BY TAMMY SCILEPPI
When it comes to style, the “World’s Borough” ain’t chopped liver!
Just check out all the stylish outfits and trendy urban street wear that folks here are sporting (albeit while donning face masks, at times). There’s no denying that the most diverse spot on the planet rocks a very special vibe … and local designers would surely agree.
While others have tried, an unlikely NYC duo is hoping to make Queens Fashion Week (QFW) an official yearly happening, rivaling New York Fashion Week.
Black Mogul, Inc. CEOs and popular ‘Hustle & Love’ podcasters, Esha Jay (Tyiesha Johnson) and Stacey “S.O.U.L. B” Knight (former ‘Bloods’ gang member-turned-businessman-and- author) have been shaking things up! The husband-and-wife team organized a sizzling QFW gathering that was held at Versatile Art Gallery in Woodside on Feb. 29.
“We brought together an elite fashion merged with hip hop, showcase,” said Knight, who spent more than 30 years in prison (15 years in solitary confinement) and is now speaking out about prison reform. His new book “The Poetic Hymns of a Solitary Man” (Amazon), chronicles his trials, tribulations and triumphs during those 15 difficult years.
Black Mogul’s exciting QFW event featured four urban/couture designers, as well as four entertainers. And while the drinks flowed, Nicki Minaj & Wendy Williams celebrity DJ Boof, did his thing. Everyone enjoyed an evening of fun and glamour, but all eyes were on the edgy runway collections.
“The purpose of our event is to bring fashion awareness to Queens. It was such a huge success, we plan to make this a yearly event with bigger sponsors,” Johnson said. “Each borough has a fashion week except Queens!
Here are two designers whose creations rocked the runway.
“Fashion is expression,” says Queens-based creative Jae Dylan, whose website describes her eponymous custom-crafted and Made in Italy, shoe line as “a modern luxury brand inspired by strength, uniqueness, and beauty of the Queen that lies within each of us.”
She currently has two collections: Safari – inspired by nature and animals – features a limited edition, sleek ankle boot platform stiletto, in a unique animal print “designed for a fierce and unmistakable look,” according to Dylan, who added, “My Holiday collection is inspired by the red carpet and special events.”
Each design is meticulously constructed by a skilled network of selected Italian artisans. “There are no finer hands in the field. The handcrafting and the materials are state-of-the-art,” she said. “Once you buy a pair, the custom shoes are manufactured and shipped to you.”
Dylan attended the Fashion Institute of Technology and said she worked in the fashion industry for Gianni Versace and BCBGMAXAZRIA, as well as other menswear and womenswear designers.
“Everything, and my logo, has meaning to it – from the colors and symbols – and was well-thought-out,” she noted. “The design of my logo ties in to my birthstone (sapphire) and happens to be one of God’s chosen stones in heaven. And, Dylan is my son’s name, who passed away. I launched my shoe line in his birth month of October, to honor him.”
Jessica Stevens’ custom fashion offerings also wowed the QFW audience that evening. Her clothing brand, MarcellaJay (for women, men, kids), fits right in with Queens’ eclectic mix of authentic styles.
“Love and dedication is put into every second, minute, and hour that I put into my garments,” Stevens said. “My [showcased] creations are mostly urban street wear – for the vibrant people that love to stand out in any occasion, season, event, etc. – which makes people really feel good about themselves and confident wherever they go.”
When she isn’t designing, the kind-hearted Brooklynite helps children with disabilities.
Queens-based designer Maria Elena Piña Fonti, Founder and CEO of Maria Elena Couture, Inc. — which specializes in unique quality handbags — weighed in about an official fashion week.
“Queens is a fabulous location to have a luxury fashion show. It’s a perfect place to feature local and international designers on a multicultural runway,” she said. “Fashion in Queens is as diverse as the borough. Just like each community has a story, so do the creations of each designer.”
Piña Fonti’s Cuban-inspired designs are expressed in head-turning prints and patterns, and distinctive shapes and textures. In Sept. 2018, her colorful collection was showcased at two New York Fashion Week shows. She was also featured in two New York Fashion Week shows in 2019.
Comedian JJ Mattise, who hosted a local fashion week event back in 2018, told QNS: “I feel that there is a great sense of culture in Queens but it’s also what separates us as a community.”
The East Elmhurst native said growing up here, it was always a struggle to find places/events to go to, locally.
“There’s a real need for annual QFW happenings,” she added, so “people can connect and network to produce more events, like Black Mogul’s, in our borough. This will attract more people to visit Queens – not just to go to the airport – but to stay and see what it has to offer.”