Guest Post: Inside Harlem’s Fashion Row 2011 Presentation by Marquida Webster

Beautifully Out of Place was the theme for this year’s Harlem’s Fashion Row featuring four eclectic, emerging designers. Inspired by everything from octopus’ and coral found deep in the ocean, to paintings found in some of the most popular museums in New York City, Kellia Rogers, Joseph Bethune, Jakia Handy and Onyenauchea (Uchea) Nwabuzor are definitely in-tuned with their creative spirits and prepared to shake up the world of fashion.

Harlem’s Fashion Row began as a simple fashion show. In its fourth year, however, the event has grown into a platform for emerging minority designers to display their work.  Founder and CEO, Brandice Henderson, a Memphis native, uses the organization as an instrument to change the trajectory of minorities in fashion by providing a number of resources, most importantly, the annual presentation for designers to share their vision. All fashion and design school graduates, it’s obvious that each of this year’s presenters’ passion for fashion runs deeper than their formal education. The dramatic presentations showcasing the collections left onlookers in awe at the Jazz at Lincoln Center on September 16, 2011.

Selected by Henderson and her team, the designers, in individual interviews by Marquida Webster,  each describe their inspiration and their hopes for the future in the fashion industry :

“Keeboro”, was born in 2009 to Kellia Rogers, a D.C native who studied at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. Keeboro caters to the “boho-chic”, free spirited woman similar to those found in the 70’s. The inspiration for Rogers’ 2012 spring/summer collection includes the iridescent tentacles and fluidity of an octopus combined with the vibrant colors and structure similar to corals reefs found in the deeper parts of the ocean. This self-proclaimed “TV head” found this muse while watching nature shows on Discovery Channel. HFR show-cased Keeboro’s inaugural collection. Kellia’s personal style is reflected in the Spring/Summer collection although her favorite season is fall.

Joseph Bethune, founder of “Bethune Bros.”, said this collection was inspired by his all-time favorite movie star Steve McQueen in “The Great Escape”. The collection screams combat prep, pairing blazers with tailored cargos, trenches, denim and cardigans. This South Bronx native, credits his mother, a seamstress for his fashion interest. “Growing up, I would watch her sew and was initially interested in the reconstruction of clothes, she taught me everything I know.”  In his presentation models mimicked prisoners of war with a dramatic drum line as the theme music. When asked about the most important lesson he’s learned so far, he answered “you get a lot more from listening than speaking, staying humble is important.”

With Dior as its biggest influence, it’s no wonder “Ana-Kata” boasts Parisian inspired couture pieces. As the creator of the line, New Jersey native Uchea Nwabuzor managed to fuse traditional Nigerian cultural wear with a modern flair. Her biggest influence came from her late Nigerian mother, who encouraged her to make African clothes during her early designing years. However, today her influence comes from the average person on the street with a creative edge. She looks forward to the day when she walks past people on the street wearing Ana-Kata.

Jakia Handy, the visionary behind “Ingram Talley”, describes the line as “Art wear” in which she marries two of her interests, art and fashion. Her Spring/Summer 2012 collection is reminiscent of Caprice in the 1950’s and her prints are actually art work printed on a number of textured fabrics. Handy, who interned with renowned designers Rachel Roy and Tracy Reese, states her ideal customer is a jet-setter with an appreciation for art, culture and music. A self proclaimed artist, Jakia looks forward to expanding her line and being inspired by her upcoming travel abroad.

While each collection was amazingly beautiful and uniquely created with a sense of passion, they seemed everything but out of place.

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