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8 Sep

Harlem’s Fashion Row Honors Stella Jean, Kelly Rowland, A$AP

It was an evening of high-fives, hugs, standing ovations, tears and celebration at Harlem’s Fashion Row’s sixteenth annual Fashion Show and Style Awards, celebrating hip-hop’s fiftieth anniversary.

Held at the enduring Apollo Theater in Harlem, the event honored Stella Jean as designer of the yr; Kelly Rowland as fashion icon; Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, Vogue’s global contributing editor as editor of the yr; Wayman Bannerman and Micah McDonald, a Los Angeles-based styling duo, as stylists of yr, and photographer Johnny Nuñez as hip-hop trailblazer. Rapper and songwriter A$AP Rocky received the Virgil Abloh Award, presented by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

Following the awards ceremony, three emerging Black designers showed their collections: Nicole Benefield, Aaron Potts and sustainable brand designer Megan Smith, whose line is Megan Renee.

The theme of the event, sponsored by AT&T and Disney Create 100 and Camille Rose, was “Remix,” in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of hip-hop. Amongst those in attendance were June Ambrose, Sergio Hudson and Dapper Dan, along with presenters similar to Tamron Hall, Tonne Goodman and Samira Nasr.

Brandice Daniel, founder and chief executive officer of Harlem’s Fashion Row, said, “We’re here in the guts of Harlem on the world-famous Apollo Theater. We’re commemorating an enormous milestone — the fiftieth anniversary of hip-hop. Hip-hop has left an indelible mark on me personally and each facet of our culture, especially fashion.”

She said the evening also celebrated the art of storytelling, because that’s what hip-hop is. “And these are stories of resilience, stories of triumph, stories of ambition and stories of audacity,” Daniel said. “We may even honor the distinguished innovators who’ve shaped the style landscape who don’t often get recognized enough.”

She said lots of the artists and designers they were celebrating have overcome considerable obstacles, particularly those that have faced systemic racial barriers that persist in the style industry. “This evening serves of a testament to the dismantling of those barriers and the ascent towards an inclusive and empowering fashion industry,” Daniel said.

Brandice Daniel

Lexie Moreland/WWD

Daniel underscored the economic weight of the Black consumer. In line with McKinsey, Black Americans are expected to spend $70 billion annually on apparel and footwear. “These same individuals are thrice more prone to patronize Black-owned or -founded brands. To overlook this, is to overlook the deniable force of our community,” Daniel said.

Daniel said she’s grateful for her brand partners, lots of whose executives were within the audience from firms similar to H&M, American Eagle Outfitters, Abercrombie & Fitch, Lululemon, Nike, Victoria’s Secret, Dior Beauty, Macy’s Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks, Sephora, and LVMH.

In presenting the Fashion Icon award to his wife, Rowland, Tim Witherspoon said, “I couldn’t pass up this moment to inform you in front of the world that you may have at all times been my icon. Not only in fashion, but in all that you simply do, including raising our sons, and raising the bar for yourself.…You’re the flyest and also you do all of it. with style and beauty.”

In accepting her award, Rowland, who rose to fame within the late Nineteen Nineties as a member of Destiny’s Child, said, “I like that Black man. I like you a lot Tim. I’m not going to cry. To start with, Brandice, hearing you discuss Harlem’s Fashion Row, I just wish to shout your name and discuss you from every rooftop. For what you’re doing is groundbreaking…you’re the true icon. Thanks a lot for seeing me. You may have no idea how much this implies to me.”

She said that when she was called about being a fashion icon, I used to be like, “What’s that?”

“For me, I believed it was all the women in the style magazines who began trends,” she said. She said her history with fashion began with Destiny’s Child when Tina Knowles, Beyoncé’s mother, took matters into her own hands “and she or he dressed us and I remember what it was like to begin a trend.” She said she knows “that we start the trends, we make things cool. Fashion should be thankful for us.”

Gabriella Karefa-Johnson

Gabriella Karefa-Johnson

Lexie Moreland/WWD

Karefa-Johnson said as a fashion editor she’s had the privilege to shape the narrative that extends beyond the pages and the runway. “Through our art, we’ve had the privilege of reshaping perception, dismantling barriers and showing the world that diversity isn’t only a buzz word however the very essence of beauty and creativity,” she said. “Our selections and voices as a fashion editor acutely shape the world of fashion, beauty and magnificence, and with that power comes a responsibility to acknowledge and amplify voices which have long been silent and to champion stories which have never been told.”

