As I arrive to the location, the open businesses, including several restaurants, beauty shops, and accessories and clothing stores looked updated since the last time I was there. The crowd strolling around the sidewalk, the bonafide vibe and sense of community felt familiar. I been at the Harbor once before, but now coming back about a year later I felt refreshed. My feeling of reinvigoration did not help my sense of direction. I had failed to realize the runway show was not going to be held on the address provided which was the store's location, but on the plaza at the Harbor. After a few minutes of hunting, I arrived. I was delighted to see the level of work of the makeshift catwalk and panel set behind it as to create a touch of drama. I was surprised to witness that all almost every seat was taken, I did not recognize a single face on the front-row. As I started to instigate, the invited guests and VIP's were mingling at a two-story restaurant located adjacent to the runway setup. I arrived late to the reception and trying to get to the second floor of the restaurant was chaotic if not confusing, so I stayed at level ground. All of the sudden, I see Maggy Francois, the producer of the show, we exchanged words, but then a slightly fiasco ensued.
It was hot and a bit humid and folks were already seated ready for the show to start, little did they know, they were about to get kick out of their seats. The folks that were seated were not invited, much less VIPs so they were instructed to vacate their seats. The picture was not pretty to say the least. I noticed some folks fuming, seemingly ready to curse somebody out. I understood their anger. There was not a single person present to instruct the crowd on the seating situation nor there were "reserved" sings placed on any of the seats. However, this was not a local hood fashion show. The fact that there were no instructions given, does not give folks the right to act nasty and vulgar to the people working for the show. Though their behavior read as disrespectful, most of them stayed to watch the show bitterly, but at least they got their treats. In hindsight, I think I slightly felt like bitch at some point, like it was a bad thing, but I paid no attention, fashion is a bitch, after all.
I was seated in between MSGFT's Ryan Charchian (Military's Style Guide For Teens) in dark Chanel sunglasses (I also had the chance to meet the lovely Elizabeth Hogue, MSGFT's market fashion editor), to my left was GWFCC (Great Washington Fashion Chamber of Commerce) Christine Brooks-Cropper wearing a fitted jean which nicely hugged her curves, across from me, on the other side of the runway, was vanguardist designer EmoreJ Couture. I guess you could say I was seating amongst the right people. The show, like any other fashion show, started late as ever, so I chit-chatted with Ryan most of the time, he was briefly telling me about his organization, his appreciation of my blog and how much the models loved him. As I look at the front row, I noticed Ryan, Elizabeth and myself were the youngest out of all the attendees. I won't be surprised if folks thought we were wrongly seated from the lack of information they know about us, but I personally felt I earned my spot.
The music slowly started to rise on the background, Kenny's voice crept in narrating on his humble beginnings and how the haters won't stop him. Two rows of models clad in white (short and tight) ensembles lined up at the end of each side of the runway. I truly did not know what to expect, Were they going to give us a lap-dance? or, Where they going to hand out Kenny's business cards? My premonitions were be to proven wrong. They got up all along the runway and performed their posed-and-shake routine. It was a lovely intro. However, the choreography did not tell me anything about Kenny as a designer. But in someway, it heralded the vibe of his presentation.
The show opened up with a chocolate brown silk top with a plunging neckline, dark-washed jeans with gold pipping, and faux-croc printed bag. Right from the first look, the mood of the collection was established -- short and feminine. The seductive appeal from the clothes and the vixen touch of the hair, make-up and accessories just ratchet up the temperature on the runway. The girls seemed ready to hit the town for a wild sex-charged party night, or at least that's the impression the clothes elicited. The most transitional looks were composed of wrapped silk tops with billowy cuffed sleeves with tiny buttons detailing. The one that felt most innovative was the one in lilac with the armpits cut out, it looked like a nod to modernity and practicality. I don't see a single person complaining about a bit of ventilation.
The illusion created by the wrapped waists and slightly flowy sleeves was not only attractive but also contributive towards achieving a slimmer silhouette, which at the end of the day is what every women wants. Also, the idea of de-emphazining a much more lusciously-targeted area on the body besides breasts and legs was an alluring concept. Covering the arms and exposing the legs looks more appropriate than baring it all out there and leaving nothing to the imagination.
