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Kevan Hall

Fashion designer Kevan Hall was born on October 11, 1957 in Detroit, Michigan to Angeline and Curtis Hall. He graduated from Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Michigan in 1975 and earned his A.A. degree from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, California. He also completed coursework at the University of California, Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California and the Otis Art Institute of the Parsons School of Design in Los Angeles, California.

In 1977, Hall began his fashion career as an assistant to sportswear designer Harriet Selwyn. He then worked as an independent freelance designer and as senior designer for On Top of California. In 1983, he founded Kevan Hall Couture, selling his designs to luxury retailers including Neiman Marcus, Saks, and Bergdorf Goodman. In 1997, Hall joined Halston as the design and creative director where he worked from the fall of 1998 to the spring of 2000. In 2002, he launched his own signature ready to wear line, the Kevan Hall Collection. In January 2014, Hall launched Kevan Hall SPORT, a lifestyle brand of active wear for women.

Hall and his designs have been featured on numerous television shows including Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane, Vogue’s Met Gala in New York America’s Next Top Model featured his spring 2009 collection as a runway challenge, while he served as a guest judge. Adrienne Maloof from Real Housewives of Beverly Hills featured Hall's collection in a fashion show to introduce her new shoe line. Hall has also made guest appearances on other national television shows such as Inside Edition, Extreme Makeover, The Better Half, and E!'s Fashion Police.

Hall has been recognized throughout his career for his craftsmanship and contribution to fashion. After graduating from Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, he received the Peacock Award for Outstanding Fashion Design. In 1989, the NAACP named him the Great American Designer, and in 2005, Life & Style Magazine named him Stylemaker of the Year.

Hall and his wife Deborah Lee Hall have two adult children, Asia and Evan.

Kevan Hall was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 14, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.230

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/14/2018

Last Name

Hall

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
First Name

Kevan

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit

HM ID

HAL18

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

Sequoia National Park

Favorite Quote

Philippians: I Can Do All Things Through Christ

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

10/11/1957

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Favorite Food

Pasta/Seafood/Salmon

Short Description

Fashion designer Kevan Hall (1957- ) founded the Kevan Hall Company and was best known for his couture red carpet designs and his role as the design and creative director of Halston.

Favorite Color

Gray

LaVetta Forbes

Fashion designer LaVetta Forbes was born on November 9, 1940 in New Orleans, Louisiana to Benjamin and Lillian Forbes. She began sewing at the age of six and in her teens worked for her aunt who was a dressmaker. In 1955, at the age of fifteen, Forbes moved to Los Angeles on her own and attended night school and found day work as a dress designer. Forbes then relocated to San Francisco and designed dresses for evening events. By the 1960s, Forbes was designing dresses for performers like Leslie Uggams, Lainie Kazan and the Supremes. Forbes entertained and hosted guests at the landmark Ambassador Hotel Coconut Grove and hosted luncheons to introduce and market her designs.

During the late 1970s, inspired by the use of scarf fabric, she created the LaVetta scarf dress. The collection of designs, made mostly from Oriental silk squares in flowered, geometric and paisley patterns, were 98% handmade with hems that were hand rolled, buttonholes hand bound and seams hand stitched. The scarves were used as dresses as well as tunics that were worn over pants. Elizabeth Taylor, Nancy Wilson, Alexis Smith and Helen Gurley Brown were among the La Vetta scarf dress collectors. With her business revitalized, the La Vetta clothing line became available at exclusive retailers including Giorgio’s and Neiman-Marcus in Beverly Hills, Saks Fifth Avenue and Martha’s in New York, Palm Beach and Bar Harbor. Her personal client list included; Lena Horne, Diana Ross, Nancy Walker, Beverly Sassoon, Alexis Smith, Jayne Meadows, Marge Champion, Mrs. Clark Gable, Mrs. Robert Stack, Mrs. George Woods, and Eleanor Howard.

In 1990, Forbes began publishing Beverly Hills 90212 a glossy bi-monthly magazine. Targeted to Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, and adjacent upscale neighborhoods with a readership of 60,000, the publication was delivered free to homes around Beverly Hills and sold at newsstands.

Forbes has been a member of the Los Angeles Museum Costume Council and the Blue Ribbon 400. She also served as a board member for The Southeast Symphony Association.

Forbes lives in Los Angeles and has one adult child, Tony.

LaVetta Forbes was interviewed by The HistoryMakers,/em> on February 27, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.025

Sex

Female

Interview Date

2/27/2018

Last Name

Forbes

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
First Name

LaVetta

Birth City, State, Country

New Orleans

HM ID

FOR17

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hong Kong, South America, South Africa

Favorite Quote

Don't Get Mad, Get Even.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

11/9/1940

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Favorite Food

Shrimp and Lemon Pie

Short Description

Fashion designer LaVetta Forbes (1940- ) was a celebrity dressmaker and designer is the creator of LaVetta scarf dress and the publisher of BeverlyHills90212, an upscale magazine.

