Archive for the ‘Designers of Color’ Category

Designers of Color: Hemma Collection

December 12, 2009
Q: How did Hemma Fashions come about?
A. In the spring of 2007, while attending NYU, the designers studied abroad in Ghana, West Africa, where we discovered beautiful African textiles. While Cindy, pursued a career in law, and Edna, medicine, they also independently designed for years. They were inspired by African fashion and textiles, in particular intricately handwoven Kente. Drawing from its rich history, they began incorporating Kente into the garments that they made for themselves while in Ghana. At the same time, they were dedicated to volunteering as teachers at La Yahoushua, a local middle school. The passion for their students transcended the classroom as they advised a photography club, extending to many students their first opportunity to capture the world around them.

Once back in New York, Edna and Cindy received such wide acclaim for their designs that they launched a lifestyle brand combining African luxury with a fresh spin on classic designs. Hemma is a luxury womenswear collection that incorporates the same traditional techniques that have been used to weave Kente for African nobility for centuries. The name Hemma derives from the word “ohemma,” meaning queen in the Twi language of Ghana. Hemma affords each client an opportunity to dress with undeniable contemporary style while indulging in the textures and richness of royalty. 5% of all profits will be donated to the school that remains so dear to our hearts.
Q. Tell our blog readers a little about each designer’s vision when they created the line. What was the objective?
A. Edna – My vision for the 2010 Hemma collection was to have a chic yet classic collection. We wanted to bring this intricately hand woven fabric to the West and reveal how well the Hemma garments can be mixed and matched with pieces you already have in your closet. I also wanted it to have the cosmopolitan style of a New Yorker, with an international twist.

Cindy – I was inspired by the celebration of the women’s silhouettes present in African fashion. With this collection, we wanted our garments to flatter a women’s shape, allowing her to feel confident about what she is wearing. I also wanted to stay true to the tradition of kente being used for the royal class by creating a chic and immaculately tailored collection that would make any women feel like royalty.
Q. What are a few things you consider when creating a collection? Where do you find inspiration when creating looks?
A. We find inspiration by thinking about what women would feel comfortable in yet turn heads. The Hemma woman will make a statement, what kind of statement is up to the client—we have an all Black Asante suit which has detailed pattern on a solid subtle palette but we also have the beautiful Blue Asante suite that has patterns using black and copper, always a show stopper. The best part is that all of our suits can be worn together or as separates depending on the look you hope to execute.
Q. Describe Hemma using three adjectives.
A. Chic, Innovative, One-of-a-kind
Q. Tell us about your latest collection. What excites you about it?
A. In Hemma’s latest collection we used a sleek silhouette that lends itself to all shapes and sizes and creates a beautifully fitted garment that hugs the right places. Construction and fit are a major focus in the 2010 collection. We pride ourselves on creating clothing that makes women feel comfortable and confident. We also wanted to emphasize the wear-ability of Hemma while maintaining its luxe feel. This high-end vision is achieved by putting attention into even the smallest of details, for example by creating custom made buttons with the Hemma adinkra symbol, the dwennimmen, a powerful image in West Africa that represents humility & strength. This is one of the pillars of Hemma’s first collection, being a powerful force in contemporary fashion but also incorporating humanitarian aspects through The Hemma Foundation. The pieces in this collection, while being very stylish are not trends. They are very well constructed garments that can sustain the test of time. Hemma’s pieces are so versatile that they can be worn now and for years to come.
Q. You donate 5% of your profits to charity. How important is helping the community to you?
A. We both volunteered as teachers and photography club advisors at La Yahoushua Junior Secondary School in Accra, Ghana. We witnessed the economic hardships faced by young children in Ghana, many of whom work long hours to assist their families. Numerous primary and secondary schools also lack basic resources such as bathrooms and up-to-date learning materials. In order to improve the educational facilities while granting disadvantaged students an opportunity to attend school, we created The Hemma Foundation. We will continue to guide the foundation’s growth and support its efforts by way of an ongoing investment of 5% by Hemma’s annual sales. 

Q. What else does the future hold for Hemma? What would you like to see happen for the brand in the next five years? Do you have any free standing stores/boutiques?
A. Hemma’s future is very bright. This is just our first collection and our future collections will continue to evolve and improve. Characteristics of Hemma that will remain constant are Quality of fabric and construction, Beauty in pattern and color, and a Fit that will make women feel good about their curves. In the next five years we would like to be in boutiques across the country and around the world, as well as have expanded to our men’s collection. We will hopefully have a flagship store by that time as well.

Q. Is there anything else you would like to add?
A. There are so many things to love aesthetically about Hemma but we are very proud about Hemma’s economic and social impacts as well. Since the inception of Hemma, we have created jobs for individuals in Ghana as well as here in NYC. For many of our employees, the fair wages that Hemma provides is their only means of supporting themselves and their families.

