Harlem's Fashion Row Honors Emerging Designers of Color

Image: Harlem's Fashion Row - Backstage - Spring 2016 New York Fashion Week
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 10: Models backstage at the Harlem's Fashion Row show during Spring 2016 New York Fashion Week on September 10, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Grant Lamos IV/Getty Images)Grant Lamos IV / Getty Images

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By Natalie Johnson

Harlem's Fashion Row has become a New York Fashion Week standard.

Founded and conceived by Brandice Henderson-Daniel, Harlem's Fashion Row, known as HFR, held their 8th annual award and fashion show to lead off NYFW on Sept 10.

A sea of people dressed in their most chic attires took over Chelsea Piers.

Some women stepped out in high-split bodycon dresses with sweetheart necklines, while others strutted in bright halter top jumpers.

But what made this scene different than many other packed New York Fashion Week events was the overflow of mahogany and brown faces congregating to support a group of entrepreneurs and creative minds that are widely overlooked.

Over the last 8 years, the event has become a hub where black celebrities and the black fashion elite collide, bringing together entertainers such as Sheryl Lee Ralph, Mary J. Blige and cultural influencers like Emil Wilbekin and Michaela Angela Davis.

One of the goals of HFR is to elevate and showcase up-and-coming designers of color. Most new designers struggle with finding the necessary funding to launch a line and what you’ll find here is a community that not only celebrates one another’s drive and goals, but one that also puts their money where their mouth is.

“Today we have fewer designers than we did in the 70s,” said Tai Beauchamp, host of TLC’s Dare to Wear. “What it really boils down to is financing and funding. The reality is that these designers have the talent and the will and the desire, but often times there aren’t any resources to do it.”

Davis noted that it’s harder for African-Americans to stay in the industry because of the amount of capital it takes to keep a line alive. “It’s not the same as writing or being a painter where you can produce without having a staff. In order to have full collections it takes a tremendous amount of work,” said Davis.

Harlem's Fashion Row honored multicultural designers and prolific trendsetters, but most importantly, exhibited emerging fashion talent and provided them a platform to further bridge them to the fashion industry.

Tracee Ellis Ross at Harlem Fashion Row on Sept. 10.Johnny Nunez
Tracee Ellis Ross: The Icon

The beautiful, funny and forevermore fashionable Tracee Ellis Ross received the Icon 360 Award. If you’ve followed Ross, especially on the red carpet or on Instagram, you would know that she’s become just as well-known for her bold style as her acting chops.

She never shies away from showing off her figure in form fitting, bodycon dresses and playing with unique patterns and textiles on the red carpet.

Michaela Angela Davis, former Essence and Vibe fashion editor, presented the award after sharing details of their friendship and praising her for her multi-talents, “She’s up there with Phyllis Diller, Lucy, but wait…look how she can dress,” cried Davis. “No one has ever been so funny, but so serious with their style. Ever! She gave this black girl someone to love on TV.”

Kahlana Barfield: The Editor

Kahlana Barfield was honored with the Editor of the Year award because of the tenacity she has shown throughout her career, her gracious climb up the ladder and the history she has made along the way.

In 2008 Barfield was promoted to Associate Beauty Editor of InStyle magazine. In 2009 she became Beauty Editor. In 2011, she became the Senior Beauty Editor and then in 2013, she became the Beauty Director. In 2014, Barfield was appointed their first ever Fashion and Beauty Editor at Large of InStyle magazine.

Tai Beauchamp provided the introduction and said, “So let’s talk about this… what you have to realize is that as people of color in this industry we have to work twice as hard. ”

In her acceptance speech Barfield stressed the importance of putting in the hard work and never deterring from your passion.

“I’m so happy to be a company that lets me be who I am. They love that I’m the Black girl, they like that I can have my swag, personality and I could just be myself,” said Barfield. “When I came into this industry everyone said, ‘You have to move around to different magazines in order to grow’ and I’m so blessed to be able to grown with the same company for in over the last 10 years.”

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 10: (L-R) Emil Wilbekin, Bevy Smith, and Harlem's Fashion Row CEO/Founder Brandice Henderson attend Harlem's Fashion Row Spring 2016 presentation during New York Fashion Week on September 10, 2015, in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/FilmMagic)Johnny Nunez / FilmMagic
Bevy Smith: The Trailblazer

You may know Bevy Smith as one-third of the “Fashion Queens” on Bravo, but before that she was a fashion and beauty advertising executive at Vibe and Rolling Stone Magazine.

While Smith was comfortable financially, she was not fulfilled professionally. She quit her job at Rolling Stone to pursue a career as an on-air TV personality. She became the Editor-At Large of Vibe magazine and soon afterwards, she was appearing on “Watch What Happens Live” with Andy Cohen. And before you know it she had her own show, “Fashion Queens” co-hosted by Derek J and Miss Lawrence.

In her acceptance speech, Smith said to be cautious of how you treat people that you may run into again -- specifically in this profession. “In fashion it’s a fickle business, especially for people of color,” she said. “And I am a true advocate for making sure we diversify this business. And not just from a modeling standpoint, not just from styling, but also from the business side.”

Other Honorees:

Vanguard Award – Shawn R. Outler, Fashion Retailer at Macy’s

Maverick Award – Groovey Law and Misa Hylton

Stylist of the Year – Rachel Johnson, Thomas Faison Agency

Designer of the Year – Azede Jean-Pierre

The Designers

Megan Wellman: M-Sew

This collection consists of asymmetrical necklines and hems. Wellman was inspired by the sport Cricket, a nod to her Bermuda roots and gives a new take on female sportive wear. Her color scheme included red, denim, white and grey.

Fe Noel: Fe Noel

The Spring collection of Fe Noel was inspired by her first time sailing in the Caribbean. This was a very sexy collection, including impeccably draped dresses, bathing suits and jumpers. She used an assortment colors and fabrics, e.g., diagonal red, green, black and white stripes, suede and fur.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 10: A model walks the runway at Harlem's Fashion Row Runway Spring 2016 New York Fashion Week on September 10, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Joe Kohen/Getty Images)Joe Kohen / Getty Images

Thulare Monareng: The Fashion Deli

This was the only collection that contained menswear. Monareng was inspired by South Africa, which was noticeable in the patterns she used. Her collection was the most colorful of the three with brown, red, orange blue and white.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 10: A model walks the runway at Harlem's Fashion Row Runway Spring 2016 New York Fashion Week on September 10, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Joe Kohen/Getty Images)Joe Kohen / Getty Images