Employment

Beverly Hills 90210

Favorite Color

Blue

Tracy Reese

Fashion designer Tracy Reese was born on February 12, 1964 in Detroit, Michigan. As a child, Reese’s mother, a modern dance teacher, taught her how to sew and make clothes. Reese graduated from Cass Technical High School in Detroit in 1980, and moved to New York City to enroll in an accelerated program at the Parsons School of Design, which she completed in 1984.

After graduating from the Parsons School, Reese worked for French fashion designer Martine Sitbon at the firm of Arlequin. Reese went on to work at a number of top fashion houses, eventually becoming head of the women’s portfolio for 1980s fashion icon Perry Ellis. In 1996, Reese launched her own ready-to-wear label, Tracy Reese, which was noted for its femininity and retro-influenced styles. Reese opened a storefront in New York City to exclusively sell her product line. In 2000, Reese expanded her brand with the creation of her mass market line, Tracy Reese Plenty, and her home furnishings line, Plenty, which was followed in 2006 by the dress-focused line Frock! That same year, Reese opened the flagship Tracy Reese store in New York City. In 2009, Reese launched her luxury line Tracy Reese Black Label, and, two years later, opened the second Tracy Reese store in Tokyo, Japan. In 2012, First Lady Michelle Obama, a longtime fan of Tracy Reese designs, wore a dress custom-made by Reese during her speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Reese also designed clothing for singer Beyonce Knowles and actress Sarah Jessica Parker. For Fall 2016, Reese created a short film called ‘A Detroit Love Song,’ which she presented at Fashion Week off-runway. Also that year, Reese announced that her designs would be available in an expanded range of sizes, making them more inclusive of all American women.

Reese was inducted into the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 1990, and joined its committee in 2007, becoming its sole African American member. In 2007, she was appointed to the board of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Reese also served as the Turnaround Artist for the Barnum School in Bridgeport, Connecticut through the President’s Committee of the Humanities and Arts.

Tracy Reese was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 2, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.093

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/2/2016

Last Name

Reese

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Cass Technical High School

Parsons School of Design

First Name

Tracy

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit

HM ID

REE11

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

I Have All The Time I Need To Do All I Need To Do.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

2/12/1964

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Nuts, Popcorn, Kale

Short Description

Fashion designer Tracy Reese (1964 - ) launched her namesake line in 1996, and went on to create Tracy Reese Plenty, Frock! and Tracy Reese Black Label. Her clients include First Lady Michelle Obama, Beyonce and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Employment

Arlequin

Perry Ellis Portfolio

Tracy Reese

Tracy Reese Plenty

Tracy Reese Black Label

Magaschoni

Favorite Color

Deep Pink

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Tracy Reese's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Tracy Reese lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Tracy Reese describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Tracy Reese talks about her mother's education and career

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Tracy Reese describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Tracy Reese talks about her father's education and occupation

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Tracy Reese remembers her community in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Tracy Reese describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Tracy Reese lists her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Tracy Reese describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Tracy Reese recalls her childhood hobbies

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Tracy Reese recalls her education at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Tracy Reese recalls her interests during high school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Tracy Reese recalls her early interest in the arts

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Tracy Reese describes the racial demographics of Cass Technical High School

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Tracy Reese recalls her admission into the Parsons School of Design in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Tracy Reese recalls her experiences at the Parsons School of Design

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Tracy Reese describes her living situation while studying at the Parsons School of Design

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Tracy Reese remembers her classes at the Parsons School of Design

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Tracy Reese recalls her classmates at the Parsons School of Design

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Tracy Reese remembers working at Charivari in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Tracy Reese remembers the fashion trends of the 1980s

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Tracy Reese talks about her experiences of gender discrimination at the Parsons School of Design

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Tracy Reese recalls obtaining a position at Arlequin

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Tracy Reese talks about Marc Jacobs' early career

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Tracy Reese describes her position at Arlequin

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Tracy Reese talks about the emergence of contemporary fashion in the 1980s

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Tracy Reese describes the merchandising at Arlequin

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Tracy Reese remembers starting her fashion label

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Tracy Reese remembers factoring her early collections

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Tracy Reese recalls stopping production of her first fashion line

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Tracy Reese remembers helping Marc Jacobs with his line, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Tracy Reese remembers helping Marc Jacobs create the 1988 Miami show

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Tracy Reese remembers joining Perry Ellis Portfolio

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Tracy Reese recalls designing for Perry Ellis Portfolio

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Tracy Reese remembers Marc Jacobs' impact at Perry Ellis

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Tracy Reese recalls working at Magaschoni

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Tracy Reese remembers showing in New York Fashion Week

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Tracy Reese talks about the Council of Fashion Designers of America

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Tracy Reese recalls her decision to start her own fashion line

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Tracy Reese recalls launching the Tracy Reese collection

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Tracy Reese talks about the production of the Tracy Reese label

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Tracy Reese recalls founding T.R. Designs, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Tracy Reese recalls producing the Tracy Reese Plenty line in India

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Tracy Reese describes her Frock! line

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Tracy Reese recalls launching her flagship store

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Tracy Reese remembers closing her retail stores

