too many fashion designers have teams of minions, underlings, associates and co-horts that dedicate themselves to their fearless leader's vision, whipping together much of what floats down the runway each season. they are nameless and faceless, these hard workers. all too often, they are the ones who do the heavy lifting, only to watch said fashion designer sign and claim their clever idea. celebrity fashion designers are especially guilty of this -- everybody's got one! -- but who can blame them? it's a billion dollar industry and if you're popular, it's a more money situation.
byron lars is one of the only designers on the planet that
actually puts pen and ink to paper and creates his own work. what he comes up with, season after season, is drop dead brilliant. anyone with half a brain in the industry knows that this is true. the fact that he's a black man makes all of this even more salient. he is living proof that talent will out -- sometimes in spite of yourself or your circumstances.
there. i said it.
imagine my surprise when i met byron lars years ago after a gig at joe's pub and found out that he was a fan of my work. he was there, time and again -- in the audience and swing dancing! -- way back when i was singing with the yalloppin' hounds, wearing vintage cocktail dresses and high heeled sneakers topped with a nigerian gele or a proper cloche hat or whatever else i could get my hands on. i figured no one was paying any attention to me anyway, so i may as well present myself the way i want and say what i want and do what i want. strangely, byron was paying attention. how cool! it's been a mutual admiration society ever since.
knowing him is a beautiful gift.
i love to wear his dresses because they are so tailored and womanly. they radiate confidence and elan in the most feminine way imaginable -- which, for me, is the ultimate powerhouse move. so many never realize this until its too late: as a woman, you are at your strongest when you are at your most feminine, whatever that is. you wearing men's clothing could be the thing that makes it pop in your world. or dressing up like an edwardian widow. i mean, seriously. whatever. we are all finding our way to it.
here's byron's beautiful wiggle dress i wore for the harlem stage 30th anniversary gala a few weeks ago.
i once read a statement diane von furstenberg (another personal favorite!) made in 1972 that, along with that fabled wrap dress (which is hanging in the smithsonian, by the way) turned everything upside down in the fashion industry for some reason: feel like a woman, wear a dress. that pretty much sums it up for me. you might find me in a pair of jeans because i'm on my way to an audition or a pair of shorts because i can't box in a skirt (or can i?) but for the most part, i don't wear pants because i think diane is right.
every once in awhile, byron will spring a dress on me but the truth is, i'm always trolling the internet for his stuff. everyone else is looking at porn. i'm looking for pie crust recipes and wiggle dresses. *sigh.* every once in awhile, i'll get lucky. this was the banner score of the moment: a long sleeved, striped, rayon/poly/spandex stretch blend wiggle dress with tulle overlay - new with tags. and NOT crazy expensive. whoopee!
"...happy birthday to me...!"