Saturday, February 15, 2014

Stephen Burrows

Hello All,

We are halfway in Black History Month, and I am still excited about the research I have found.  The designer I am going to highlight this morning is one of my favorite designers, Stephen Burrows. 

I had the pleasure to meet Burrows while in grad school in 2011, and I must say that not only is he a true pioneer of fashion, but his facial expressions are also quite hilarious!

Burrows was born in Newark, NJ in 1943. He graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City in 1966.  Upon graduation, he began creating garments for the O Boutique, and his display windows literally stopped traffic.  He launched a Ready-To-Wear collection for Bonwit Teller in 1969.  Later that year, Joel Schumacher, the visual director for Henri Bendel, introduced Burrows to Bendel's legendary fashion director, Geraldine Stutz, and he was hired on the spot.

Burrows rose to fame with Henri Bendel, and his clientele included:
  • Cher

  • Diana Ross

  • Lauren Bacall

  • Liza Minnelli

  • Jerry Hall

  • Lauren Hutton

  • Barbra Streisand

Burrows was known for his color-blocking techniques.  He was influenced by music, dance, and the body, and he produced revolutionary designs that were soft, comfortable, and chic.  He was known for his use of stretch fabrics such as wool and rayon jersey, and he crafted a close fit and slim silhouette.  He originated "the lettuce edge" that became his signature and remains in his collections today.  Burrows was nominated for a Coty Award, the fashion industry's highest honor, in 1971 and 1972, and he received the award in 1973, 1974, and 1977.

After his success with Henri Bendel, he opened up his own shop on Seventh Avenue, selling everything from clothing to fragrances, furs, and sunglasses.  Burrows is the first African American to achieve international acclaim.  After a long hiatus, Burrows came back into the spotlight and started creating his signature pieces again.  As of today, after being in the business for 45 years, Burrows is still designing his signature looks for the fashion world.

Stephen Burrows Designs

1960s & 70s





2011 Collection

2011 Collection

2010 Collection for Target

2010 Collection for Target

First Lady Michelle Obama wearing Stephen Burrows in 2010
Until Next Time!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Fashion Accelerator 360

Hello All,

I have been taking the class, "Launch Your Line," which is a part of Fashion Accelerator 360, also known as FA360.  FA360 is a multi-platform learning experience that offers you full access to the industry's most established experts  I chose the "Launch Your Line" class because I am working to launch my own fashion label.  This is still in the works, but this class is helping me to reach this goal.

We are now in Week 4, and I have been having a lot of fun in this class.  There have been fun moments, as well as challenging moments.  My favorite assignment has been for Week 1, which is Product Development: Inspiration and Execution.  This particular assignment included the following:
  • Come up with 12 styles (or more) for your line
  • create a moodboard on Pinterest of your inspiration for your line
Here is my homework for this assignment

I loved creating the concept for this line, and so did my instructor.  It was discussed on the FA360 blog ( 
*for those who have been following this blog, you will see that I am revealing my name and face! :D
My most challenging class is Week 3.  The production cost and "backing in" to your production cost was very tough for me.  It took me a while to figure this part out.

Well, I have to read and do my assignment for Week 4.  I will give another recap for this lesson.  If you want to know more about FA360, please check out their website and follow them on social media.
Until Next Time!

Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley

Hello All,

I am having fun researching African Americans in fashion.  I am finding a lot of information.  Another African American fashion designer I want to highlight is Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley.  Heckley was a former slave who became a successful seamstress, civic activist, and author.

Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley was born a slave in 1818 in Dinwiddie, VA.  Her mother was a "privileged slave" and her father, who was revealed to her later in life, was her slave master, Armistead Burwell. She endured a somewhat brutal life while growing up.  She gave birth to a son, George, in 1839.  While she was still working for the Garland family, her sewing helped support her family.  After she moved with the Garland family to St. Louis, MO, Keckley was able to mingle with its large free black community, as well as establish a connection with women in the white community working a s a free dressmaker.

Keckley met her future husband, James, while also in St. Louis, but refuse to marry him unless she and her son were free.  Once her freedom was granted, she was married and worked hard in her sewing business.  In 1860, she moved to Baltimore, MD and started teaching sewing classes to young black girls, but after six weeks, she hardly had enough money saved to move to Washington, DC.

Once she raised the money, she moved to Washington, DC, and her business took off.  Her clients included:

  • Mary Todd Lincoln (wife of President Abraham Lincoln)

  • Mary Anna Custis Lee (wife of Gen. Robert E. Lee)

  • Varina Davis (wife of Jefferson Davis)

Keckley found most of her work with society women by word-of-mouth recommendations.  Keckley worked as Mary Todd Lincoln's personal dressmaker, stylist, and confidante.  While in the White House (and years after) she was the sole designer and creator of Mary Todd Lincoln's event wardrobe.  Although it was a strain in their relationship years later, they still remained in contact with each other.

