Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week begins today, kicking off more than 200 fashion shows and events that will happen at Lincoln Center and other locations through Sept. 15. Shows will preview what's coming for the Spring/Summer 2012 season and showcase special events, like the taping of the finale for the popular fashion reality show Project Runway.
Among the cadre of black designers showing is B. Michael, a favorite of actresses such as Cicely Tyson and Phylicia Rashad, who shows his collection at Fashion Week. Michael talked to The Root about the changing fashion world and black designers' presence at Fashion Week.
The Root: The fashion world has changed a lot since you first came on the scene. How have those changes affected what you do or how you do it?
B. Michael: From my perspective, most of the change has to do with the commercial pomp and circumstance around fashion, as opposed to fashion [itself]. The point of view and merchandise value are secondary. The hype is now what sets the tone. This practice motivates me to stay true to myself as a designer and create clothes for people who are confident and leaders.
TR: Where do you draw inspiration from for your collections, and in particular this collection?
BM: For me, inspiration may come from many sources — no boundaries. And it may come at any time. This [Spring/Summer 2012] collection is inspired more by a lifestyle or state of being. It is a very positive sensibility that I am feeling. It will cover every aspect of my customers' lifestyle, from day into evening. I am achieving the positive feeling through the use of color and clothes that complement a woman's strength and sensuality.
TR: Why don't we see more black designers during New York Fashion Week?
BM: The question of where are the black designers during Fashion Week should be asked before Fashion Week. It's difficult to attract sponsors and the support needed to help with the tremendous cost of participating in Fashion Week when, as a designer or brand, there is no perceived market value — resulting from a lack of support by the fashion industry at large.
Sponsors support designers for marketing reasons and for exposure. Sponsors expect a return on their investment. It's difficult for black designers to offer sponsors such a return if they have not established a voice in the market. That said, I maintain there are enough black-owned companies, black-run media and publishing companies, etc., to support and sponsor and give a presence to black designers.
TR: What's the most important thing people should know about you and what you do?
BM: I am grateful that I am doing what I am supposed to do. I am committed to leaving [behind] what I call an "advanced American lifestyle brand," the first historically in its genre.
Karyn D. Collins is a contributor to The Root.