Readers, if you're in the New York area, go see Black Dress at Pratt Gallery, featuring ten contemporary and legendary African-American fashion designers. Co-curated by Adrienne Jones (whom we mentioned in our post about the Coterie Show and whom we first met when we covered the Museum of the City of New York's show about Stephen Burrows last year), the show highlights both male and female designers and their "take" on the LBD (little black dress) and so much more. The show, up through April 26th, is a visual and visceral treat AND it's free. What more could a girl want?
This Tracy Reese knit gown with transparent panels, train and row of shiny round black buttons down the back of the top is an absolute stunner.
Here are two of Tracy's summery frocks, with terrific lace-up sandals in her installation.
Of course, one of the first African-American designers to gain international renown, Stephen Burrows, was part of the show. Loved this long black gown in front of his red hot installation featuring a video screen inside a hollowed out suitcase.
Here is what the gown looks like from the front.
And we loved the flash of color and gold.
And this giant Afro paired with Stephen Burrows' metallic halter and gold leggings creates the perfect 70s look.
We shoe-horned newcomer Omar Salam between two fashion legends -- Stephen Burrows and Jeffrey Banks. Omar was a hit on Project Runway. This trio of very feminine, graceful black and white dresses really captures his look. He's lead designer for Sukeina.
Coty Award-winning designer Jeffrey Banks is perhaps best known for his menswear and love of tartan plaids, but his womenswear and home designs are right up there too.
Michael Jerome Francis' installation was a diorama of otherworldly romantic looks incorporating long, textile braiding, surrounded by heathery flora.
Details like the lacing on the bracelet, the netting on the face and head, the fabric braids and corsage carry the naturalistic theme throughout his accessories and dresses.
Byron Lars is still very much in the mix, dressing women like First Lady Michelle Obama. This closeup of the bodice of one of his dresses shows the workmanship that goes into his creations.
Two more of Byron's classic dresses with a twist.
We were blown away by LaQuan Smith's installation. There's his name appiqued on the skirt in the center; and you can see on all his mannequins that he loves netting and mesh.
His hooded, backless gown with cock feather train was positively "killah"! It had an "Eyes Wide Open" vibe. The hood, with a zipper at the back, begs for a perfectly shaped head and face. That the rest of the dress begs for a perfectly shaped body goes without saying.
The detailing and cuts of LaQuan's clothing, as evidenced by this jacket and dress, are top-notch.
Another fave is Donna Dove, whom we innocently photographed at the opening of the Punk Show at the Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute last year. We could see even then that she was a force to be reckoned with (wearing one of her own designs), but we didn't realize how great a force.
She not only makes clothes and tee-shirts but also repurposes them. The top is actually two long-sleeved shirts sewn together and the skirt is made from the collars from red tee-shirts.
Here's Valerie in front of Donna's installation. We loved the turban (made of red tee-shirt shreds); the black pants (made from two long-sleeved, button front shirts), and the wonderful almost Victorian looking black suit (fashioned from long-sleeved dress shirts) with the wonderful metal cage headdress. Many of Donna's designs have intricately hand-painted squiggles all over them. You can see some on the shirt in the middle and on the black two-piece dress.
Here's a better view of the suit so you can see what we mean. The same swirl in the framed print appears on the hip of the jacket in silver. We agreed that this was our favorite piece in the show.
A mannequin in Samantha Black's shaggy, sexy jacket and skirt stands guard at the entrance to the gallery, flanked by a Jeffrey Banks' man's suit. Her line is called sammybdesigns.
Check out the uber-flattering cut on Samantha Black's leather jumpsuit, with pleats in a v-shape down the bust and across the waist.
We were delighted to find that Epperson was among the choices for this exhibition. We've run into him several times at the Brooklyn flea markets, and always admire his edgy, original designs. His booth is usually crowded with admirers and clients. A Project Runway alum, he has a highly independent vision. The asymmetrical piece below center is made of buttery felted wool. Epperson used the sturdy quality of the felt to sculpt a 3D jacket with a look that's hard to copy.
Epperson's attention to the littlest detail is always a surprise and a joy. Case in point: his extension of the legging down the shoe and more than half-way down the vamp and the high heel stretches the visual line, making the model look 7 feet tall.
We noticed that the current braiding trend on the runways and in the stores was echoed by several of the designers in the show. Epperson's vest could look Goth meets Road Warrior over black leather or Greco-Roman over a long white, gossamer, spaghetti-strapped gown.
At the end of the hall was a looping video showing models cat-walking in a number of the designers' pieces. We found ourselves obstructing the light, and had a bit of fun (as we did in the opening picture). Did you guess? We neglected to take a picture of ourselves -- again. (Sigh.)
Go to Black Dress before it closes on April 26th! We had a great time, and so will you.