A parade of colorful flocks is on display as models bound, strut, swagger and traipse down the runway at the Metropolitan Pavilion.
The ChubiiLine is the last collection to show during the 4 pm slot of group shows during Small Boutique Fashion Week (SBFW). It is also one of the strongest collections in this second of three sections.
Taking it all in stride, as if she were born to this world, is Egypt “Ify” Ifynanya Onyinye Ufele. She's just made her SBFW debut. The four-year-old New York and Atlanta showcase bills itself as “fashion’s biggest event open to the public.”
Ify is wearting a black pleather T-shirt dress not of her design, black leggings and black and brown all-weather boots. She appears to be a little fatigued on this very cold evening, and with good reason. She’s shown her fourth collection, which has been followed swiftly and chaotically by several rounds of interviews. She is now sitting with her mother who is, wearing the same dress, for yet another interview.
If she is also pleased with herself, she has reason to be. Moments ago, she introduced a collection that is utterly accessible and stylish. Any frock from ChubiiLine can go straight from runway to closet without the slightest alteration.
The African prints – Dutch wax print, Kente cloths, mud cloth, aso oke, among them – are often cleverly placed on traditional Western shapes, producing eye-catching looks. A case in point is a black hoodie. Its hood is a patchwork of fabrics, including kente cloth, while the sleeves and lapel sport a Kente cloth of pink, green, black and white. Similarly, a black minidress with Kente cloth (green, black birgundy) cap sleeve and attached calf-length side panels that create an A-line silhouette, is adorable.
The daughter of Nigerian chief from the Igbo tribe, Ify says she sourced her fabric from her father’s native land and in New York. Asked what inspired FW2016, she speaks of the women in her life: sister, mother, grandmother. And Mother Nature: winter.
Do note, because it is not obvious, that Ify is shy and soft-spoken. She is also 10. Yes, ten years young. Further, she is chubby. Overweight. Some would – and have – say fat. This is significant.
ChubiiLine was in part her answer to being teased because of her weight. And the specific nature of the teasing, the awful, awful namecalling and worse? “I was fat. I was ugly. I have been called hippo.” Ify is reciting the litany as if recalling her timetables. “I have been stabbed with a pencil. My finger has been dislocated. Lots of kinds of things.”
Ify, who resides in Queens with her mother, Dr. Reba Renee Perry and older designer sister, Sade Perry (MisPerri Fashions), says she initially ignored her tormenters. In due time, however, she chose to speak through her near-lifelong love, and to meet some practical demands.
“They teased her and made her feel very bad about herself,” says Nellie Rembert, Ify’s grandmother and the person who began to teach her to sew when the designer was a wee three years young. But there was another mandate for ChubiiLine, Rembert discloses.
“When she would go shopping, her mother, Dr. Reba Perry, she couldn’t find clothes for – I call them thick children.”
Not surprisingly, Rembert had a hand in FW2016. “I sewed day and night, helping her put things together,” she recalls. “She sketched and she detailed and she told me exactly how to make certain things.”
Grandmother reports that the boss – her granddaughter – was a good creative director. “Because if you didn’t get it right, you had to take it apart and sew it the way she wants it. It tells me she’s on her way,” declares someone who is also a very proud mentor.
Not surprisingly, she believes her mentee has done an “excellent” job with FW2016, which is “just wonderful.”
Perry, also Ify’s business manager, takes her daughter’s success and the increasing buzz around her in stride. Of this designer business, she waxes philosophical, “It’s something she loves to do and it’s her passion.”
Continues Perry: “She says she wants to become an engineer, but she’s still 10. She might change her mind several times. As a mother, I am going to support her in whatever she wants to do.”
For the near term, the fifth-grade, A-student simply wants to be a designer. In fact, she is already working on SS2017.
Much has been made about her designing a line for overweight children. Yes, but that is only part of the story. From the start ChubiiLine has been a fashion line designed by an overweight kid for kids of all sizes. In fact, models – thin and thick – appeared in her show earlier. “I wanted to show different types of diversity, to mix between straight, curvy, kids and men’s,” Ify explains.
Speaking of men (and women). Today, also marks the debut of adult sizes in the ChubiiLine. Why the expansion?
In true businesswoman fashion: “I found out that adults sizes are more common and there are more adult models than kid models.”