Let’s be honest; no matter what else is going on in the news during February or September, fashionistas care about one thing and one thing only: The world-famous New York Fashion Week! Conceived in 1943 by Eleanor Lambert, press director of the New York Dress Institute, this semi-annual event is synonymous with the latest fashion trends and virtually determines what you will see in stores for the next 6 months.
Of course, the official NYFW schedule is only part of the picture. In recent years, independent designers who can’t afford between $125,000-$312,000 for an official show have taken matters into their own hands and produced their own shows before, during, and after the official week.
This is especially true for plus-size and size-inclusive designers, who have long fought for equal runway representation. Although, thankfully, there were several official NYFW events this fall that featured plus sizes. Perhaps every show will include plus sizes next February? A girl can dream, can’t she?
Surprisingly, plus-size women owe a lot to this tiny, 5’ 4” fashion designer who skyrocketed to success after becoming Project Runway’s youngest winner in 2007. He originally started designing plus sizes for his curvy mama and soon realized the enormous potential in plus. Since then, he has designed for plus size celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, Leslie Jones, and Khloe Kardashian, and has created plus size collections for multiple retailers like Lane Bryant, J. Jill, and HSN. He even launched a new brand, C. Wonder, earlier this year, which offers lower-priced clothes that are more accessible to the average consumer.
But there was nothing average about his show at the Pierre Hotel. The spring/summer 2024 collection showcased shimmering confetti gowns, black tie creations with an avant-garde edge, and even a revival of the bubble skirt!
Known as “the premiere fashion week kick-off experience highlighting Black innovators and their continued impact on the fashion industry”, the annual ESSENCE Fashion House and the annual Best in Black Fashion Awards were even hosted by a fabulous plus-size woman, TV personality, and actress Chasity Saunders.
The Best in Black Fashion Awards recognized multiple leading Black designers and creatives including Sergio Hudson for Designer of The Year, Brandice Daniel for Impact Award of The Year, Antoine Gregory for Emerging Creative of The Year, and Carlos Nazario for Stylist of The Year.
Even Barneys has jumped on the plus size bandwagon, joining forces with size-inclusive retailer Forever 21 to unveil flawless fall designs like their Sweater-Knit Bodysuits, Blazers, and Faux Leather Jackets, all priced under $130.
Designer Kimberley Gordon brought fantasies to life at The St Regis! Inspired by the Cottingley Fairies from the 1920s, audience members gasped at the whimsical patterns of mushrooms, strawberries, monarch butterflies, and the elegant drapings that transported them to fairyland.
And the fairies/models were representative of all sizes and abilities. They entertained with a plus-size burlesque dancer in between models and even the backstage crew was a mix of different sizes, races, genders, and sexualities.
As Danielle James from Elle Magazine said, “For 30 minutes, Gordon created a fantasy world that melded with hopes for the future.”
FASHION SHOWS FOR THE PEOPLE
1. Break Free NYFW Designer Showcase
“An immersive runway experience of art, design, fashion, and social issues”, Break Free NYFW merged exquisite fashion with raising awareness for mental health and substance abuse, proving that there is life after recovery.
The majority of the proceeds went to Break Free Foundation (https://www.breakfreefoundation.org/), a non-profit organization that “provides scholarships to assist those seeking treatment for a substance use disorder through attending a rehabilitation and outpatient center.”
2. Harlem Fashion Week
Harlem Fashion Week has proven to be a springboard for up-and-coming designers from all racial and socio-economic backgrounds and has always believed that “creativity is a catalyst for consciousness” and “fashion with a message”. Both were in clear evidence as they celebrated 50 years of Hip Hop with “Hip Hop on the Runway” at the Renaissance Harlem Hotel. Hip Hop artists themselves rocked the runway, emphasizing Hip Hop fashion as a true art form.
Special guests were also honored for their contribution to Hip Hop, including Zerina Akers, Ice T, Roxanne Shante, Jim Jones, Ralph McDaniels, Dj Hollywood, and Melle Mel.
3. REVIVE Fashion Week
REVIVE Fashion Week definitely lived up to the promise to be “the fusion of art and fashion, where creativity knows no bounds.” Also an all-day event with 3 different showcases at 12, 230, and 5 PM, each was an inclusive blend of streetwear, haute couture, and lingerie. Featured indie designers included Built By Stacy, Najila Raquel Designs (), and Girls Chronically Rock (https://girlschronicallyrock.com/), the inspirational clothing line by Keisha Greaves for men and women of all sizes who struggle with chronic illnesses.
4. Sexy in the City
Suanet’s Fashion Production provides upscale fashion events which shine a spotlight on independent designers and boutiques, especially those owned by minorities, that normally can’t afford to show their unique creations on a much higher scale than they would normally be able to afford.
Her Sex and the City-inspired extravaganza turned boring into beautiful, featuring inclusive designers such as Blaque Barbie Boutique, Flavors of Fullness, Momentous Fashion, Moonlight Serenade Apparel, and Virginia Cathey Collections, all of whom transformed traditional outfits like business suits into those worthy of Samantha Jones herself.
Even antiquated hosiery was given a new lease on life with Kix’ies Thigh Highs, which have earned recognition in the fashion industry as “The one true stay-up thigh high”!
5. “Thriving Beyond Lupus”
Last but certainly not least was the “Thriving Beyond Lupus” 1st Annual Fashion Show on September 17th. Curated by cutting-edge fashion professional and Lupus Warrior Nanette Rhodesia Swain of D.I.V.A.A. Casting Networks & Production, this fundraising fashion show raised money for and awareness of the millions of people who are either dying from, living with or “Thriving Beyond Lupus”, donating a portion of ticket sales to The LUPUS Foundation of America.
Tell us about your favorite fashion show experience in the comments section below!
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