Monthly Archives: April 2011

Sister to Sister: Michelle Obama & Tracy Reese

Many cities across the country have seen better skies and weather in the past few weeks. I for one was happy to spend my walk to work sans jacket, trendy frozen drink in hand as I wandered through a park. Spring is upon us my friends. Here comes the season where we shed those unwanted down jackets and stop hiding under layers and layers of pants. For both men and women worldwide Spring brings the promise of everyone’s favorite fashion trends: dresses, skirts, and open toed shoes. Easter Sunday typically brings us our first taste of spring colors and hemlines, and as expected, our First Lady came running out the gates with a winner!

Mrs. Obama donned a bright floral dress for the White House Easter Egg Roll. She looked stunning in yellow, ushering in the new citrus hued trend for this spring. In the black community, Easter is your time to shine in your Sunday best. Everyone was dressed to the nines this weekend and I was delighted that Michelle chose a piece by the talented Tracy Reese. As we all have read and heard by now, many people in the community have accused the First Lady of not supporting black designers. Despite the naysayers, I love the relationship between Reese and Obama. Every time Mrs. Obama wears one of Tracy Reese’s designs she looks absolutely stunning. Michelle also donned a red, tribal print frock by Reese on a recent visit to Brazil, ushering the spring trend for tribal patterns and earthier, rusted colors.

In the past, Michelle has rocked Reese on the cover of people magazine at on state visits abroad. Reese who is always playful with print and colors is a great choice for the first lady to look chic and fashion forward while still tasteful in styling and cut. The colors and prints Tracy uses in her creations also always seem to pop against us browner toned. In the fashion world, Tracy Reese is best known for her dress designs that complement a range of body types season after season.

Reese is one of the best-known black women in the industry for over the last decade since she launched her brand in 1998. Tracy was born in Detroit and attended Parson’s University, where she graduated with an accelerated degree. She went on to work in fashion for noted icons such as Perry Ellis. She now heads her own house and sits on the CFDA Board of Directors. You can see more of her designs and shop her collection here: Tracy Reese.

Spring and Fall 2011 Collection from Tracey Reese NYC

Ushering in the spring trends, I was excited by many of the items in Tracy’s vision for Spring 2011. Looking forward towards the fall, I know her Fall Collection will be a hit when the weather cools and I for one will be trying to get my hands on this purple skirt! As for our leading lady, I look forward to more sightings of Mrs. Obama in Reese’s gorgeous designs. And I for one, still wish Tracey’s inaugural designs had made it fruition, even if for another occasion. Michelle would have been stunning in that blue trench coat….

One thing for sure, we are sure to have many more great fashion moments to come from both of these amazing black women!


Designer Spotlight: LaQuan Smith

“When it comes to women I understand their essence and my designs allow her to make history” – LaQuan Smith

At 22 years old, LaQuan Smith has taken the fashion world by storm and swiftly proven himself to be a major player in women’s ready-to-wear. Although sewing since the age of 13 when his grandmother gave him a Singer sewing machine as a Christmas gift, it wasn’t until 2008, after a tough battle with cancer, that he began to truly explore his design talents.

Designer LaQuan Smith

After graduating from high school Smith decided to use his own wits to break into the fashion world. Using a little bit of hustle and a great deal of talent, LaQuan Smith got an internship with Balckbook Magazine in New York City. Through his connections at the magazine he would find out about exclusive fashion events and show up wearing his own designs. After creating a small buzz for himself, Smith got his big break, debuting his collection at the Society of Illustrators gallery during New York Fall Fashion Week in February 2010. Word of Smith’s Balenciaga-inspired tops, neoprene dresses and ruffled denim jackets spread and he was soon creating custom pieces for top celebrities and supermodels including Tyra Banks, Selita Ebanks, Rihanna, and Alicia Keys just to name a few.

The following Fashion Week season in September 2010, Smith got major press with celebrity guest models Cassie, Deborah Cox, and Serena Williams wearing his designs in an intimate showing. This is when I was first introduced to the young talent; watch this video from his Spring/Summer 2011 collection entitled ” A Storybook Path” and choose which of his designs is your favorite!

