Buffalo fashion designers honor Black history on the runway

From the broad and baggy zoot suits of the Harlem Renaissance to the “logomania” that swept the ’90s hip-hop scene, Black fashion designers, musicians and artists have a long legacy of defining what’s cool.

And since fashion trends rarely die, a new crop of local designers are paying homage to influential movements in Black fashion through their work, which will be on display  Feb. 24 during Buffalo Fashion Runway’s Black Carpet.

Buffalo Fashion Runway previous show 5 (copy)

Some of the many young people involved with putting on the initial Buffalo Fashion Runway in the fall of 2023. The next event is Feb. 24.

“We are honoring the rich tapestry of Black fashion,” said Chad Williams, co-founder of Buffalo Fashion Runway.

When you picture a runway show, you might envision models walking along a catwalk, after which the designer takes a bow and everyone leaves. But Black Carpet is more than a typical fashion show. Yes, models will strut on the catwalk, but dancers, musicians and poets will also perform throughout the show, punctuating the fashion with literature, rap and dance.

“We’re centering it around Black History Month to highlight Black creatives and celebrate the diversity in the creative scene,” said Eman Wajed, creative director of Buffalo Fashion Runway. “It’s really a celebration of culture in Buffalo.”

Black Carpet is also honoring several prominent Black community members, who will walk the runway during a segment called “Black Icons.” They include television personality and founder of nonprofit For Our Daughters Mercedes Wilson, Tesla’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion director Kendra Brim, and Buffalo’s first poet laureate Jillian Hanesworth.

Buffalo Fashion Runway (copy)

Miquii Jackson models the Buffalo 10 jersey that will be seen at Buffalo Fashion Runway. It was designed by Chad Williams and Cain McDermott to honor the victims of the deadly Tops mass shooting in 2022.

One of the designs featured on the runway, a jersey, will commemorate the 10 people who were killed in a racist mass shooting at Tops on May 14, 2022. The blue Buffalo 10 jersey features a riff on the Superman logo on the front and the number 10 on the back. It was designed by Williams and Cain McDermott to honor the victims not as martyrs but as “superbeings,” Williams said.

The jerseys will be worn by Mark Talley, the son of Tops victim Geraldine Talley and founder of the nonprofit Agents for Advocacy, and Zeneta Everhart, a City of Buffalo Council member whose son survived the Tops shooting.

Fostering local fashion talent

While studying fashion at SUNY Buffalo State University, Williams noticed a need for more fashion shows outside of school as local designers were leaving Buffalo to show their collections in bigger cities.

“We have to learn how to harness the talent here and provide a platform for them to shine,” Williams said. “We want to provide that platform.”

Williams teamed up with a handful of local creative people – Cain McDermott, Dan Abbotoy, Rodney Chatmon and Eman Wajed – to start Buffalo Fashion Runway. The group’s first event, “A Confluence of The Arts,” was attended by more than 300 people in September. They plan to continue to host fashion shows every February and September.

Buffalo Fashion Runway previous show (copy)

Buffalo Fashion Runway’s first event, “A Confluence of The Arts,” drew more than 300 people last fall.

He sees potential for Buffalo to grow as a fashion hub, thanks to the city’s proximity to New York City and Toronto. The local fashion scene is having a “renaissance,” in his opinion, that he hopes to highlight through these shows.

“We want to make Buffalo the place where people come to stay because they have so many things to stay for, not only the Bills or wings,” Williams said. “They have different things within the fashion and arts community.”

Wajed agrees that Buffalo’s fashion scene has been growing.

Wajed, a Buffalo native who grew up around art, said he is excited to bring local artists together to collaborate and share their work with people who can help them. (Derrick Jackson, an executive at Griselda Records, is expected to attend the event.)

“We want to bridge the gap from the creative world to the startup corporate world, where there’s people who can invest in your business and bring different connections to your business,” Wajed said.

One way to support local artists? Try shopping their work before going to big box stores, Williams said.

“It starts at home,” Williams said. “Support the artists at home.”

Buffalo Fashion Runway Black Carpet

When: 5 to 9 p.m. Feb. 24 Northland Workforce Training Center, 683 Northland Ave. Doors open at 5 p.m. Guests are invited to walk the Black Carpet before the show, where they will pose for photos, stop for interviews, eat snacks and network with other attendees. The fashion show and performances begin at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets: General admission is $30 and include a Buffalo Fashion Runway tote bag. All-access passes are $50 and include priority seating, a VIP lounge, complimentary drinks and snacks and a meet-and-greet with some of the designers and artists.

Who are the designers? Models will don clothing designed by Buffalo Fashion House, By A Guy, Rashaad Holley, Rubs Denim, Undisclosed Thee Aesthetic, Alequis Bishop, Visual Genre, Kay Rose Fashion, Eunoia by Gem and Via Princessa.

Who’s performing? Throughout the show, visitors will see rapper Ahhkey, poets Lea the Teacha and Edo Langston, dancers from Vogue Buffalo, singer Cordz and Afro beats/rap group Underrated Evolution.


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