Honest Question: Who Needs Fashion Week When We've Got Harlem's Fashion Row?

Essence Global Beauty Director Julee Wilson, left, and Harlem’s Fashion Row founder Brandice Daniel.
Essence Global Beauty Director Julee Wilson, left, and Harlem’s Fashion Row founder Brandice Daniel.
Photo: Noémie Marguerite (Harlem’s Fashion Row)

As I write this, Fall/Winter Fashion Week 2020 is in full swing in New York City, and I am happily sitting this one out. Between the events, the exhaustion, the expense, and the pure chaos, I really only have the bandwidth and stamina to brave it all in September. (Honestly, it takes all of awards season and Black History Month to ease me into the rhythm of a new year.) Besides, as the digital landscape makes even the most exclusive shows accessible to all, even the industry itself is questioning the necessity of fashion weeks; I mean, maybe it’s my age and experience talking, but who’s really hyped about long lines, jam-packed schedules, zigzagging across Manhattan and the inevitably late show starts—that is, unless you’re just stunting for the ‘gram?

Now that I’ve gotten that out, I’ll admit this: I wish I’d sucked it up and made the trip to New York City, if only to party with Harlem’s Fashion Row.

Since its inception in 2009, the fashion advocacy organization lovingly known as HFR, founded by then-industry outsider Brandice Daniel, has made elevating the talent within our ranks its mission. In the past few years alone, HFR has partnered with Nike to create the first LeBron kicks designed for and by women; used the power of Google to empower a burgeoning generation of designers of color through its Fashion Summit; and launched its own online marketplace, In the Black, to showcase black design in addition to HFR’s biannual honors events—one of which took place last week (and trust, even though I got an invite, the FOMO still stings).


Kicking off Fashion Week and Black History Month in high style, this season HFR honored fashion icons Dapper Dan, Walker Wear founder April Walker and groundbreaking stylist Misa Hylton at Manhattan’s Sony Hall. From HFR:

Dapper Dan is most readily known as the tailor and couturier from Harlem who gave rap music its signature style. He’s outfitted everyone from Big Daddy Kane to Mike Tyson in his one-of-a-kind, reimagined Gucci, Fendi, Louis Vuitton and MCM designs. Today, Dap continues to shape the culture from his Harlem atelier in partnership with Gucci, where he dresses the biggest names in music and entertainment.

In the late 1990s, Misa Hylton was behind one of the biggest shifts in R&B and hip-hop style. From Mary J. Blige and Notorious B.I.G to 50 Cent and Lil Kim, Hylton is behind some of the biggest names in the industry. Today, Hylton serves as the global creative partner at MCM. In the short time that she’s been with the fashion house, she has already cultivated iconic looks for the likes of Beyoncé and Missy Elliot.

As the first young black woman to create her own clothing line in a male-dominated industry, April Walker set the standard for urban fashion. Walker opened her first custom clothing shop at the age of 21 and later founded her own clothing label called Walker Wear. Walker’s trailblazing styles were worn by some of the most iconic entertainers, such as Jay Z, Tupac Shakur, LL Cool J and more. Today, Walker is the CEO of A. Walker Group, a consulting firm that works with some of the biggest companies in footwear, fashion and entertainment.

And thanks to sponsors Amazon Music, Lyft, and Ciroc, it was a soiree high on style. As DJs Envy and Miss Milan helmed the turntables, guests rubbed shoulders with celebrity guests like silver-haired model JoAni Johnson, Fashion Bomb Daily founder Claire Sulmers, and singer Jay Watts. And from the looks of the gloriously outfitted blackness alone, it was an event not to be missed (*weeps*).

Y’all, we are so damned fly.

(All photos below by Noémie Marguerite for Harlem’s Fashion Row.)


Fashion Week is now wrapping up, but HFR is already preparing its next Fashion Summit on February 14th, to “bring together fashion creatives for learning and networking.” As for the next HFR honors? You can bet I’ll be there.

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up, co-host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door...May I borrow some sugar?

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Honest answer: Depends on how much Cultural Appropriation you’re willing to put up with?

...odd headlines aside, the more avenues for fashion, the better! I like the tie that fellow in #4 and #23 is sporting - a single-color suit jacket and pants, accentuated with a bit of springtime meadow. (#25/26's jacket is too busy for me, in other words.)