The community of Harlem has always produced great cultural and fashion icons. This uptown enclave was the place that Josephine Baker felt most comfortable when downtown hotels and restaurants refused patronage. In the 1930s and 40s, the sassy sashay and fat cat swagger of sepia-toned Harlemites strutting their Sunday best made Lenox Avenue the place to be. And it was the confident posturing of round-the-way sistas that inspired Kimora Lee Simmons in the 1990’s to infuse her fashion aesthetic with doorknocker earrings, graffiti-laced denim creations and urban vixen silhouettes. So, it comes as no surprise that the locale that nurtured the likes of Dinah Washington, Harry Belafonte, and the Dance Theatre of Harlem, produces an annual event that showcases emerging and established fashion designers.
On October 15, the second annual Harlem Fashion Row (HFR) event paid homage to legendary designer, Stephen Burrows. Burrows, the recipient of the coveted Coty Award in 1973, 74 and 77, has dressed Cher, Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand, Liza Minelli, Vanessa Williams, Oprah, Kate Moss, Heidi Klum, Eva Longoria and countless others. In 2006, Burrows was honored with the CDFA’s Board of Director’s special tribute award, and in 2007 Burrows returned to Paris with a Spring/Summer collection that was hailed a “masterpiece of color combinations.”
In addition to the Stephen Burrows’ tribute, HFR presented S/S 2010 collections of Dinna Soliman, Lialia, Epperson, and Jose Duran.
Dinna Soliman’s SS /2010 sportswear collection marries unconventional techniques and fabrics with utilitarian, innovative looks that can be dressed up or worn as casual office attire. Her silver threaded, bow-embellished seersucker skirt with fitted, lycra T-shirt and beige trenchcoat made from parachute fabric were the standouts in her collection. Of all the designers, Soliman’s collection had the most retail viability.
Lialia’s elegant and well-constructed collection included lace embellishments that referenced the designers’ Spanish heritage. These embellishments added an interesting nuance to a collection that could have easily been weighted down by the muted color palette that at times failed to pop.
Jose Duran presented a theatrical collection that referenced Japanese Samurai warriors and sub-Saharan nomadic herdsmen. Unfortunately, Duran’s collection began and ended with these cultural infusions.
Epperson of Project Runway’s season 6 fame presented a cohesive collection that emphasized unfinished edges and asymmetrical deconstructs. Epperson’s fashion-forward collection was the hit of the evening with his ruffled kente dress and asymmetrical white cotton dress with intricate details being the standouts.
Photos by Ernest Green