DREAMLEAPERS Style Retreat
In preparation for the Dreamleapers Style Retreat on May 13th at Mist Harlem, in New York City, Dreamleapers Creator/Author & Entrepreneur HARRIETTE COLE hosted an intimate `Style Salon’ at Sylvia’s Also Event Space in Harlem, just to wet the appetites of curious fashionistas who gathered to listen to a panel of fashion insiders talk about their journey through the unpredictable fashion industry.
SPECIAL GUEST PANEL
Panelists shared their knowledge about the industry, as they exposed their personal journey to get where they are presently. Gems were dropped, fashion secrets were revealed and relevant information was disseminated by a dynamic panel that represented various sectors of the fashion industry: Princess Jenkins, owner of The Brownstone, a popular fashion outlet; Carlton Jones, a New York celebrity fashion stylist turned designer; George Chinsee, premier fashion photographer for WWD Magazine; Guy Wood, proprietor of Harlem Haberdashery and co-founder of 5001 Flavors Custom Clothing line and Teri Agins, author and former Wall Street Journal fashion reporter.
PRINCESS JENKINS of The Brownstone, a pillar in the New York fashion retail sector which holds the credit for being the first African-American department store to exist in Harlem, said her love affair with fashion and her love affair with women, coupled with the lessons learnt when you come to Harlem, has kept the doors of her store opened for 19 years. “At The Brownstone we made it a point not to ever have a sale. We priced our merchandise fairly, plus, we have great product and great customer service. You have to be kind to people. I get to know my customer, you have to make people feel comfortable.” Jenkins disclosed later that she created her own fashion line – The Brownstone Women’s Collection and a Black Label collection, “to help customers discover her `inner designer.’ You have to help them do your work, It’s a level of education and intelligence.”
CARLTON JONES told the audience he went from dressing celebrities from Erykah Badu and Aretha Franklin to Yolanda Adams and Queen Latifah, to becoming a fashion designer with several collections under his belt. “The key is to create style that people love. For magazines and celebrities the objective is the same. I give celebrities what they gravitate to, the idea is to give them something they are comfortable with, then I put my own `style touch’ to it. With magazines, there is a board (guide) to go by. The overall objective is the style result, so it was all about the client first.” Carlton was the first stylist to put Queen Latifah in a dress. He dressed her in Todd Oldham and Ghost designs. “That brought a lot of attention on me.” recalled Carlton who was always sketching and made the transition to designing quite naturally. “Designing was the next level of progression. It was always about creating a look for the celebrities. I was constantly with designers and doing trunk shows in the Caribbean. I was moved by the fluidity of capes and that’s how it started – doing shows in the Bahamas, Jamaica and Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.” Carlton’s resort collection was launched in June 2016, with a heavy on-line presence. Now, Carlton is one of New York’s fast rising design talents, featured on New York 1 with Cheryl Wills during NY Fashion Week, and, had the honor of being the only American designer to showcase during Fashion Week in China earlier this year.
GEORGE CHINSEE was one of the most anticipated panelist of the evening. He’s known never to have told his story in a public forum or to the media, remaining very low-keyed about his remarkable journey and work with WWD (Womens Wear Daily) the Bible of the fashion industry. George traced his journey to the prestigious position as the only photographer of color in a senior position at WWD. “I got to where I am from volunteering, I worked for Carl Fisher for $35 a day, I wanted to make a living doing what I loved. It was all about the creativity and the passion.” George attended the School of Visual Arts (SVA) and the High School of Art & Design. He took six months off before going to college and worked for a company that that produced slide shows. He worked in photography and art direction. George worked as second assistant to renowned fashion photographer Irving Penn for two years, which became a major stepping stone in his career. “At Penn, it took the mystery out of how things were done,” recalled George. “Penn advised me `If you want to feed your family, learn how to shoot still life.’ Photography is painting with light. 80 percent is still life – 20 percent is fashion.”
GUY WOOD informed the audience that he fell into the fashion industry through the back door. He recalled going to fabric stores with his Mother who taught him all about fabric. That was the base of his education. Always impeccable dressed, Guy had a natural knack for fashion which attracted the likes of JZ and P. Diddy to his personal style of dress. “I didn’t even have a card, I worked at OTB and went to party at Sweet waters. That’s where I met everybody, I remember coming home and telling my then girlfriend, now my wife, that I was going to become a fashion designer….I remember working on getting wardrobe for Mary J. Blige and went to Essence, and, Harriette Cole asking me if I am going to put a yoke on a specific garment. I didn’t even know what a yoke was. But I learnt all the way along. I never went to school. My first big styling job was for the singer Eric Gable at Epic Records. They paid me a ton of money and I saw the opportunity coming my way and took it. I’ve worked with over 500 musical acts, now 25 years later.” Guy concluded: “At the end of the day, you are what you want to be. Bottom line is just do it. If you don’t know something, just ask for help and there are people that will help you.”
TERI AGINS has been writing about the `business’ of fashion since she joined the Wall Street Journal in 1989. “The Wall Street Journal had a circulation of 2 million. We looked at every story as a business story. Now, fashion writers and bloggers all want to be celebrities. The Wall Street Journal was re-launched as a website and I’ve done over 5000 advice columns about solutions.” Teri revealed that one of her biggest stories was how designer Marc Jacobs did not make $1million that everybody thought he did. Through that expose’ he was able to go back to LVMH and re-negotiate his contract. Teri is the author of two important books on the goings on in the fashion industry from a business perspective – `The End of Fashion’ and `Hijacking the Runway -How Celebrities Are Stealing the Spotlight From Fashion Designers.’