The hall was packed, music was blazing, and all eyes held steady on the runway during this year’s Indiana Black Expo (IBE) fashion show, produced by Ms. Nicole Rene, where several Indiana-based designers showcased their designs prior to a breath-taking finale by famed Project Runway finalist Korto Momolu.
Ten Indiana designers total presented; I walked for Madame Couture, Love’s Hangover Collection, and Vivian Jackson by Mariah, and had an opportunity to chat with those designers about their collections.
Securitee Brown debuted her first Madame Couture (MC) collection while still studying fashion at Harrison College. She has since done over 20 shows, and jumped at the chance to do another for IBE. “I was asked if I had pieces to show, and I had to say yes…I couldn’t pass this up!” Brown said. The timing was perfect; although she had taken a year off, she was in the midst of preparing to re-surface at Midwest Fashion Week in fall and the designs she’d been working on fit right into a summer show. Her colors were bright, fun, and flirty. “I always add a color pop,” she said. “And I like different types of music, and my eclectic musical interests give me a vibe that shows through my work.” The mix of pieces that represented MC on the IBE stage were captivating. After the show, Brown exclaimed, “It was fabulous; I loved every bit of it and was blown away by all that was offered.”
This year’s show also offered a fun and funky African-inspired showcase from Love’s Hangover Creations (LHC). “African sisters with American dreams” is how LHC designer Emily Wasonga described the ambition she shares with her sister and co-designer Irene Wasonga. They started their fashion business small and have built a reputation for creating unique pieces. Their limited budget forced them to make one-of-a-kinds, which ultimately worked in their favor, as the sisters have generated considerable business from people wanting items that won’t be seen elsewhere. Some LHC pieces shown at IBE will become part of their first full line, which they now have the money to create. The sisters collaborated with other industry professionals, including Catherine Fritsch, who helped create a stunning blue bikini with African-inspired accents. It was an IBE show-stopper. “I loved the way the crowd responded to it,” said Wasonga. She and her sister are well on their way to creating an amazing first collection.
The Vivien Jackson by Mariah presentation took viewers on a fashion journey that went from funky and ethnic to flowing and romantic. Mariah Jackson, known by many as “the dress maker,” named her fashion business after Vivien Leigh, the late actress who played Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind because the actress portrayed characters that ignited her love of formal gowns at a very young age. Jackson is quick to give credit to the source of her inspiration and talent: “When the gowns from my visions become realities, I know…it is not my art; it is God’s.” The pieces showcased at IBE were a reflection of the gift she’s been given. Jackson names each of her gowns, and the three designed for IBE are Black Lightning, Black Diamond, and Black Rose. Jackson said she had a lot of fun showing at the IBE fashion show, and was grateful for the experience, as well as the opportunity to open for Korto Momolu, and see her pieces in real life.
Finally, the IBE fashion show finale showcased Momolu’s first ready-to-wear collection, which reflects her eccentric yet conservative style. Her inspiration came after she asked herself, “What do you want to wear and what is missing?” Momolu incorporated the various textures and prints she loves, with just enough edge for ready-to-wear. “I don’t follow trends, I go my own way,” she said, and these have evolved over the years. “I have broadened my base [since becoming an international designer]; I no longer design for just a few people.” This evolution was apparent on the IBE stage. Momolu’s experience with IBE was “awesome, and the staff was very welcoming.” She had never participated in an expo of such magnitude, and felt it was amazing for Indiana.
For Momolu, the IBE fashion show was an opportunity to give back and show support for a small (but growing) fashion community. For local designers, it was an opportunity to build their fashion brand. “This was a chance to show what Securittee Brown has to offer,” the designer said. “These shows get your name out there, which is especially important for designers who are based in smaller cities and need every opportunity to market their business so they can get in front of buyers,” Wasonga added. Jackson managed to generate interest in her wedding gowns and feels the show “is great exposure” for Vivan Jackson by Mariah. She noted, “It’s wonderful showing with other designers [as opposed to retailers].” The designers also shared their cultural sentiments. Wasonga mentioned that she loves being an American but also wants to support African manufacturers as “the beads and fabrics we use come from Africa,” and Brown expressed that she stands “proud and strong as a black female designer; [IBE is] an opportunity for the black community to see all the talent we have in fashion, design, and styling.”
This year’s IBE fashion show had everything any fashion enthusiast could want; from funky to flowy, with pops of color and textured prints, nearly every style interest was represented. Indiana’s rising design stars definitely held their own as they shared the runway with famed international designer Korto Momolu.
For a list of all the designers who showed in this year’s fashion show and for further coverage, please visit Fashion Here And Now.
Photography courtesy Lenny White.