion magazines, this designer infuses his cultural roots into his design aesthetic – resulting in the nomad-like concepts of braided hair, pale white makeup and well-toned models (including BET’s Harlem Heights star Pierre) swaggering down the runway in Doc Martens.
Epperson is a designer who has taken the time to perfect his craft, one that came out of a crush to a design class. Since then, the seasoned designer who appeared on season six of Project Runway has spent time creating pieces that allow clients to “be who they are”. It’s no surprise that the roster includes Erykah Badu, Patti Labelle and Ciara. Playing on the concurrence of tattered garments and fanciful indulgences, EPPERSON’s Spring/Summer 2010 collection included “rough-ruffled” gowns, men’s skirt and harem pants that prove that at the end of the day, fashion is all about individualistic expression.
After witnessing the future of Harlem fashion, we took a second to reminisce on the past through a succinct documentary filmed for HFR to capture the palpable influence of fashion legend, Stephen Burrows – one of the first African-American fashion designers to break down barriers.
Burrows is renowned for his lettuce cut dresses and participating in the infamous collaboration of American and French designers in Versailles, France, a gargantuan effort by the late Eleanor Lambert, a publicist who is single-handedly responsible for what we know as New York Fashion Week.
Many including his clientele of celebrities like Cher, Diana Ross and Barbara Streisand adore this fashion visionary whose 30-plus year career speaks volumes of his dexterity and any fashion student quickly learns of his importance.
Burrows, who sat inconspicuously in the front row of The Gatehouse, received a bouquet of flowers and a standing ovation from HFR attendees, all aware and appreciative of his hand in our place in fashion.