African Americans in Fashion: Honoring “African Queen”, Iman

Happy Black History Month!

I’ve see many people say that they don’t particularly agree with the idea of only honoring the greatness of African Americans during ONE month (be in the shortest month) of the year, and that it shouldn’t be separated, and rather integrated into a celebration that never ends. Although I “get” it, I’ve been celebrating Black History month since as far back as I can remember, and with it being put on super blast in elementary and middle schools, it’s become something I’m used to and love to celebrate. As this is true, I was thinking of what I’d like to do to honor us brown beauties this month, and decided to feature African American pioneers in fashion and style. There are so many, and I’m sure I won’t get them all, but they definitely should be recognized for what they’ve done to change our world of fashion.

For my first feature, I’ve decided to honor my “Fairy Fashion Godmother”, Iman, one of the most recognized supermodels in the world.

Iman is a native of Somalia, an African queen whose captivating and ethereal beauty has been a representation for so many of us for years. She was discovered in 1975 by photographer Peter Beard, who invited her to New York City where she rose to the top of fashion in no time…literally. Iman is known as the world’s first black supermodel, and was so coveted in her reign that she served as Yves Saint Laurent’s muse for his “African Queen” collection. A few months ago, I was blessed with the privilege to do a Q&A with Iman and I asked her my most pressing questions about her journey through fashion up to her role now as CEO of Iman Cosmetics. During the interview, Iman spoke about her amazing experience being YSL’s muse and one of her most memorable…
Out of the many shows you have done throughout your career, which was your absolute  favorite? Why?Mr. Yves Saint Laurent when he chose me as his muse for his “African Queen Couture Collection”. He cut the fabrics from bolts on my body… I stood for hours on heels and sheer silk pantyhose and nothing else but it was a once in a lifetime experience and to top it all I did the campaign for it with the legendary photographer David Bailey. Unforgettable!”

As a pioneer of fashion who showed the world a beautiful representation of black beauty, I honor Iman this black history for her contributions to fashion through not only her physical beauty, but through her humble and pleasant spirit. I also got a chance to meet Iman last year, and it’s not normal that you see a woman of Iman’s celebrity walk into a room full of people and greet and thank them with hugs before she can fully get in the door. A beautiful experience indeed and a testament to show that black beauty is not only on the outward appearance, it starts from within.
So, to Iman, on this Black History month we thank, appreciate, and honor you.
Sincerely with style,
Sharontina B.

Careers In Fashion: Tips from Fashion Illustrator, Jacqueline Bissett

Hey fashion lovers,

As the world continues to be infatuated with the fashion industry in hopes to claim a piece in the ever changing industry, it seems to be a box of sorts that encase specific careers in the industry. You know, the “fashion designer”, “the model”, “the creative director”, “the fashion editor” etc. etc…but there are other fab professions in the fashion industry.  I see and hear a lot that people have a hard time “breaking into the industry”, but I wonder if they ever consider going a different direction? Not to say that you have to change your passion just to get in, but just be open to various opportunities and resources that may also spark your interest. Since I’m an artist and have found much joy in drawing since I was a kid, I particularly love this one….. “Fashion Illustrator”. I’m pretty sure you’ve all heard the title here and there, but ever really look into their role in the fashion industry?

Fashion illustration has been around for nearly 500 years and once served as the primary visual component of editorials in most magazines, but has gradually become less popular as these magazines began to use real images of models. As this is true, fashion illustrations have not gone extinct and are still seen as a unique form of art that the fashion industry still rely on. Fashion illustrators can work in a variety of settings such as design studios, fashion houses, and of course as freelancers. Usually fashion illustrators that work alongside designers bring their visions to life for the first time, interpreting their ideas into a visible piece of art. Fashion illustrators also work for companies that produce sewing patterns, where they develop the patterns that will be used to construct garments and illustrate images of what it should look like when complete. These artists can also work for large ad campaigns where their illustrations are used for campaigns that give the companies a unique competitive edge. basically, fashion illustrators wear many hats because they also serve as forecasters as they predict upcoming season trends and even give designers inspiration of what people may be attracted to.

I was happy to be able to ask the phenomenal fashion illustrator, Jacqueline Bissett, for tips and advice for those who may be looking to start a career in fashion illustration. She was very candid and gave great advice and an overall view of what her job is all about. Jacqueline Bissett has over 20 years of experience in her field and has created images for clients such as Givenchy, Elle, Glamour, and many others.  Here’s what she dished about being a fashion illustrator and what it takes!

Jacqueline Bissett:

“I think that the most important thing with fashion illustration is passion in what you do. Be passionate about fashion and the new looks that are ever changing and have a natural talent for drawing, figures especially. Draw from life models as much as possible. Combined with an utter devotion for drawing beautiful things in different ways. I LOVE art materials and ‘playing around’ with them to discover new techniques, I’m not so mad on computers but they certainly do have a place for being another ‘tool’.

