has announced herself with a bang and the
phone is ringing with designers for an inkling:
are they moving in the right direction or
not? Show producers are calling for designers
information and press kits; customers are
asking who's showing, when, where and what's
new? These days, I send them to the designers
web site and MySpace.
Suddenly, I am caught in a loop for this article:
information has not been forwarded. Yet, again.
Whats with Brooklyns black designers?
Pleasantries, be damned; it's time to take
on my fashion colleagues.
the words of an elder in the press community:
"This ain't your Mama's business! We
are in modern times, and designers are expected
to have a certain level of marketing sophistication
and media readiness."These words were
uttered in reference to a complaint about
a lack of black designers in magazines by
an elderly designer. The problem, he continued,
"is due to the lack of media training,
press kits, pictures and complaints of loss
of market share, from designers who refused
to be proactive about their marketing and
and micro businesses tend to be generational.
This September, I celebrate thirty years in
the fashion industry. My mom actually had
a sewing business for as long as I remember,
as did her surrogate mother. My mother taught
production and pattern making professionally.
Skills were respected and there were fewer
avenues for all. But she produced, and when
she needed production, she had a training
program and always had production staff. I
remember walking into the dress shop my mother
shared with an evolving selection of tailors
and dressmakers; it was filled of beautifully
dressed ladies selecting their styles, or
in desperation trusting my mother's skills.
I never remember her taking an ad, but she
had an extremely active social life that assisted
in expanding her clientele.
her space, there was always room for fabric,
and it became a neighborhood information center,
as parcels and messages would be left for
relatives and friends to pick up later. The
local "Sou Sou" would be dropped
off and eagerly picked up by a housewife whose
bill for her new appliance was due.
that space would be called a co-working facility,
and Silicon Valley would herald it as "new"!
Those sewing classes would be dubbed "Do
it Yourself (DIY) Workshops", and the
rave on online blogs. The "Sou Sou"
is now called funding while social networks,
emails and twitter have taken the place of
is still threatening to take over and designers
still seek loans, financing, production and
marketing, but there is more of a tendency
to wait for it to be provided. Designers are
relying more on hype, pr and media personnel
and online networks. While the numbers in
the design network are larger, the relationship
and community is surprisingly weaker.
is going on? Which direction is Brooklyn Fashion
going and what do designers need? Simple:
ask the designers. To a core group, they need
financing to support their production. They
need production facilities, access to buyers
and fulfillment services to deliver the goods.
ask the organizations that supply these services
and they will tell you that designers need
to organize their businesses, keep proper
records, understand their business models,
prepare their web sites and cards and then
get it to the editors or buyers. I dare ask:
what happened to the end users here, the consumers?
2004, I began studying Brooklyn's creative
industry. At that time, designers asked for
the formation of a Brooklyn Fashion Week.
We committed to it, bought the relevant web
address, and just launched the site.
will be honest, I am not a fan of the traditional
Fashion Week, nor for runway style presentations.
They are notoriously costly. And from my experience,
the real winners are the promoters, the press
and the organizers. What usually gets lost
are the designers, who seldom get compensated
and frequently end up with no orders from
of the only few black designers who seem to
make these shows work for him is Courtney
Washington (see his website at www.CourneyWashingtonStore.com),
one of Brooklyn's most successful design labels.
As he can attest, during market week, he gets
garments to buyers.
Brooklyn's design industry has an abundance
of designers, but little if any production
capacity. Yes, funding is beginning to flow
into the industry from outside sources, but
it is not going to the creative workforce.
Some would argue that I have taken the role
of advocate on behalf of Brooklyn's fashion
you'll have to excuse me if I get miffed when
the Borough Presidents office called
a meeting of designers during the summer
to decide what form of support is best
for Brooklyn designers, and significant segments
were not represented.
faux pas several industry professionals
were overlooked because "their strong
ethnicity is not design." I am even more
miffed when designers sit by quietly at these
meetings, then call to gripe and complain
after the fact . . . or rush to claim promised
glory rather than pool their resources to
define and advocate their "independence."
like many Brooklyn businesses, is feeling
the impact of social and economic change.
Covering up the issues with pleasantries and
silence may feed rather than still the flames.
I, however, support my fellow designers.
Yes, I am a designer, have been trained at
with master craftsmen and women from England,
Italy, Greece and Russia with a volunteer
project, Brooklyn Fashion Gallery (BrooklynFashionGallery.com)
consisting of passionate and talented Brooklynites
who are working to expand and grow Brooklyn
Fashion. Our next project, dubbed "Prelude,"
explores new media, tools, applications and
strategies for fashion designers. Please visit
Sandy Sterling is an avid fan of Brooklyn,
as a shopping destination. She runs A-liners,
a project documenting Brooklyn's fashion designers,
online portals to support creative independent
enterprises. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org