Maarkah To Showcase African and the Middle Eastern Designers at New York Fashion Week

Branding is an essential concept in the fashion world. The brand expressed by a designer and their work is what draws people in, getting them to wear those clothes as an expression of their own personal style.

On September 11, 2017, Runway Prestige presents the debut of Maarkah fashion showcase, which will attempt to raise the profile of talented designers, primarily from Africa and the Middle East, who are largely underrepresented in the fashion world in general, and at New York Fashion Week in particular.

The Westchester-based marketing agency will bring its event production and fashion promotion experience to create a high-end event with a unique focus that should become an important part of the NYFW experience.

We spoke with the owner of Runway Prestige and producer of Maarkah, Rabab Abdalla, about September’s show and started out by asking about why she choose to focus on designers from Africa and the Middle East.

“I decided to focus on designers from the Middle East and Africa because I feel there is an underrepresentation of designers from those regions.” she told me. “If you think about it, how many shows have you been to that had one, or more than one, designer from those regions? Most fashion shows have designers from the western world. Official NYFW shows are no different. You may see one or two designers there and most accolades post-show are not given to them.

“Maarkah, meaning “brand” in Arabic, will represent the underrepresented, focusing on providing a platform for remarkable aspiring Middle Eastern and African designers providing comprehensive support and opportunity. It is for designers to feel welcomed and equally talented as mainstream designers in the western world during New York Fashion Week.”

What people may not realize is that these designers are already being worn by celebrities and are very recognizable, even if their designers aren’t household names yet.

“Many designer are definitely dressing Hollywood A-Listers and are taking over on the red carpet,” Rabab explained to me.

Who are some of the designers who celebrities are wearing?

“Taylor Swift, Angelina Jolie, Adriana Lima, Taraji P. Henson, and Ellie Kemper, to name a few, all wear Reem Acra, a designer from Lebanon.

“Jennifer Lopez is a big fan of Lebanese designer Ellis Saab, whose clothes are also worn by Meryl Streep, and Janelle Monae. Jennifer Lopez is also big on another Lebanese designer, Zuhair Murad, who’s also popular with Tracee Ellis Ross.

“Director Ava DuVernay paid tribute to Saudi designer Mohammed Ashi at the 2017 Academy Awards. Winnie Harlow has worn Nicolas Jebran, who’s from Lebanon, and Giuliana Rancic wears Rani Zakhem, a Lebanese designer who was raised in Kenya.

“At the 2017 Golden Globe Awards in January, so many celebrities wore Arab designer gowns such as: Tracee Ellis Ross, Lily Collins, Sofia Vergara, Olivia Culpo, Elsa Pataky, Jessica Biel, Felicity Huffman, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Emily Ratajkowski, Kristen Wiig, Giuliana Rancic, Raya Abirached, and Trace Lysette.”

Wow! What it is about the work of these designers that you feel has made them so popular among the A-List crowd?

“I think most Arab designers are very luxurious,” said Rabab, “meaning they don’t skim on the type of fabrics or embellishments used. A lot of them use luxury fabrics and stones like Swarovski. I think the same of African designers.

“African print is a big hit among the stars. Rihanna, Solange Knowles, Lydia Hearst, Dawn Richard and Lydia Hearts have all worn looks from Nigerian designer Deola Sagoe. Gwen Stefani is known to make bold statements in African prints at events worldwide. Angela Simmons and Thandie Newton wear Jewel By Lisa. First lady Michelle Obama has worn African print, as have Kanye West, Kim Kardarshian, Amber Rose and Angela Simmons.”

The goal of Maarkah, which will be presented at Studio 450 (450 W 31st St, New York, NY 10001), is to bring attention to these talented artists in New York City and shine a spotlight on their work, to give them the exposure they deserve to a wider audience.

I’m looking forward to attending Maarkah in September and hope that by bringing attention to this show, it’ll help in its mission. I asked Rabab if she had any final thoughts she wanted people to remember.

“’They,’ the designers, are the Maarkah, the brand, that needs recognition. Runway Prestige, LLC is a production company that is providing the platform for Maarkah designers to be seen and become marketable in the United States. Maarkah New York Fashion Week is not exclusive but inclusive.

“We will welcome designers from across the globe who wish to showcase on this platform. This is the way of Middle Eastern and African culture, you welcome anyone and everyone. Through Maarkah we aim to share the region’s beauty of art, design, culture, food and tourism promotion.”

For more information about participating in or attending Maarkah in New York City on September 11, 2017, please visit www.runwayprestige.com/index.php/maarkah1.

