Fashionistas and economic development pros collab to highlight Newark’s ‘runway’ success
Published September 4, 2018 | Shanee Frazier
Lynette Lashawn, owner of Off the Hanger boutique, is style manager for Newark Fashion Forward, which takes place September 7th through 9th at Military Park and Newark Museum. Photo courtesy Lynette Lashawn. Designer: Everrything Rrouge (Melody Asherman)
As a season of hotly anticipated Fashion Weeks begins this coming weekend, the runways to watch this fall will not be found only in New York, London and Milan. To find the cutting edge in fashion and its related industries, fashion watchers from Newark and well beyond can look no further than downtown Newark’s Military Park as the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation (Newark CEDC) debuts the city’s inaugural Newark Fashion Forward.
This weekend-long event takes place September 7th through the 9th, and it will be the first-ever large-scale fashion event of its kind to be presented in Newark.
The goal of Newark Fashion Forward, which will have events hosted both in Military Park and a special film screening in Newark Museum, is multilayered. According to producers, the event aims to showcase the rich fashion history and talent that Newark has to offer, provide an opportunity for potential business owners and consumers to envision what’s possible in the city, and highlight Newark as a swiftly evolving tourist destination for a variety of interests.
On September 7th from 7 to 10 p.m., event attendees are invited to experience an exclusive fashion show, Fashion on the Green: Botanica, at the opening reception in Military Park. This show will feature designers Everything Rrouge (Melody Asherman), Milele Atelier, ShaVi Lewis and Marco Hall, and will pay tribute to Essence Magazine Editor-at-Large Mikki Taylor and fashion influencer Tai Beauchamp–both Newark natives.
The weekend will conclude on September 9th at the Newark Museum with a special sold-out screening and discussion panel of The Gospel According to Andre, a documentary about fashion legend and former Vogue Editor-at-Large Andre Leon Talley. The documentary will be shown in partnership with the Newark International Film Festival, which kicks off in Newark this coming weekend as well. Discussion panelists will include Beauchamp and Taylor, plus fashion editor and stylist Solange Franklin, and celebrity stylist Wouri Vice.
“The objective of this innovative partnership between Newark CEDC, the [Greater] Newark [Convention and] Visitors Bureau, and the fashion community of Newark and the surrounding areas was that we wanted to celebrate fashion culture and the arts” and to highlight “Newark as a tourist destination,” said Taieta El-Amin, who serves as Newark CEDC’s Director of Special Events and Outreach.
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“Newark has a really rich, vibrant, colorful history in the arts, and we have so many legends coming out of the city that have contributed. We wanted to highlight that part of Newark, and we wanted people in the city and beyond to see this,” she continued. El-Amin said organizers hope to provide a platform for fashion and fashion-adjacent economic activity for a cross-section of industry participants, including “manufacturers, designers, retailers, artists, models, stylists, and local media.”
The launch event for Newark Fashion Forward was held in February and honored renowned fashion designer and Newark native Stephen Burrows, who has awarded the André Leon Talley Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015. At that event, Burrows was celebrated for his more than four decades in the fashion industry, and was presented with a key to the city.
“So many people in our fashion, arts, and beauty community have asked for an event like this, and have asked the city to highlight their industry. They want to increase their brand awareness, and they wanted us to help Newark make a comeback—so they reached out to us to help develop that,” El-Amin said.
To organize the event, Newark CEDC enlisted the expertise of local business owners and fashion industry insiders. One of those committee members is Newark native Lynette Lashawn, owner of Off the Hanger, a clothing boutique located on Linden Street downtown Newark. Lashawn serves as the style manager of Newark Fashion Forward, and it is a role that she performs with relish.
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“This event is all about bridging the gap between designers locally and across the water, and creating an experience for Newarkers to witness history—and be a part of it too,” Lashawn said. She praised the fashion and style community the city has cultivated organically, and said Newark Fashion Forward is an opportunity to cultivate, curate and present the city’s fashion talent and culture more broadly. Until now, she said, “I never had an opportunity to do a production in the city where I was born and raised.”
While fashion is the organizing principle for the event, Newark Fashion Forward was planned to make it appealing even to those who do not consider themselves die-hard fashion aficionados. “Being wowed by a gorgeous event in the heart of downtown Newark, making fashion and art come to life–just to take that in and know that the backdrop is the city is more than enough to bring anybody out,” said Newark CEDC President and CEO Aisha Glover.
Glover credited Mayor Ras Baraka for supporting and investing in arts- and culture-based, events, calling him “pretty visionary in this space.” Baraka, said Glover, “wants to put Newark on the map in any way, shape or form, and he wants it to be for the benefit of its current residents.” Events like Newark Fashion Forward “aren’t just for the sake of [having] events,” she concluded. “We use events at Newark CEDC to help carry out the mayor’s broader economic vision.”
Newark Fashion Forward takes place in Newark September 7th through 9th. Visit newarkfashionforward.com for more information.