Also, we are very strong proponents of the green movement and are a very socially conscious company. It’s about time that society and fashion wake up more to eco-friendly practices that work towards sustainable and innovation. Each of us has to do our part in the fight to be more responsible and accountable for our world and the society we live in. Hemma is doing its part by using raw, organic cotton to weave the Kente that is colored with natural dyes. The weaving process takes a very long time, about 2-3 months to create enough fabric to construct 2 suits. But it is all woven by hand on wooden looms not in factories and no tools are used. Only certain families with this tradition in its lineage can pass on the skill of weaving Kente.

We are proud to bring such a chic, luxe collection to the market and through it also expand the innovation, social conscience and face of fashion!

Bravo to Hemma Fashions! — O 

Designers of Color: Stephen Burrows

November 30, 2009
Stephen Burrows began his design career after graduating from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in 1966. He launched his first ready-to-wear collection in 1969 and later went to work for Henri Bendel after he was hired by fashion director Geraldine Stultz.
Looks from the Stephen Burrows spring 2010 collection.

Burrows client list consists of some of the most glamorous women of our time including Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, Grace Jones, Elsa Perretti, Barbra Streisand Vivica A. Fox and Eva Longoria. He also helped launch the careers of Bethann Hardison, Pat Cleveland, Iman and the late Naomi Sims.

Fall 2009 Looks

In 2002, Henri Bendel reopened the Stephen Burrows World boutique. Vogue magazine touted the event as the Party of the Season and Burrows received coverage in American, French and Japanese Vogue. Burrows also received a star on the Seventh Avenue Fashion Walk of Fame.

With a 40 year design history, Stephen Burrows has secured his presence in the fashion industry as a design leader. He continues to create masterpieces that are examples of refined beauty and elegance.

Designers of Color: Angela Dean – The Queen of Deanzign

November 13, 2009

The Chocolate Fashion Blog chatted with Angela Dean of Deanzign for our Designers of Color Series last week. Deanzign designs, a favorite of Oprah Winfrey have been worn by stars like Queen Latifah, Mary Wilson, Sherri Shepherd, Halle Berry, Patti LaBelle, and the list goes on. Dean’s legendary designs have graced the covers of several magazines and her fans can’t get enough of her elegant designs which seem to fit a woman’s curves oh so well.

O Magazine – November 2009

Angela Dean’s talent and flexibility has led her to be summoned by legendary stars like Nancy Wilson and Natalie Cole to design collections for their stage performances. Starting out in a small boutique on Melrose Avenue, Dean expanded her business to become one of the most sought after designers in Hollywood. Her gowns represent the old Hollywood glamour of the 1940s and 50s. Most recently, Oprah Winfrey graced the cover of her November issue in a sassy red number. Oprah has continued to support Dean and is often photographed on the red carpet in her designs. This past week Angela presented her designs in a fashion show aptly titled Hollywood Renaissance, proving once again, that she is in it for the long haul!

Q. When did you first fall in love with fashion?

A. When I was 7 years old and I made my first pair of shorts and a scarf

Q. Give us some details about your training and or background that led you to be a designer.

A. My mother was very influential in my life .She had amazing style and made her own clothes.After graduating from high school I attended Los Angeles Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and soon after staring designing junior dresses.

Q. What do you enjoy most about being a fashion designer?

A. The freedom of creating beautiful clothes that people love to wear.

Q. What do you enjoy least about being a fashion designer?

A. The long and grueling hours that is required to be successful.

Q. How do find inspiration for fashion? Where do you turn to get the creative juices flowing when you are designing?

A. I am inspired by old Hollywood.I love looking at old movies and and photos.

Q. What are your wardrobe must-haves?

A. Great dresses for all occasions, that can be dressed up or down, depending on the occasion.

Q. Where do you shop?

A. At Deanzign!

Q. Name three of your favorite designers and tell why you love them.

A. Donna Karan is classic, Oscar De La Rentea, elegant, and Valentino glamorous.

Q. Who was the first celebrity to wear your designs? How did it make you feel?

A. Mary Wilson of the Supremes. It was one of the highlights of my life.

Q. What are your plans for your brand in the future?

A. I am planning to build a full lifestyle brand and have stores all over the world.

Visit Deanzign online!

The Chocolate Fashion Blog would also like to thank Angela Dean & Deanzign; and Lynn Allen Jeter and Associates for helping organize this interview. Thanks Lynn! 

— O

Designers of Color: Thulie Ellis

October 26, 2009

Australian designer Thulie Ellis found her fashion calling at an early a age. Born in South Africa and raised in New Zealand, Thulie was inspired by her surroundings, enhancing her love of fashion. After a stint at FBI, Syndey’s premier fashion school, Thulie decided to launch her own collection.

Blending femininity and glamour, she created, “Flashes on the Silver Screen”, which launched earlier this year. Thulie created the collection with the modern woman in mind, a woman who enjoys the lush feel of silk against her skin or the dangling of pearls against her neck. Thulie welcomes Chocolate Fashion Blog readers to the Thulie experience, a contemporary collection with a story to tell.  

