A Tent Grows Across the Bridge


One of the fashion world’s not-so-deep, not-so-dark secrets: who gets to show during fashion week has a lot more to do with money and contacts than it does actual talent.

Instead of lamenting the lack of opportunity for skilled but less well-connected designers, Cybele Sandy and her partner, BET stylist Rick Davy, started a runway show of their own: With the help of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, they were able to launch last week’s Brooklyn Fashion Week(end) in Dumbo, at Empire Fulton Ferry Park’s Tobacco Warehouse. Almost twenty Brooklyn designers—culled from Craigslist posts and Rick’s own knowledge of “unsung” talents—presented their designs to an audience of colleagues, friends, buyers, and fashion press, which included Lucky, Harper’s Bazaar, and Glamour.

Brooklyn Fashion Week(end) is actually part of a larger initiative: the BK Style Foundation, a not-for-profit aimed at fostering the talents of young Brooklyn designers and providing them with the financial resources and business advice to build a successful career in fashion. “What we wanted to do is create this infrastructure for them, advise them on what way to show, and out of that, give them the showcase that is Brooklyn Fashion Week,” explains Sandy. “From October, we propose to go seasonally and follow the fashion shows.”

We hope they do—this city can always use more outlets for up-and-coming designers. The first night, Project Runway contestant Zulema Griffin and the bold menswear outfitter (and designer for Chris Rock) Nana Boateng showed, and the second night, Lopeti Etu presented his H.O.R.R.S. line, which included a ballgown skirt fashioned from old quilts. (H.O.R.R.S. is an acronym for Habana Outpost Recycled Reject Shop; Etu is also the eco-minded owner of the solar-powered Habana Outpost restaurant in Fort Greene.)

Closing night, there were a few first-time-out scrapes—A.V. difficulties, time delays, shoes or clothing that didn’t fit the model quite right—but these slight hang-ups didn’t detract from the night’s highlight: designer Khalil’s stunning African-print and cowrie-shell adorned dresses, and his halter gown and men’s shirts fashioned from leathers so soft, they had an almost silk-like fluidity. (We had to lean close to the shirt to check that the fabric was indeed cowhide.) It’s hard to imagine Bryant Park Fashion Week bringing in Flipmode Squad’s Papoose and friends to rap through the alphabet mid-show, or calling in the Jamaican band Strategy to appear from the side of the stage. The last presentation of the night, a line called Get Money Girl, featured models strutting the stage in silk knickers, dyed denim ensembles, velour sweats and one-piece jumpers while tossing real dollar bills in the air, which the audience proceeded to scramble for. The last model left the stage dancing to Destiny Child’s “Independent Women”—triumphant, unselfconscious, and unquestionably stunning.

With that kind of finale, you don’t need Mya performing at the afterparty. But she did anyway.