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Designers of the Future

For those of you who did not know one of the coolest and hippest boroughs had their own fashion week, welcome to “Destination Brooklyn – Walk this way”. This was the title of Fashion Week Brooklyn’s 11thAnnual fall/winter 2017 Show, which was presented by the BK Style Foundation and took place this year from March 25-April 1 at the Brooklyn Expo Center.

Why Brooklyn and how did FWBK begin?

FWBK Founder and Director Rick Davy, originally from Trinidad, started out in the industry working for networks like BET, CBS, VH1 and MTV, which led to styling jobs and attending NYFW. While attending NYFW, Rick recalls, “I never saw emerging designers, but I did see a lot of emerging talent in Brooklyn where I lived”. He then explained that he looked at the juxtaposition of Brooklyn and NYFW, and thought, “Why shouldn’t there be a Fashion Week in Brooklyn.”

“I wanted to do something where I thought there was a need. I saw a lack of opportunities for emerging designers to get exposure. They couldn’t get same opportunities as in Manhattan.” Rick continued, “Why should people have to hike into the city.” This is ironically, probably the same reason there aren’t enough fashion industry insiders who venture out to Brooklyn.

Rick wanted to create a place where emerging designers mentored younger designers. Thus came the birth of the BK Style Foundation, a nonprofit he started to produce the show.

The week consists of much more than just a fashion show. The BK Style Foundation has created a number of partnerships and events that center around the community of Brooklyn. They help bridge the gap between the industry and the community by encouraging young kids in East New York to become the designers of the future. Through its Pitch for Success Program, the foundation assists in getting sewing machines to kids. The foundation has also partnered with a number of high schools, including The High School of Fashion Industries in Manhattan, William H. Maxwell High School in Brooklyn, and City-As-School High School in the Village. These partnerships have resulted in mentorship programs and even featuring high school designers in FWBK.

The BK Style Foundation has also partnered with the non-profit Art in Motion and Beauty for Freedom and its founder and successful Ford model, artist and philanthropist Monica Watkins to have fashion professionals mentor students. There’s also a partnership with Denim Day NY, which raises awareness of sexual assault and domestic violence.

The Foundation also has a sustainability component, which teaches kids how to recycle clothing and how they can help save the planet in conjunction with the UN Women and the Youth Forum.

What sets FWBK apart from NYFW? 

 “We focus on emerging designers and cast models from the local community. A large portion of our audience is from the greater community that can’t go to NYFW,” Rick explains. Through its partnership with Kings Plaza, this year the event auditioned 200 local models for four weeks for the Retailers Runway Show, which featured clothing from Macy’s, Forever 21, Old Navy, and included 7-and 8-year-old models. According to Rick, FWBK was the first to feature a designer from Kuwait, the first to include a designer with models wearing Hijabs, including an ING model. The show was also one of the first to include plus size models and a transgender model.

Rick adds, “Everyone is beautiful in clothing, so why should we just show a segment of one people. It’s about individual style”.

How has fashion in Brooklyn evolved since you started?

“There’s more inspiration coming to Brooklyn from around the world, including more boutiques and indie shops,” states Rick. He continues, “So many talented designers just need opportunities, inspiration and mentors.”

Rick says, “People are becoming more familiar with Brooklyn fashion. Alexander Wang was one of the first major designers to show his collection at the Brooklyn Navy Yard”.

Is there a cost for the designers for FWBK? 

There’s a registration fee for designers. However, Rick explains his intention is to secure a large sponsorship that would allow all designers to show for free.

What was the schedule this year?

FWBK kicked off with an Opening Ceremony and Retailers Runway Show. Then there were brunches and parties open to the public, a “Tech & Fashion” panel with WeWork, and a Bust Magazine Craftacular. The runway shows were on the final days 7 and 8 on March 31st and April 1st at the Brooklyn Expo Center.

Who are the FWBK designers and what is the selection process?

All of the designers must be emerging, not mainstream. They are selected based on creativity, technique and workmanship. As Founder Rick Davy puts it, “What’s going to be next big thing.”

The show began with a collection by the organization Yadestiny Treasure Chest containing anti-bullying words with children models that helped with the designs. City-As School, a high school in the West Village, included recycled denim by student designers Alex Lora, Hazel Cetemen, and Anna Schwab.

The runway was then filled with emerging designers including:

Kaer, a Brooklyn-based brand by Denmark designer Marianne Mollman, which features dresses and jackets meant for comfort and layering, which include the designers own photographs of flowers and nature from her travels around the world.

Shy Corner, a Harlem-based brand by New Yorker Shy Corner, which features comfortable separates in pastel colors.

Kovas, a Brooklyn-based brand by Austin native Katie Kovas, which features swimwear that is textile driven utilizing digital editing techniques called datamosh-ing and glitch-ing.

Brooklyn Celebrity, a Brooklyn-based brand by Trinidadian designer Kevin Phillip, which he describes as streetwear for the well established.

South Beach Furs, a Brooklyn-based apparel and accessories luxury line all made from feathers as an alternative to fine furs, by designer Angelique Terrelonge, who is a Designer in Residence with the Brooklyn Fashion Incubator sponsored by Macy’s.

Brooklyn-based designer Alisha Trimble who’s collection is made from 100% silk and contains a subtle honeycomb motif, to remind people we are losing the bees.

KROMAGNON, by designer and FIT Alum Kristen Luong, is a sustainable and eco-friendly high street label featuring both menswear and womenswear mostly from hemp blends with other sustainable fibers.

London-based designer and Environmental Engineer Rawan Maki from Bahrain featured her debut collection, which she describes as “The Waves of the Future,” highlighting a sustainable fashion collection.

The grand finale featured another FIT Alum, Milaniya Monte’, whose Exotic Savage/Modern Elegance Collection featured gowns made of cut, burned and painted fabrics, including fish scales and alligator skins and is influenced by nature as well as Asian, African and European culture.

By Theresa Majeed, Photography by Luis Chimbo

Source: Fashion Mannuscript, May 2017

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