I have lived in many places on this earth during my career as a fashion designer. From the finding inspiration in the countrysides of Japan, to roaming aimlessly in the mysterious back alleys of China Town in NYC, looking for exotic fashion finds and ‘knick-knacks’ that most people never discover. When I travel to a city, I always ask around to find the more ‘fashionable’ sections of that city. From San Francisco to Los Angeles, I am always drawn to parts of these cities that inspire me as a designer. I have lived in NYC for over 23 years, seen much of what this city has to offer and find so much of her inspiring. One district of Manhattan inspires me the most, and that is Harlem. Harlem is a large neighborhood within the northern section of the New York City borough of Manhattan. Since the 1920s, Harlem has been known as a major African-American residential, cultural and business center. Originally a Dutch village, formally organized in 1658, it is named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands. Harlem’s history has been defined by a series of economic boom-and-bust cycles, with significant population shifts accompanying each cycle.
Black residents began to arrive en masse in 1905, with numbers fed by the Great Migration. In the 1920s and 1930s, Central and West Harlem were the focus of the “Harlem Renaissance”, an outpouring of artistic work without precedent in the American black community. However, with job losses in the time of the Great Depression and the deindustrialization of New York City after World War II, rates of crime and poverty increased significantly. Since New York City’s revival in the late 20th century, Harlem has been experiencing social and economic gentrification. However, Harlem still suffers from many social problems. Though the percentage of residents who are black peaked in 1950, the area remains predominantly black. There is no where in the world where I can be in one location, maybe the Lennox Lounge having a beer, close my eyes, and imagine that 60 years before, maybe on the same day, Jazz great Billie Holiday was in the same place, singing with her velvet voice, to a gathering of fans. Harlem remains a steady inspiration for fashion ideas as well. When I worked corporate as a design director, if I was ever “dry” out of ideas, I would take that 1 train down to Harlem and simply walk around. After a few hours, I would head back to the office brimming with new ideas to sketch,hence my inspiration for these boards. My ‘Harem Muse’ would be a lovely black woman, daring and beautiful, dressed to the nines in a style that is all her own. In these looks, I wanted to explore candy colored faux furs (animal friendly ofcourse), beautiful,textured boucle’ jackets reminiscent of the iconic Chanel boucle’ jackets, and supremely cut suits. All would be accessorized with modern pocket books, clutches and shoes that were vivid in color and textures. The end look would be imaginative, statuesque, and stylish, fit for a daring woman that desires to make and entrance, uttering one word.