Small in stature, he cut through the maze of the New York fashion arena and made a name for himself in couture and custom designs. Models have lauded his teaching style and credited his high caliber as inspiration for elevating their ethic.
But instead sat a man who looked humbled and contemplative as a retrospective of some of his most significant work was shown on the runway following his induction into the Virginia Fashion Hall of Fame. The ceremony was the major highlight of Friday evening’s activities at Waterside in Norfolk.
Taylor, who announced he’s been called into the ministry, said after the show that he was recognizing the glory God gave him and thankful that Virginia fashion week creator Ann Leister asked him to enter five years ago.
“This business is so polluted with Satan,” he said. “ ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ is the best title for the industry.”
Taylor said he is shifting to the next level to reach others and is opening MT Christian Design School in downtown Richmond. It will be a two-year fashion program, he said.
“Anyone who has a heart and a passion for this should study under someone or go to school,” Taylor said. “It’s too competitive to make clothes and not understand the process from the beginning to the consumer to actually wearing for a specific purpose.”
Budding designers should take heed of his advice.
Here is a look at Friday and Saturday’s shows:
• Menswear show. The Perry Ellis brand was featured. It was great to see a legacy designer given his own breakout.
• Runway show featuring Virginia Fashion Hall of Fame inductees – Taylor; the late great Perry Ellis of Portsmouth; fashionista and Vow magazine editor Kim Wadsworth; model Jeanette “Cookie Dabney; and a surprise presentation to cosmetologist Carla Graham, known as Carla G.
• Diversity of the models. The anorexic, pale, hollow-faced look was thankfully absent. A variety of shapes, sizes, shades and hair textures dominated.
• The overall talent pool in the emerging designers contest did not live up to its legacy. Whereas last year’s competition was a nail biter to see who would eek out a win, the talent pool this year was all over the place.
And to make matters much worse, the emcee announced the wrong contestants as winners. The error was brought to light as the supposed first-place winner was strutting triumphantly down the runway with her model. Then the actual winners were announced. It was a mortifying hold-your-head down and pretend you are not here moment.
• The second-place runner-up from last year’s competition, Deon Crum from North Carolina, returned for an encore. Crum wowed the crowd last year with his sophisticated and flowing evening gowns, and easily could have taken first place. This year, his collection would have gone over much better at a strip club or a drag show. Flashy disco-era gowns and outfits that left much of nothing to the imagination made the crowd squirm.
Hit • The debut of Splash Kids in the children’s wear show, a first for the event. Casual, princess wear and dressy looks were modeled. The children were so cute and hilarious that I had to hold back the tears welling in my eyes. It was great to see them not made up as pageant kings and queens, yet simply allowed to be their innocent selves. Some children simply did what they wanted, including only striking a pose and not walking to the end of the runway. Some were hams for the spotlight. All were precious.
• The featured designers. Stunning designs and creativity across the board. Among the most noteworthy:
- Willie Hall, a master of classics and construction, showed a highly wearable spring collection featuring soothing blues and whites. Attention to the waistline was conservatively highlighted with ribbon-tie belts.
- Brehon Williams of Chesapeake largely used bright colors, T-shirt fabrics and tiering accentuated with strategic bleaching to bring to life his socially inspired collection. Models walked down the runway carrying signs such as “Will code html for food. God Bless You.” Or “Need gas money for my Hummer.” Williams said he was inspired after a visit to New York when he saw so many homeless people, and he wanted to reflect
- Azi Blas of Richmond featured a collection that he said was inspired by strong, beautiful women of the country “who needed to be reflected … as something better than a parade.” A model adorned in American Indian regalia led off his presentation as way to honor the very first women of this country, he said. Other designs paid tribute service members.
- Thomas Ruffin and his fitted, maize-gold embroidered jacket set off with an oversized maize necktie trimmed in ruffles. Thomas Lavonne Woodard, designer for the Style Network’s “Jerseyliscious” largely designed using a plum and cream theme. A surprising but ultra stylish menswear outfit included a purple with white polka dot shirt paired with white pants, both with a slight sheen.
• Shoes designed by Jermaine Pratt of Shoeture. His elaborately embellished footwear featured feathers and intricate beading. His shoes, which have been shown in New York Week, Philly Fashion Week and others, took the outfits took the next level.
• World themes. American Indian touches such as feathers (several designers), Egyptian themes (Stephon Stallings and Lorenzo, Emily Bargeron) and African i.e. animal prints
Winners Emerging Designer – South Carolina native Willie Charles of Virginia Beach
Catwalk Competition – Tonya Williams, attends Landstown High
Personal Style – Shalea Poole, model who attends Landstown High
Hair/Makeup Competition – Keylee Lederer of Virginia Beach, CEO of Keylee On Set.net