Nasr, editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar, presented the stylists of the yr awards to Wayman and Micah, who joined forces in 2013. She said they work for such celebrities as Jodie Turner-Smith, Tiffany Haddish and Keke Palmer, who’ve all “grow to be red carpet powerhouses, they usually’ve all collaborated with Wayman and Micah,” Nasr said.

Wayman said to be named stylists of the yr feels great, “but to be named Stylists of the 12 months by Harlem’s Fashion Rows really special to us,” he said. He said they each began their careers in Harlem making vision boards. He said that satirically among the celebrities they were cutting out were people they set to work with. “Manifestation is real,” he said.

Micah added that it’s their tenth yr anniversary working together. “People at all times ask how that happened especially within the creative space. I heard a quote once, ‘relationships will not be about compromise, they’re about compatibility, for if there may be compatibility, there’s less of a must compromise.’”

Tamron Hall

Tamron Hall

Lexie Moreland/WWD

In presenting the designer of the yr award to Stella Jean, the Italian designer of partial Haitian heritage, Hall, the printed journalist and TV talk show host, explained that in 2020 the style world was marked by profound reflection and transformation. She said Jean took a stand in a daring and powerful move and pledged to return to the runway only when she wouldn’t be the only Black designer on the Milan schedule. “If she was there, we needed to be there. Her commitment to diversity and inclusion has resonated with the style industry and set remarkable precedent for change.” She said she had the pleasure of being in Rome one summer day and she or he had just lost her job and was in search of inspiration and was in search of sisterhood “and I met Stella Jean.”

“You recognize I do know my people…and I saw her soul and I saw that she wanted them to see us,” Hall said. “So often while you consider an Italian designer and you close up your eyes, you see a white man. Stella John wanted the world to shut their eyes and see her, and see others she believed in.”

Jean said she desires to see change in her country. Last February, Jean said she would go on a hunger strike, accusing the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, which organizes the Milan fashion shows each spring and fall, of abandoning its promotion of young designers of color working in Italy.

“This lady [Hall] seven months ago decided to alter the trajectory of my life. after 10 days of hunger strike…..she decided to make use of her voice and her platform to make an appeal for me,” said Jean. “I will probably be strong enough to perform this transformation in my country. I won’t quit. It jogged my memory that I’m not alone anymore, and I’ll never be alone again.”

In presenting the Hip Hop Trailblazer Award, Valeisha Butterfield, vp of partnerships and engagement at Google, recalled a moment when Nunez took her photo as a young intern. “It was on that day, that I walked slightly taller, and I sat slightly straighter and I used my voice slightly in a different way. I felt seen for the primary time, understood and even respected. That’s what it looks like to be photographed by the one and only Johnny Nuñez. You made me feel magical. But it surely’s greater than an image. Johnny is stamping a moment in our time, cementing and documenting our history as a community, as a culture in real time….From the White House to the Grammys to Latest York Fashion Week, to each moment that matters.” She said it hasn’t been easy, from systemic barriers and systemic racism. “You’ve experienced more doors shut in your face with no valid explanation, but here you stand,” she said.

Nuñez said Harlem’s Fashion Row has “opened up opportunities for people of Black and brown color they usually’ve opened a dialogue in order that we are able to expand the creative.”

Johnny Nunez  and family

Johnny Nuñez and family

Lexie Moreland/WWD

Finally, Rocky was presented with the Virgil Abloh Award by Anish Melwani, LVMH North America chief executive officer, and Gena Smith, chief human resources officer at LVMH North America. This award pays tribute to Abloh’s enduring impact by honoring individuals who, like him, display contributions to culture, community and innovation while embodying his spirit and brilliance.

Rocky said, “I feel like I look — good. My start began in Harlem.” He said he didn’t prepare a speech because he desired to talk from the guts. “Virgil discovered us — A$AP — as a bunch of children. We didn’t know who we were. Virgil knew who we were. A yr later, I became famous. Virgil went on to design my first album cover.

“We’re liable for quite a lot of trends. I’m not attempting to toot my very own horn. By we, I mean me,” Rocky said.

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