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Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Studio 189's Debut Show Rejected All of NYFW’s Norms In Favor of Inclusivity and Authenticity

The Ghana-based sustainable brand presented their spring/summer 2019 collection—and it was out of this world.

To say that Studio 189 made history this week during the CFDA's official New York Fashion Week calendar would be an understatement. The Ghana and US-based sustainable fashion line, co-founded by Abrima Erwiah and Rosario Dawson, debuted their ready-to-wear spring/summer 2019 collection this week and it was anything but your typical fashion presentation—it was a celebration that hit all of your senses.

Before the audience who jam-packed Style360's space in Midtown delved into the highly anticipated looks, the brand chose to screen a short clip, giving a glimpse of the value chain, which is something fashion brands should be more transparent of with their consumers.

"The context was needed for people to understand the project," Erwiah, who's also Studio 189's co-creative director, tells me, reflecting on the presentation. "It's more than just a fashion show."


Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Ghanaian otherworldly artist Jojo Abot then graced the runway for a libation of a performance to honor those who came before us. Erwiah notes the importance to acknowledge and venerate our ancestors, as she constantly feels and sees Studio 189's accomplishments thus far being guided by something that makes the impossible, possible.

Bright lights shined on models of all sizes, ages, abilities, genders and stages of life strutted down a black-and-white runway with tunes provided by Uproot Andy, who mixed his collab Bumper to Bumper album with Studio 189 that traced the sounds of Africa's diaspora. The models were meant to be seen as one big family, celebrating Africa's diverse culture through brilliant prints, radiant colors from natural dyes from the motherland.

Before the finale walk, the audience was hit with a smash of a dance performance, featuring OkayAfrica faves Frankie Malloy, Papi Ojo, Hooliboy and the Lee Twins. A brief, beautiful and somber moment followed as stunning American Idol singer Frenchie Davis paid tribute to the late legend, Aretha Franklin, and to remember the fallen of September 11.

Studio 189's show was reminiscent of fashion parades you'd find in the black church of the south: classy fanfare with loud, unapologetic applause from the audience. The energy from onlookers was infectious and inexplainable.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

"I snuck out and watched people's reactions," Erwiah says. "It was so wonderful and it felt like being at someone's college graduation."

Although Erwiah was nervous that onlookers wouldn't understand this whirlwind of a fashion show, her vision translated the way it was meant to.

"I recognize that it was a bit out there," she says. "I was trying to strike this balance between presenting what various cultures in Africa look like, without being theatrical and costume-y at the same time. I wanted to make sure that the culture we put on display can be appreciated everywhere."

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Studio 189's NYFW show is ultimately a testament to what they continue to strive to put in action: creating opportunity, connecting artisans on the continent with the consumer, showing that a small brand can achieve the impossible and making luxury fashion accessible, yet organic.

"Why not make it more than clothes?" Erwiah asks. "It's about the value—these are garments you can keep, garments where you know who's making your clothes healthy.

Keep a look out for Studio 189's website that's due to launch next week. The brand will be taking the spring/summer 2019 collection to market this weekend, then off to the continent to present at Lagos Fashion Week and Glitz Fashion Week in Ghana in October.

Take a look at our favorite selections from the collection below.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.

Photo courtesy of Studio 189.


All runway photos by Oluwaseye Olusa, courtesy of Studio 189.

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Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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