In later years, she still remained busy with her sewing, teaching sewing classes to young African American women, and she also obtained a position as head of the Department of Sewing and Domestic Science Arts at Wilberforce University.  Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley died in 1907.

Keckley's Designs




Keckley in her design

Quilt created from scraps of Mary Todd Lincoln's dresses
Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley.  An innovator of fashion and American history.
Until Next Time!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Hello All,
While researching pictures of Anne Lowe designs, I came across the picture of this model.  Who is she?  She is gorgeous.  I would love to have her model my designs.  I feel all women are beautiful, no matter what race, creed, or color.  We are all beautiful creatures created by God, and this model is simply stunning!
If anyone knows this model, please let me know.
I will end on that note.  I will have more great posts to share later today.
Until Next Time!

Anne Lowe

Hello All,

As you all know, it is Black History Month.  We all know that February is known for celebrating Valentine's Day, but I celebrate it for all of the achievements of African Americans, whether known or unknown.  I have been researching blacks in fashion, and I am so excited from the research I have found.  Tonight, I will highlight another African American fashion designer, Anne Lowe.

Anne Cole Lowe was born in Clayton, Alabama in 1898.  She was the great-granddaughter of a slave and plantation owner.  She was married in 1912 at the age of 14, and attended fashion design school in New York City in 1917.  After graduation, she opened a salon in Tampa, FL, but moved back to New York City and worked on commission at Chez Sonia.

In 1946, she designed the dress worn by actress Olivia de Havilland when she accepted her Academy Award for Best Actress in To Each His Own.

Her most famous design was the wedding dress of Mrs. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, when she married John F. Kennedy in 1953.
This famous off-shoulder gown was constructed from 50 yards of silk taffeta. 
Unknown fact- 10 days before the wedding ceremony, a waterline broke in Lowe's studio in New York City and destroyed the future First Lady's wedding dress, along with 10 bridesmaids dresses.  Lowe worked tirelessly to re-create the 11 dresses in time for the famous wedding.

Although this dress is Lowe's most famous design, she did not get the credit she deserved.  According to the Huffington Post,  it was reported that Jackie told people that her gown, "was made by a colored woman dressmaker."  Her name was mentioned in the Washington Post when fashion editor, Nine Hyde, had written, "the dress was designed by a negro, Anne Lowe ("  Lowe's other high profile clients included New York society families, the Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts.




In 1960, she opened Anne Lowe Originals, which was located inside of Saks Fifth Avenue. 

Lowe busy at work
As of today, her works still live on in the following museums:
  • The Black Fashion Museum
  • The Smithsonian
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Anne Lowe died in 1981 at the age of 83.  Anne Cole Lowe, another innovator of fashion.

Until Next Time!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Patrick Kelly

Hello All,

There are many fashion designers in the world; some are established and some independent.  We all know of fashion designers such as Michael Kors, Donna Karan, and Zac Posen, but when someone speaks of Patrick Kelly, very few people know of him.  For tonight's Black History spotlight, I will discuss Patrick Kelly.  Kelly was one of the most influential fashion designers who changed the fashion industry, and a Mississippi native.

Patrick Kelly was born in Vicksburg, MS on September 24, 1954 in Vicksburg, MS.  He was interested in fashion by his influence of his fashionable female relatives.  He attended Jackson State University before moving to Atlanta, GA, where he worked without pay as a window dresser at the Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche Boutique.  After encouragement from one of his friends, he moved to New York City, where he attended Parsons School of Design.  Afterwards, he moved to Paris, France.

While in Paris, Kelly achieved his greatest success.  In 1988, he was the first American, and first person of color to be admitted as a member of the Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter (the governing body of the prestigious French ready-to-wear industry).  After receiving funding from U.S. conglomerate, Warnaco,
Patrick Kelly Illustration

Kelly with models wearing his designs
Kelly’s designs were sold in upscale clothing stores as Henri Bendel, Bergdorf Goodman, and Bloomingdales, and his celebrity clients included Bette Davis, Cicely Tyson, Isabella Rossellini, and Grace Jones.
Kelly with Iman, Grace Jones, and Naomi Campbell
Bette Davis wearing a Patrick Kelly design
Some of Kelly's most memorable garments incorporated masses of multicolored buttons and grosgrain ribbons clustered together.
Kelly's popular use of buttons
Kelly's famous button gloves
Other motifs, like the use of hats and splashy accessories, celebrated his rural southern roots.  Kelly also created works using controversial images drawn from popular culture, bringing issues of racial stereotyping to the forefront.
Kelly's iconic watermelon design
Although he produced beautiful garments for many prestigious clients, it all ended too soon when Kelly died in 1990 at age 35 from AIDS complications.  Although it has been 23 years since his death, his designs still live on. 
Patrick Kelly Retrospective Exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum in the 90s
For all of my Mississippi natives, and future fashion designers, I encourage you to read about Patrick Kelly, and look at some of his fashion designs.  They are truly inspirational.
Until Next Time!