By Walter Greene
Shown during the rigerous schedule of New York Fashion Week, Harlem Fashion Row, an idea conceived and implimented by Brandice Henderson, celebrated it's fifth year with a collective showing of five rising star fashion designers from the community. The show held Jazz At Lincoln Center Auditorium brought out celebrities like Vanessa Williams, Natalie Cole, actor Justin Davis from `Brooklyn Confidential' and actress Tasha Smith, who is an adrent supporter of the showcase, since its birth 5 years ago at The Studio Museum in Harlem.
Featured designers were Latisha Darling, Nzinga Knight, Bethune Brothers and Omar Salam. Los Angeles based designer Kevan Hall was the guest designer who was announced as "Designer of the Year" and closed out the fashion showcase. Here I must interject, when any organization is showing fashions alongside `New York Fashion Week', they must make sure that every single creation shown is on a level of excellence. You are in a position of competing with the best of what the world has to offer as far as fashion, and, nobody wants to see clothing that has been done and re-done. Plus, you are competing for the attention of the world media who's seen the `best of the best.' Harlem Fashion Row's selection process, or structure, missed the mark in not bringing the very best to showcase in this competitive arena.
`SUKIENA' BY OMAR SALAM
The only presentation that was fashion forward and noteworthy was the line titled `Sukeina' by African born designer Omar Salam. It was quite obvious that this was "the designer" of the evening. His was the only presentation for which every garment was greeted by rounds of applause form the audience, as they entered the stage. Led by model/actress Nicole Murphy of "Hollywood Exes" television reality show, Omar's consistancy as a designer was evident in the beautiful collection that told a story of a little girl looking out of her window and seeing the bloom of the flowers in her surrounding garden. She grows up and realises that it was her own personal growth and awakening that she was experiencing. All of this was told in Omar's delicate laces over organzas, balanced by the stone white silk squares (columns) the flowers (laces) and the windows (sheer organzas) of his fashion story entitled `Bloom.'
Nzinga Knight presented a collection celebrating womanhood with all of its mysteries - the hooded long dresses, soft chiffons and jerseys drapped and mostly covered with flowing shawls and dramatic head covers. Latisha Darling said she was inspired by transition, the birth, transformation and evolution. Her simple line consisted of baby doll and feminine frocks. Bethune Brothers showcased denim separates and regular `street fashion' that had a b-boy flavor, backed by a commentary by Mohammad Ali. Kevan Hall closed out the evening with an ode to old Hollywood glamor in his style of flowing chiffons and jeweled gowns that we've seen time and time again.
The story of self discovery as portrayed in `Bloom' from designer Omar Salam at Harlem Fashion Row