The demure color palette just felt right for the moment, it composed shades that would work for a majority of consumers. It included: midnight blue, black, deep purple, chocolate brown, rubi, silver and touches of gold.
Two other standout looks was this strapless cocktail dress in rubi with a bow at the side-front and this long-sleeve dress with a draped neckline in shimmering red silk. Both looks had enough sex-appeal to turn heads everywhere, and both models turned out looking vivacious instead of slutty. I was much less convinced of a gentrified cerulean silk blouson worn with a high waisted skirt. It just completely clashed with the youthfulness of the whole collection. I wish I hadn't see it. I thought the efforts to create a draped night gown were commendable, after all Kenny's strength centers there. But I was slightly disappointed with one of the gowns that just felt underwhelming. The colour, bright orange, looked gorgeous, but the fit was downright blah. The tulle straps holding the dress and the sash across the waist just looked like an afterthought, the shape of the girl suddenly disappeared and she ended up looking like a premature version of her mother who happen to have bigger body features. The gown certainly look mediocre in comparison to the rest of his fabulous collection.
Regardless of the minimal mishap, the evening wear shined on its own. The most unconventional, still wearable looks was this long-sleeve with an open neck in what seems to be in fleece or velour and to bring a more appealing touch the hem was sequenced. It was a dress that at first, might not look tempting but after considering the choice of the unconventional fabrics to create an evening look, suddenly it becomes an "it" dress . There was also this cocktail dress in luscious black silk with controlled frills cascading down the neckline, it certainly looked stunning on the model and perhaps the most chic looking dress on the collection. His last look, and what got the crowd cheering the loudest was this strapless gown with slashes of silk silver, black and sequence beautifully entwined altogether. The intricate workmanship and coquettish vibe of the wear certainly made a lasting impression on the attendees, it felt like the right note to end an impressive show.
Talking about a lasting impression, the most editorial look (see below) was on Bianca Chardei which was a silk strapless printed dress with a red overlay adoring the neck and exposing the back. The glamour of the dress as it swayed down the runway was palpable. The intricate melange of the African-inspired prints was so visually appealing and the rather seductive move on the girl made for a stunning look. And Rihanna, if you're reading this, get in contact with Kenny asap.
Photo by Ryan Charchian
RIHANNA, EAT YOUR HEART OUT!
Kenny posses other conceits, his menswear was also a hit on the runway. The suits he presented were casually worn over v-neck tees, open-collar and matchy combinations of ties and handkerchiefs. What look more interested than the suits as a whole was his fabrication, they looked lush and it seemed as if he spent a considerable amount of research on them. There was a simple plaid brown and red lines, camel, and silk ivory. The silhouette was roomy and boxy, more tailored around the shoulders, pants were loosen but did not look saggy. As the model walked down the runway, I kept pondering on who his male customers are. It may not be a Frenchy who prefers Dior Homme (circa Hedi Slimane era), but an American with a much sturdy physique and is perhaps an assailant of "skinny" jeans. Think more Chad Ochocinco than Elijah Wood.
When this man came out, women (and some men) went bonkus, I think I overheard someone said "He is going to bring the cougar out of me". And who is to blame, everybody loves chocolate.
After the show, Kenny was asked who was the inspiration behind his collection, he answered his mother, "she's everything to me", he then introduced his lovely daughter and stated some beautiful words standing next to her, it was a beautiful image of a loving father and daughter. I wasn't completely satisfied with his answer for the source of inspiration, I wanted to know more. Once at the store, I asked him, what specifically about his mother was that inspired him? His eyes lit up, "her attention to details", he added, "she had a great sense of style and she focused on the silhouette." I felt his passion, his sincerity and humility (he gave a shout-out to his seamstress who was seating frontrow). In a way, I witnessed a side of Kenny that I have not seen before, the man who actually makes things happen and puts the time and effort to his craft. I saw the man who backs up what he states and does it triumphantly. It was an inspiring moment witnessing a successful black man in fashion going after his dream and remaining true to himself along the way.
Photos by Phil Kogan.