LaQuan Smith has received the F.O.C.U.S. for Life Service Award for surviving cancer and not letting the trauma of such an experience hold him back from his passion. His success has allowed him to showcase his collection both domestically and internationally with fashion shows in Atlanta, Georgia | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | Athens, Greece | The Cayman Islands | Johannesburg, South Africa | Dakar, Senegal | Bogota, Colombia | and The British Virgin Islands. Take a quick look at the finale from his runway show at Semana Internacional de la Moda de Bogotá 2011 (via Fashion Radical News)

To learn more about Laquan Smith, view past & present collections, watch more interviews, and stay up-to-date with what he is doing, you should follow him on Twitter @LaQuanSmith — become a fan on Facebook — & visit

Designer Profile: Stephen Burks

It seems everywhere I turn these days I’m hearing Stephen Burks’ name… and that’s a good thing. Burks has long been heralded for his work from within the design community but always seems on the verge of something bigger. 2011 has been a good year for Burks, once labeled the “Barack Obama of design” by a member of the press. Currently his show Man Made is on exhibit at the Studio Museum in Harlem and is his first solo show. Later this spring he mounts another show Are You a Hybrid? (opens May 3) at the Museum of Art and Design in Manhattan. His contributions to the show Design for the Living World will be featured in Chicago starting next month. Burks also has a piece in collaboration with Swarovski that was featured at Eurolace, the design runway for lighting fixtures in Milan. Ladies and Gents, this man has been busy.

Piece from Burks Inside/Out Collection for Swarovski

Man Made at the Studio Museum in Harlem

Burks is unique for many reasons, including his varied path that makes him kind of a design jack-of-all-trades. Obtaining degrees in architecture and product design at the Illinois Institute of Technology and a Masters in Architecture at Columbia University, Burks tackles the worlds of architecture, industrial design, furniture design, and fine arts in one fell swoop. Burk’s Brooklyn based studio, Readymade Projects, Inc. serves as headquarters for all his work, and what an impressive resume it is.

Burks in Readymade Projects studio

He has designed for internationally renowned design brands like Artenica, B&B Italia, and Cappellina as well as more noted luxury icons like Misonni, Audi, Calvin Klein, Target, Triple Five Soul, and Swarovski. His designs are unique due to his desire to mix the artisan detailing of handicrafts with the benefits of mass production to make pieces available to consumers.  He has been interviewed and profiled in major design magazines like Dwell and is featured in this month’s Salt Magazine, the official trade magazine of Swarovski (available online) as well as the New York Times and popular online sites like Gestalten and Dezeen.  Burks’ work has been exhibited at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in addition to his shows this month.

Pieces for Capellina

Burks is a pioneer for his technique’s and approach to design, which often involves the communities and an eco-conscious mindset. He has worked extensively in Senegal, Peru and South America, collaborating with local artisans in the creation of his furniture and pieces. He draws inspiration from the lifestyles and materials from the various places he travels which gives his furniture a sort of authenticity and also allows them to serve as functional art, standing apart from what you typically see on the market.

Burks MAfrique works for Moroso

Burk’s stance on design as a singular entity, not divided by discipline allows him to draw inspiration from every field as well as include aspects of each in his creations. Looking through his work you see the detailing so enforced in architecture, but the textures and color more akin to fashion, but the functionality of product design all encapsulated in on stunning object that looks so different from what you see everyday. Burks has the ability to take an item like a chair and make it tell its story of creation and identity in the way it came together.

Burks is a design inspiration to us and exactly the type of thinker we here at All Black Everything like to celebrate. His commitment to sustainable materials, community involvement, preserving the rituals and tradition of handicraft, and the elegance of design will continue to make him standout as a world class designer. 2011 seems to be his year and it is just April and I know I personally am excited to see where he will go and what he will create from here.

In the News: “Amar’e Stoudemire Jumps Into Fashion”

Today, Women’s Wear Daily announced a fashion collaboration between women’s Ready-to-Wear designer Rachel Roy and New York Knicks superstar Amar’e Stoudemire. Whether you are a sports fanatic or a fashion faithful, this is one business deal to be enthusiastic about!