Samuel Wong Asian-Inspired Collection at SMGlobal Catwalk NYFW

One of the shows I was looking most forward to this season at New York Fashion Week was Season Three of SMGlobal Catwalk, especially the return of one of my favorite designers, Samuel Wong. Held in midtown Manhattan on February 11, the show, produced by the amazing Samina Mughal, did not disappoint, and neither did Samuel’s new collection.

In the spring, he left the room breathless, so I was highly anticipating his new Asian-inspired collection. The incredible quality of his craftsmanship, the elegance of his designs and the sheer beauty of his creations left an indelible mark on the evening.

I talked with Samuel after he returned to Dallas after the show and asked about the inspiration for this collection.

“My roots are Hispanic and Asian, and, of course, I have a lot of influence from Orient. I love the mystery, the handwork from Chinese culture. I think it’s so elegant, and chic, and my designs always are inspired by these details. At the same time, I love to catch the people’s attention, make them feel like they are in another world. I don’t like to be just ‘another designer doing clothes.'”

Part of what I love about all of his work is the amazing selection of fabrics, the patterns and textures, he chooses for his clothes. The colors in this collection are no exception.

“Red, gold, and black are basic colors in Asian culture,” Samuel explained. “And I really love brocade fabrics. They were so heavy and a little difficult to work with, but the results are beautiful. It was exactly what I was looking for.”

The results are a tribute to your roots and truly transported me to another time and place. This is another triumph and I am excited to see where he goes next!

Samuel Wong Collection at SMGlobal Catwalk New York Fashion Week

I love runway shows for different reasons. Some designers have amazing skills in what they can create. Others have amazing uses of color or fabrics. Other shows are an stunning sensory experience, the music, lights and costumes creating a movie on the runway. But the greatest surprise for me from this year’s New York Fashion Week was my first look at the work of designer Samuel Wong. It made me cry.

I’m not even sure why. It was just so beautiful and unique and wonderful that I was emotional as I watched the models in these beautiful clothes as part of SMGlobal Catwalk’s Season 2 (held on September 10, 2016 in Midtown). When hostess Nicole Coley Cole (who’s amazing!) interviewed Wong after the show, he said that he’s been creating for over 20 years. To see such an amazing designer at the height of his abilities, and still working to get even better, is a thrill and I so hope that he’ll return next year. These photos are only a taste of the magic of this event that those who were in the room will never forget.

Thank you to the wonderful Samina Mughal for making it happen! Don’t miss SMGlobal Catwalk Season 3, coming in February 2017, and grab any chance you can to experience Samuel Wong’s collection around the country.

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Model: Margosha Kr.

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Model: Savannah Rae Collins.

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One of my favorite models, the beautiful Dira Ve.

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Model: Midori Amae.

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The show’s signature piece was just stunning. Model: Justyna Olivia Ruszczyk.

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This bridal piece earned a standing ovation from the crowd. Nicole Cole said that she wanted to get married just so she could wear this dress. Me too!

Model: Layne Lampley.

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Thank you, Samuel Wong. See you next year!

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Terese Sydonna New York at Harlem’s Fashion Row NYFW 2016

I had the pleasure of attending the Harlem’s Fashion Row (HRF) Fashion Show and Style Awards on September 8, 2016, as an invited guest at Pier 59 Studios. I was so excited to see the latest collection from my good friend Terese Brown, the talented designer behind Terese Sydonna. I happen to own one of her pieces (love!) that I picked up when I met her in Philadelphia, where she was part of the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator at Macy’s. Her latest collection shows her continued growth and development as a designer and it’s my pleasure to share these amazing looks from the runway.

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I love this dress. It’s so simple and cute!

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Art Hearts Fashion Presents Designer Lainy Gold

On February 16, 2016, Art Hearts Fashion #ArtHeartsFashion presented a fantastic FW16 Women’s Runway show as part of New York Fashion Week #NYFW at the amazing Angel Orensanz Foundation Event Space in New York City. In the beautiful setting of a stunning converted church, the runway hosted collections by Merline Labissiere, Lainy Gold and Stello Official. Congrats to everyone involved and the Art Heart Fashion team for putting on such a memorable event!

I was thrilled to receive a last-minute invite from my good friend Jill Leap, whose superstar daughter, Sophia, was modeling for Lainy Gold. What a night of fun surprises, highlighted by Lainy’s collection. Lainy Gold may be best known for her fun and colorful swimwear, but this collection focused on fantasy and medieval-inspired designs for eveningwear or making a grand entrance at your next party. There were innovative uses of color and fabrics that brought storybooks into a modern setting.

Here are some of my favorite shots from the show. Follow Lainy Gold Designs on Instagram (instagram.com/lainygolddesigns) and on her website www.lainygolddesigns.com.

