by Angelis Duarte
On Wednesday October 8th, 2014 – United Colors of Fashion Academy hosted their 4th annual gala, “Paper Dreams: Writing New Runways”, at the Lexington Avenue Armory in New York City.
The night began with a performance by academy students, a dramatic skit between a mother and daughter that transitioned into a dance piece melding modern, ballet and Afro-pop styles.
After an introduction by the evening’s hosts, celebrity fashion photographer Mike Ruiz and NBC chief meteorologist Janice Huff, the first of the night’s honorees Model of the Year, Devyn (of Naomi Campbell’s “The Face” fame), stood amongst a gathering of 80’s supermodels (who’d been called onstage from the audience) and gave a passionate speech. Devyn spoke about maintaining hope in an industry that dishes out a lot of “no’s” and persevering towards your inevitable life-altering “yes”. The second honoree was Techno Innovator of the Year, Meck Khalfan, the CEO and co-founder of Puku LLC, a tech company specializing in fashion forward portable mobile chargers. The Tanzanian born Khalfan gave an empowering speech about striving for your dreams regardless of where you are in life, at one point he charmingly said, “I came to this country with $300, and now I live by the Flatiron building”.
Following Mr. Khalfan, we were introduced to the heart of UCOF, their students. This year’s gala honored 8 outstanding achievers who in two groups of four conceptualized, designed and created two six look collections, which were then modeled on the runway. The first collection, called “Arshel”, was loosely inspired by traditional Indian attire and aimed at “a sexy, scholarly and sociable woman”, it began with separates consisting of brightly colored loose tops over tailored pants, and transitioned into gold embroidered pastel pieces. The second collection called, “Rendezvous (212)” was inspired by different NYC neighborhoods and the women who inhabit them.
“Rendezvous” was created in a dark color palette of shades of blue and black, utilizing high sheen fabrics that exuded an industrial feel, and featured asymmetrical sharp tailoring via suit-like separates and hooded cocktail dresses.
The final portion of the evening began with co-founder, chairman and president of UCOF Ciano Clerjuste presenting the last honoree of the evening, Malan Breton, with the 2014 Fashion Icon of the Year award.
Following Mr. Breton’s acceptance speech came a runway show featuring the work of 6 international designers including Mr. Breton’s own work (Taiwan/US), Agatha Ruiz de La Prada (Spain), David Tlale (South Africa), “Loin Cloth and Ashes” by Anisa Mpunwe (South Africa), “Catou” by Beny Martin (Haiti), and “Amparo and Basilia Couture” by Amparo Chorda (Spain).
The six collections were fun, youthful and energetic, and each representative of the designers’ unique visions. Standout moments included David Tlale’s all fuchsia women’s wear, a stunning array of elegant evening-wear in silks and chiffons, all in the same electrifying shade of pink. David Tlale’s menswear also provided a feast for the eyes, through expertly tailored suiting rendered in bright and patterned fabrics. The fashion procession ended on a decadent high note with “Amparo and Basilia Couture”, a beautiful collection of opulent gowns accented with intricate beading and accessorized with luxurious furs and avant-garde millinery; and in a longstanding couture tradition, the final look was a pristine couture bride.
In the span of that magical evening, United Colors of Fashion presented us with the youth of fashion and what organizations like UCOF are helping them achieve, and then showed us the brilliant artists that we as a community can continue to help them become.
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge) Photo credit: Luan Luu