Prêt-À-Poundo: Harlem's Fashion Row x Black Fashion [NYFW]

Harlem Fashion Row (HFR) showcases emerging designers of color in fashion.

Harlem Fashion Row Chantell Walters Prêt-À-Poundo

*Chantell Walters (photography by Childeye)

“We have a responsibility to create opportunities for these designers through educating the media, celebrating their creativity, and ultimately have the media be a driving force," says Harlem's Fashion Row CEO and founder Brandice Henderson, “My hope is that we will all share in this responsibility by exposing them in editorials, purchasing their collections, investing in them, and featuring them in videos, movies and commercials.” Have you heard of this event, which many consider a movement?

*Brandice Henderson

The fact that after five annual editions this year's Fall Collection edition of Harlem Fashion Row took place at the legendary Apollo Theater was a beautiful accomplishment. One which reveals the community's faith in Henderson's vision of the fashion industry; something which has lead this event to the top. Viewing the show, it's obvious that these designers who suffer a lack of exposure, are as talented and creative as their more popular peers.

Harlem's Fashion Row views itself as a celebratory platform for emerging designers of color. While it took place at the same time as New York Fashion Week, the show distinguished itself with its ethos and international designer selection. The fashion designers were:

Deidre Jefferies (Espion), Shauntelé, Evelyn Lambert, Sandro Romans, Chantell Walters, Kahindo Mateene (Modahnik) and Kimberly Goldson.

Harlem Fashion Row Shauntelé Portrait Prêt-À-Poundo


*designers in the order above (from top left to bottom right)

On top of the crop of designers, HFR assembled an impressive, broad and balanced base of judges: Editor-in-Chief of Bullett Magazine Idil Tabanca, Macy's Group VP of Fashion Forecasting & Operations Shawn Outler, Celebrity/Stylist/Model Tyson Beckford, International Supermodel Bethann Hardison and Editor-in-Chief of As If Magazine Tatijana Shoan. The audience also voted for 25 per cent of each designer's rank. The winner's prize was a feature spot in Harlem Fashion Row Spring 2014.

*Idil Tabanca - Bethann Hardison, Tyson Beckford and Brandice Henderson - Tyson Beckford

The designers showcased their unique styles and demonstrated that 'black' fashion is as rich, diverse, colorful and imaginative as anything out there. They all had a strong vision on fashion and clearly excelled in creative quality. The majority of the collections featured a fusion of a modern, feminine, innovative image with premium workmanship, optimum material choices, and perfect fits. An amazing combination of fabrics, accesory-play, minimalism of forms, bold makeup and magnificence of colors made these new collections of original and exquisite. Sandro Romans was the only designer to present a menswear collection. His pieces were architectural — they were a half-way between futuristic, sportive and tribal, and put the personality of the wearer up-front. See pictures of the show on the following pages.

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Photo: Courtesy of Radswan

Freddie Harrel Is Building Conscious Beauty For and With the African Diaspora

Formerly known as "Big Hair Don't Care", creator Freddie Harrel and her team have released 3 new wig shapes called the "RadShapes" available now.

Photo: Courtesy of Radswan

The normalising of Black and brown women in wigs of various styles has certainly been welcomed by the community, as it has opened up so many creative avenues for Black women to take on leadership roles and make room for themselves in the industry.

Radswan (formerly known as Big Hair Don't Care), is a lifestyle brand "bringing a new perspective on Blackness through hair, by disrupting the synthetic market with innovative and sustainable products." Through their rebrand, Radswan aims to, "upscale the direct-to-consumer experience holistically, by having connected conversations around culture and identity, in order to remove the roots of stigma."

The latest from French-Cameroonian founder and creator Freddie Harrel - who was featured on our list of 100 women of 2020 - has built her career in digital marketing and reputation as an outspoken advocate for women's empowerment. On top of her business ventures, the 2018 'Cosmopolitan Influencer of the Year' uses her platform to advocate for women's empowerment with 'SHE Unleashed,' a workshop series where women of all ages come together to discuss the issues that impact the female experience, including the feeling of otherness, identity politics, unconscious bias, racism and sexism.

And hair is clearly one of her many passions, as Freddie says, "Hair embodies my freest and earliest form of self expression, and as a shapeshifter, I'm never done. I get to forever reintroduce my various angles, tell all my stories to this world that often feels constrained and biased."

Armed with a committee of Black women, Freddie has cultivated Radswan and the aesthetic that comes with the synthetic but luxurious wigs. The wigs are designed to look like as though the hair is growing out of her own head, with matching lace that compliments your own skin colour.

By being the first brand to use recycled fibres, Radswan is truly here to change the game. The team has somehow figured out how to make their products look and feel like the real thing, while using 0% human hair and not negotiating on the price, quality or persona.

In 2019, the company secured £1.5m of investment led by BBG Ventures with Female Founders Fund and Pritzker Private Capital participating, along with angelic contributions from Hannah Bronfman, Nashilu Mouen Makoua, and Sonja Perkins.

On the importance of representation and telling Black stories through the products we create, Freddie says, "Hair to me is Sundays kneeling between your mothers or aunties legs, it's your cousin or newly made friend combing lovingly through your hair, whilst you detangle your life out loud. Our constant shapeshifting teaches us to see ourselves in each other, the hands braiding always intimately touching our head more often than not laying someone's lap."

"Big Hair No Care took off in ways we couldn't keep up with," she continues, "RadSwan is our comeback.It's a lifestyle brand, it's the hair game getting an upgrade, becoming fairer and cleaner. It's the platform that recognises and celebrates your identity as a shapeshifter, your individuality and your right to be black like you."

Check out your next hairstyle from Radswan here.

Radswan's RadShape 01Photo: Courtesy of Radswan

Radswan's RadShape 02Photo: Courtesy of Radswan

Radswan's RadShape 03Photo: Courtesy of Radswan

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