Q. What inspires you as a fashion designer? How do you come up with your ideas?

A. Fashion has always been one of the great loves of my life so it’s fair to say I get inspiration from everything in life. I can’t remember the last time I watched a movie, read a blog or magazine or went to the beach without being inspired and itching to go home and get new concepts onto paper. Most recently and in reference to my latest collection my inspiration has been old school. 6 months ago on a lazy Sunday afternoon I watched Dorothy Dandridge strut her stuff in Carmen Jones in what can only be described as carefully constructed ingenious effortless designs. In the following weeks I found myself renting every movie produced from 1949 to 1970 pen in paper in hand with excitement.

Q. Who is your fashion idol and why?

A. Its hard to pinpoint one person and say yeah she is my idol, she is always flawless and I want what she’s having in my size. Just like the average person the fashion icons have their fair share of hit and misses. If I was to say who I admire it would be a mix between Halle Berry and Eva Longoria. They both dress per the occasion but still manage to exude style and sex appeal. Halle is aware of her fabulous body and dresses like she knows it! Eva Longoria is a little of the old Hollywood glamour and is forever feminine which I love.

Q. Other than your own brand, what fashion brands/designers do you admire?

A. Designers I admire there are so many for such different reasons I absolutely adore Edith Head because she exudes raw natural talent. Coming from humble beginnings in a male dominated arena Edith had no formal fashion education but designed master pieces for the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Bette Davis need I say more on the matter! If you were to ask me about a modern day Designer I would have to say the Versace fashion house as a whole. Gianni Versace in my opinion adored all woman and his master pieces are evidence of this. In a time where woman where all about the power suit Versace made it feminine and I really aspire to that. Since the reign of Donatella she is kept the best parts of her brother’s vision and has taken my breath away time and time again with her ageless masterpieces.

Q. Describe your target customer and how wearing Thulie would make her feel. What is she like?

A. Anyone who knows me will tell you I am a dreamer, so instead of designing for a specific woman in mind I designed for the occasion instead. In a lifetime a woman will go through a lot of firsts; the first date, your 21st, your first job interview, the first day at your dream job, an engagement party, attending your best friend’s wedding the list is endless but what I am trying to say is that the Thulie customer buys with a occasion in mind and wants something that is timeless to savior in her wardrobe while standing out amongst a crowd. I want her to savor the excitement of getting ready as much as I do. My hope is that by the time she has put her make up on, done her hair, painted her nails putting on one of my garments is like getting to the best bit of a piece of cake it’s the part you have been waiting for and its every bit worth the anticipation.

Q. How different is fashion in South Africa compared to what you’ve seen or know of American fashion?

A. Having grown up in New Zealand raised by a South African mother and gaining my fashion exposure from Australia I consider myself very lucky to have been exposed to such different but wonderful extremes of fashion. My personal opinion on New Zealand fashion is it is in a league of its own. It’s purely about individuality and not about what hot according the latest celebrity I really respect that about Kiwi woman. My take on South African fashion is purely what I witnessed growing up which is dress up for every occasion. I love that South African woman dress themselves up in their Sunday bests even if it is only for a trip down to the corner store for milk! Australian designers continue to make my jaw drop there is such talent here is astonishing. In my mind Australian fashion is at the top of the fashion game while remaining true to the Australian clientele I mean come on to create a garment that is glamorous enough to wear to a awards show but just as perfect for the girl partying at her local club/pub/bar on a Saturday that night that’s talent. While all of the above have be great influences in my fashion education this story could not be told without great mention of the American influence. I still find it astounding that for such a large country America is still turning out some of the most unbelievably talented designers. I have to say when ever I need a quick fix of fashion I can always rely on New York fashion week to boost my creative flow.

Q. What’s the best fashion advice you’ve ever received?

A. The best fashion advice I have ever received is “Make it your Own”. As simple as this statement is I truly live by it and am grateful for the advice. Each season we are introduced to so many trends and its easy to get swept away in all the excitement. With time I have learned to take a step back take a deep breath and tailor trends to what suits me. As fabulous as Kate Moss is my background is Zulu with a proud Zulu body to boot so what suits her may not suit me and vice-versa so I may take a little of what she is wearing but make it work for me adding a touch of Thulie to my wardrobe.

Visit Thulie online at


Designer Collections: Rachel Roy Fall 2009 Ready-to-Wear

October 21, 2009

Rachel Roy is doing big things. She’s launched a new collection exclusive to Macy’s, going into the bridge arena, and of course continuing her stellar presence in women’s high-end ready-to-wear. Joining up with Jones of New York was one of the best moves she ever made and as a fellow Bay Area born fashionista, I am proud. Her fall 2009 collection is a polished assortment with a classic feel.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]