Amar’e Stoudemire and Rachel Roy. (Photo By: Thomas Iannaccone, taken from: WWD)

The two first met back in November where talks of a potential partnership were initiated. Stoudemire, being quite the dapper dresser off the court, has always taken an interest in fashion and had a natural ability to put it all together. “Fashion is very attractive, which fuels me and makes me want to give it more importance,” Stoudemire tells WWD.  The pair describe the line as “casually chic”.

The logo of the Collaboration. (Photo By: Courtesy Photo, taken from: WWD)

“I am channeling a girl that goes to sporting events,” said Roy, “She needs something that is modern, something that represents her in a way that doesn’t look like it just came out of a sporting goods shop.”(source: WWD)

Although still in the early stages of development, the line is predicted to launch in September of this year in select Macy’s stores, and on and Items will be priced at retail for $45 – $250.

Sankofa Throwback: Geoffrey Holder

This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to go and watch the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform live on stage in Los Angeles. It was the 50th anniversary of “Revelations” and my very first ballet of any kind, so I was super excited to watch what was most certainly an unforgettable performance.

Brief History: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater grew from a now-fabled performance in March 1958, at the 92nd Street Young Men’s Hebrew Association in New York. Led by Alvin Ailey and a group of young African-American modern dancers, that performance changed forever the perception of American dance.

After experiencing the show firsthand I fully understand why. The dancing was more than impressive and the narrative therein was beautiful; but what stole the show for me were the costumes! As soon as the curtain opened, I was taken by the elegant simplicity of each garment. They moved as the dancer moved; intensifying each movement and pulling me deeper into the unspoken story. For this week’s ‘Designer Spotlight’ I would like to pay homage to costume designer Geoffrey Holder. Watch this & guess which of his designs is my favorite from “The Prodigal Prince”.

Standing at 6 feet 6 inches tall, Geoffrey Holder is legendary in The Arts. Born in the Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, Holder is also an esteemed director, choreographer, dancer, singer, painter, author and costume designer. Most of us remember him best as the ever-so-enchanting Punjab in the 1982 movie version of the musical “Annie”. Some of his television fans likely remember him most from the classic 7-Up advertising campaign in which he was the spokesman for many years.

A true jack of all trades, Geoffrey Holder has paved a way for generations of African-American artists in every spectrum of art & design. He has received numerous awards for his contributions to The Arts “including two Tony Awards for his groundbreaking work as a director and costume designer for the hit Broadway musical, The Wiz, in 1974.” (source)

Today, Mr. Holder lives in New York City with his wife, fellow dancer Carmen De Lavallade. Although you cannot follow him on Twitter or Facebook, you can always continue to watch and support the work that he has done through the years. He dedicated his lifetime to inspiring the masses and by doing so proven to be a role model to us all. Click the links. Google him. Take some time out of your day to honor the one and only Mr. Geoffrey Holder.Build your own custom video playl

…And please leave a comment below.

Storyboard Meeting: Corey Turner

Corey Turner

Meet Corey Turner, Sony Pictures Imageworks’ Stereoscopic Supervisor for the production of Transformers: Dark of the Moon

I can never forget waking up at the crack of dawn to prepare for school as a child. My brother and I, literally, having to throw ourselves out of bed; then race each other to the shower. Quite a traumatic experience and maybe a little dramatic… maybe. Either way, neither of us were too thrilled about it. Our only solace, weekday morning cartoons; more specifically Transformers: Beast Wars. Looking back, those episodes are faint, jumbled images of my past that I had almost forgotten completely; until the inauguration of the animated series to live-action, in 2007.

Director Michael Bay introduced a new generation to the entertainment franchise, expanding on the original back story of the Autobots and the Decpeticons. Samuel James Witwicky a.k.a ladiesman217, a 17 year old in search of a girlfriend and a car is added to the brew. ‘Sam’, upon purchasing a used Camaro (BumbleBee- an Autobot), gets swept up in a civil-war between the rival alien robots. With the release of now the third installment of the Transformers (film) series and a 3D release; I began to wonder, “Who are the geniuses who bring to “life” these alien robots?”

Corey Turner, is one such genius with over 17 years of experience combined, in both television and film.