Don’t worry about being the next ‘big thing’, your style will go out of fashion too quick! Although it’s important to have a recognizable ‘style’, be prepared to move with the times/ fashions – fashion illustration styles, like fashion itself, are forever changing, you have to adapt to keep ahead! The great thing about that is that your interest is kept ‘up’ and you’re always challenged to try new things. If you’re adaptable you’ll get work in many different areas from websites, advertising, magazines, book covers, in house presentations, store promotions, advertising storyboards.
Finally and most importantly is commitment to your work- be prepared to work ALL hours- a deadline is a deadline and sometimes you are given a ridiculously short amount of time to complete a huge amount of work! Stay calm, focused and try your best to keep standards high, even if you’re extremely tired! Oh and when you’ve worked a little and got some commercial jobs ‘under your belt’, get a good agent- mine’s the best!!!”

I hope this helps and inspires anyone who may be considering a career in fashion illustration! Remember, keep your options open! To see some of Jacqueline Bissett’s work, visit HERE
Would you like to know about more careers in fashion? Comments? Questions? Let me know!

My little “fashion/beauty illustration”…sort of. Portrait I drew of Sam Fine painting Iman.

My NEW Fashion Guilty Pleasure: 24 Hour Catwalk w/ Alexa Chung

24 Hour Catwalk judges from left: James LaForce, Alexa Chung, Derek Blasberg, and Cynthia Rowley. (Image from

I can honestly say that there is a new reality show being premiered like every other week, and since I’m sort of a reality TV snob and shy away from them often times, it’s odd for me to even watch TV since that’s all the comes on! What I will say, is that I LOVE when I see that there is a new fashion related reality show because they are always spicy!!  Today I happened to be watching Dance Moms (so much for a reality TV snob, huh?) and I saw the promo commercial for the new show, 24 Hour Catwalk with host, Alexa Chung! Of course I HAD to watch, and I must say that the premiere episode was a hit!! First of all, Alexa Chung was a great choice for a host, along with famed fashion designer Cynthia Rowley, Fashion Editor Derek Blasberg, and media and communications powerhouse James LaForce. On the show, four designers are chosen on each episode and must first compete against each other in a challenge where they have to transform a random item of clothing that is pulled from a trunk of secrecy; it’s kind of like Iron Chef meets….’you have TWO hours to do this’! That challenge weeds out the weakest linkS as two designers are cut, leaving the remaining two for the ultimate 24 hour challenge!

The remaining two hopefuls are then presented with another trunk full of surprises where they have to incorporate the items in the trunk, are provided with three professional sewers, and have exactly 24 hours to design and produce a collection of three different looks based on the assigned theme. Tonight’s premiere episode was fun!! The first challenge was for the contestants to transform a football jersey into something a soccer mom could wear. I’ll admit that it was hilarious, yet intriguing to see what the designers came up with, but they were judged based upon creativity, aesthetics, and utility. In the final 24 hour challenge where they had to create a collection of three looks, the two remaining designers were told that the woman they were designing for was going “GLAMPING”, “Glamour camping”, and were given beautiful Swarovski crystals that they had to incorporate in each of their looks. After a crazy all-nighter filled with stress, uncertainty, and sewing, the designers finally pulled it together and showed off their collections in the first catwalk of the show!

What I love most is that the show doesn’t focus on one big group of designers and eliminate them one by one in a long 10 episode series; instead, there are four new designers given a shot at winning the $10,000 prize EVERY episode! This means that we can always expect something new and fun, because we’ll never know what personalities the designers will bring! I’m overly excited about next week’s episode, can’t wait to see what the catwalk will bring us!

Stay tuned for a recap and thoughts of next week’s episode and make sure to tune in on Lifetime every Tuesday at 10pm ET! THIS my friends, is my NEW fashion  guilty pleasure!


Fashionably Late NYFW: Tolla Cole Spring 2012

One of my new year improvements is to be a little more consistent with posts. Fellow bloggers know the challenges that come along with posting, you mean to and then something comes up and throws you completely off track! In any event, during NYFW  S ’12, I got the opportunity to attend a very special show, Tolla Cole, that premiered a new collection of gowns inspired by “Ibiza, vibrant color, and luxury”, says designer Atoia Scott . I loved the collection because of the soft lines of the gowns that were played up by bold color and defining motifs like feathers and contrasting trims. The showcase was very intimate and welcomed attendants to closely marvel at the beautiful gowns as shown below…

The GORGEOUS statement piece accessories were designed by She’Luxe Couture Accessories!

Each gown had a uniqueness about it, embodying a different personality that would be brought to life on its muse. I see much promise in Tolla Cole, as a new line it sure has made a BOLD entrance in the industry and I’m sure future collections will bring us more great designs.

Sharontina B.