Model: Sarah Ferguson

Model: Sophia Leap

Lainy Gold closes the show with her signature pieces. Models: Sophia Leap and Sarah Ferguson.

Congratulations Adriana Marie of AMCONYC

I had the opportunity to attend two of the fantastic runway shows produced by AMCONYC as part of New York Fashion week. The runway shows by Ollari and Jovan O’Connor were wonderfully memorable and be sure to visit the AMOCNYC website at www.amconyc.com to see some runway images from that weekend.

Congratulations to AMCONYC founder Adriana Marie, pictured below with me on the red carpet, and your team for an incredible fashion weekend! Thank you for inviting me to be a part of it, and I look forward to seeing you again soon.

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AMCONYC’s Jovan O’Connor NYFW Runway Show

The final in AMCONYC’s amazing series of seven NYFW week runway shows was held Sunday evening, Sept. 13 at the PUNTO Event Performance Space. This wonderful evening event featured the collection of Philadelphia-based designer Jovan O’Connor. O’Connor’s collection is the perfect collection of sexy and classy, with a dazzling array of colors and fabrics that made each model light up the room as she stalked the catwalk. Her statement pieces are drawing attention from celebrities and the fashion world at large, and I’m told that the work in this collection is only a portion of the scope of her overall oeuvre.

This collection is inspired by the sights and sounds of Brazil and the models walked the catwalk to the cool bossa nova rhythms of “The Girl from Ipanema” spinning from the dj booth. If all the photographers and bloggers that crowded around the designer and the models after the show is any indication, great things are ahead for the fabulous and classy Jovan O’Connor.

Find out more about Jovan O’Connor on her website (www.jovanoconnor.com), Instagram (@jovanoconnor.com), Snapchat (@jovanoco15), Twitter (@jovan_oconnor), Facebook (jovan.oconnor) and Pinterest (jovanoconnor).

For more information on attending future AMCONYC events (and everyone should!), or if you are a designer looking for a great company to help launch your brand and gain industry awareness, check out www.amconyc.com and follow them on Twitter (@amconyc) and Instagram (@amconyc). I know I’m looking forward to attending their future shows!  I hope that you’re there as well!

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AMCONYC New York Fashion Week Meagan Ollari Runway Show

Sunday afternoon, September 13, I attended a wonderful runway show at PUNTO Performance Space on 38th Street. This fantastic event was put on by Adriana Marie Quaranto and her fantastic team at AMCONYC (www.amconyc.com). AMCONYC is a terrific event production company and New York’s leading creative platform for millennial fashion designers. I loved the show and can’t wait to go back for tonight’s 8pm.

All of the photos below are from the latest collection by designer Meagan Ollari (www.ollari.com). The Ollari collection, which made its debut at last year’s NYFW, utilizes luxurious fabrications and novelty beadwork, targeting a more refined contemporary woman. The colors and fabrics are all beautiful and I’ll be watching out for great things from this fabulous New Jersey-based designer. Follow her on Instagram @_ollari_ and on Facebook at /OllariCollections!

And be sure to follow AMCONYC on Instagram as well @amconyc.

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Designer Meagan Ollari. It was a pleasure meeting you and congratulations on a successful show and a gorgeous new collection!

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Final Touches Before New York Fashion Week

Getting some final touches before New York Fashion Week!

New Christian Louboutin shoes!

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Along with some new Christian Louboutin red nail polish! How cool is the black stiletto packaging?

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A new clutch from TOUS (love the animal print!)

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And a beautiful teddy bear logo TOUS bracelet.

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Small Boutique Fashion Week – NYC – September 12

I am so excited to be attending Small Boutique Fashion Week in New York City on September 12! It will be my first time in New York for Fashion Week and SBFW2015 is one of the exciting events that features a lot of really talented designers and stylists. Watch the video above for details. Tickets are available at www.smallboutiquefw.com. If you are going, let me know!

I have my front row seats to the 8pm show at the Metropolitan Pavilion (125 West 18th Street) where one of my favorite designers, Robert Greco, will be highlighting his couture collection.

Other designers who are being featured at the 8pm show include: Clavon Wear, Jo David by Jd Noble, Bryant Alexander Brand, Trang Tram Design, Charles Andrews Couture, Lainy Gold, Shadeth, Yvonne Jewnell, Lvi Fashion, Susnyara and House of Van Miller. Can’t wait to see all of their work!

SBFW is the only business-oriented runway show and market geared toward small business owners, emerging designers, and novelty designers that are looking to get their start by selling to small boutiques and unique shops.

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