In recent years, with advancements in cinematics and digital imaging, studios can enhance the illusion of depth. By using two cameras, during filming, stereographers can create the perception of three dimensional space. Chicken Little, Walt Disney Pictures’ first CGI film, was also the first to team up with RealD. Following their success, the 3D revolution began. Learn more about the role of a stereographer and stereoscopy, as Corey explains how it works in Alice In Wonderland (2010).

I Have a [Design] Dream

Monday marked the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr, who is probably the most famous African American in history (don’t worry… Obama isn’t too far behind). My twitter timeline, facebook news feed, and email inbox were flooded with people’s attempts to commemorate, memorialize, or be inspired by King’s legacy. What surprised me, was the lack of commotion about updates to his memorial in Washington DC, despite that fact that its grand opening is scheduled for August 28, 2011.

The King memorial has seen its fair share of controversy over the past four decades ranging from safety approvals to outcry over the design. In my attempts to update myself with the project’s progression, I was reminded of some very interesting issues I thought I had managed to suppress in my psyche. Firstly, the hurdles that so many landmarks intended for people of color must jump to come to fruition, and secondly our lack of representation in the design of many of the sites dedicated the memory of my black experience.

MLK Memorial Site Plan

From a designers standpoint I still stand with Gilbert Young in my desires to have seen the design team have more representation from a black designer (I would have even been placated had it simply included a designer of color). Despite my personal preferences, I applaud ROMA for their win in the MLK Memorial competition, and am excited to see their design completed this summer.  Their design has a clear narrative that is sure to create a great experience to add to some of the design gems already on the mall.

The memorial truly encapsulates the spirit of MLK with the reflection niches honoring others who were major catalysts in our universal struggle for Civil Rights.  ROMA’s ability to direct views with the elements of the stone wall, trees, and sculpture, frame King against the other historic figures on the wall, while giving him his own authority over the site.  From the design drawings, the Jefferson memorial seems to be floating in the background as a backdrop.  Lastly, their reveal of the Stone of Hope at the focal point will be the grand finale to the narrative as one approaches the rough stone and King’s likeness emerges larger than life.  Whoever was chosen as designer, it will be a site to see and was a much needed addition to the National Mall.

It would have been a great opportunity to showcase some of the black artistic talent we have in this country, but the Chinese sculptor, Lei Yixin has created a majestic likeness of King that is sure to be awe inspiring.  That being said, I am elated to see the inclusion of McKissack and McKissack, being both a black and female led firm, on the design build team.  They are one of the oldest black owned architecture firms in the country and their inclusion on this historic monument is a great moment for black designers.  Hopefully this project will get them some well deserved public attention.

Aerial View of Model

Perspective Renderings of Memorial Elements

Stone of Hope

I understand how competition and project selection teams go and we see this issue as a repeating theme in the creation of American memorial. It has happened a few times with Maya Lin and her winning submissions for the Vietnam War Memorial and Civil Rights Monument. It was again a concern in the competition for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which eventually was won by a mega team of Adjaye Freelon Bond; comprised of David Adjaye, Phillip Freelon, and the late Max Bond. What I pondered in this situation is who is the memorial really for?

Construction of the Stone on the Mall

The case of the MLK Memorial was to be expected. It is a NATIONAL monument. And as with all things governmental, the road to political correctness tends to leave many feeling unrecognized or unrepresented. This is why I am not surprised that most of the monuments to blacks are statues or historic buildings and sites managed by the National Park Service. If anyone (insert: any ethnic or cultural group) want to see an authentic representation of their history and story, it is only something THEY can tell. Waiting until Congress makes the decision to include you will not leave you feeling satisfied.

What needs to occur, especially from within the African American community in this country, is an inner movement to design and fund our own sites of commemoration that can represent us in totality down to the design team (and then we need to let it go the way of FUBU and BET).  Beyond memorials, we should be actively working to seek out black designers on commissions from within our community.  If we fail to promote our own, we cannot expect it from others.   As the Ghanian proverb so clearly states, “Gnatola ma no kpon sia, eyenabe adelan to kpo mi sena.” Or “Until the lion has his OR her own storyteller, the hunter will always have the best part of the story.” If we learn nothing else from MLK it should be to take initiative, pick up our pens and pencils and design our story so it ends the way we want.