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Tracy Reese talks about dressing Michelle Obama

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Tracy Reese recalls the celebrities who wore her designs

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Tracy Reese reflects upon the changes in fashion shows

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Tracy Reese describes her short film, 'A Detroit Love Song'

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Tracy Reese talks about her model casting decisions

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Tracy Reese talks about diversity in the fashion industry

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Tracy Reese reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Tracy Reese reflects upon her life

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Tracy Reese shares her advice for young fashion designers

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

3$7

DATitle
Tracy Reese remembers helping Marc Jacobs create the 1988 Miami show
Tracy Reese talks about dressing Michelle Obama
Transcript
Okay, so 1988. So you're helping--$$Um-hm.$$--and when you're helping (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) And it was--$$--does this include getting any kind of compensation?$$Well, my compensation was we would literally (laughter) and this--we would--every night we would leave the office at ten [o'clock], and we would go to Cafe Luxembourg [New York, New York] for dinner, and Marc [Marc Jacobs] would charge it. Now, he didn't know how he was gonna pay the credit card bill. He was just hoping that things were gonna work out, and it was like a super miserable time because Robert Boykin, his boyfriend, had AIDS [acquired immunodeficiency syndrome], and he was the first person I knew to get AIDS, or that I knew of who had AIDS, I'll put it that way, and he had gone home because it had really advanced and he was with his family in Mobile [Alabama], and then Marc's grandmother had just--had Mrs. Leigh Rhodes [ph.] passed? I think she had just passed away, and she was like his, the only family member that he really had a very strong connection to, and so he was really in, you know, a tender emotional place and we were just, we were like, sometimes we would just sit there and like cry, and so, you know, I remember the night before, well, Cafe Luxembourg, but that was the compensation for both of us.$$That was the compensation.$$He didn't have any money. He would just charge it anyway and, and we would get there and we would sit and Patience--there is a waitress named Patience Simon [ph.]--and she was an island girl and she was so nice and we would sit in her section every night and she knew exactly what we wanted. We'd get the same thing every single night and sit there and laugh and talk and cry, and then go home and like hit it again the next morning and I remember that show the night before, we slept on the pattern table, and I remember we got up and it was just like that raw like I've had three hours of sleep and my body hurts and what's going on, and I remember I think Robert called from Mobile, and he wanted to wish Marc good luck, and I got to talk to him on the phone and we're all crying and it's like we got, you know, this show has to really be good and it was the (air quotes) Miami show and it was so charming and all the big girls--I remember Naomi [Naomi Campbell] like, "Oh please, don't make me wear sandals. My feet are so ugly." (Laughter) It's like, girl. You're gorgeous. Don't worry about a pair of sandals, you know, and Cindy Crawford and Christy [Christy Turlington] and all of the girls were in that show, and it was right there in the showroom because that's how it was done--$$Right.$$--in the '80s [1980s], and it was a smash.$$I mean, so this was before the CFDA [Council of Fashion Designers of America] and (unclear) put together (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Before, before, yeah.$$--Fashion Week [New York Fashion Week] as something organized--$$This is when there would be twenty shows a week.$$Right, yep.$$You know?$So, let's talk about the first lady.$$Um-hm.$$You know, obviously, for many reasons, there was a lot of excitement with the Obamas coming into office. There was also a lot of scrutiny in the beginning in particular--$$Yeah.$$--as to what and who Michelle Obama was wearing. And every constituency had its arguments about what she should be wearing and is she wearing African American designers and how much and you remember all of that.$$Um-hm.$$And when, the first dress that I remember her wearing of yours was on the cover of People magazine.$$Um-hm.$$(OFF CAMERA DISCUSSION)$$So, Michelle Obama, the first dress that I remember seeing of yours that she wore was on the cover of People magazine, which is huge. It's the biggest magazine covering people, celebrities--$$Right. (Laughter) Right.$$And what year was that?$$Ooh, that must have been 2000, what, '9 [2009]?$$It was, yeah--$$It was like the summer of 2009, I think, in April or May.$$Which is--they had been in office for a while but not that long.$$Exactly.$$What reaction did you get to Michelle Obama wearing your dress?$$Well, just first, personally thrilled. Great reaction from the press and you know, a lot of requests from customers. I think the biggest customer reaction we got was definitely from the dress she wore to the DNC, you know, when she made her speech at the 2012 election [2012 Democratic National Convention, Charlotte, North Carolina].$$Right.$$Because, that was like the most public moment when people like saw her moving, you know, speaking and you know, 100 percent front and center, because I think, it's funny, I think that there's definitely more interest in her, the stuff she's wearing live than the stuff that she wears for photographs; at least, for us that's always been the case, but the People thing was, was huge. That was like the beginning, you know, and she started wearing things relatively regularly after that.$$Yes. And, you know, when a celebrity, when the first lady wears a designer's clothes, and in your clothes, do you find direct relationship to sales?$$To some extent, yeah. It really, and you know, certain styles just catch fire once she has worn them. I mean, the DNC dress was custom and we had to begin production post. We literally had to weave fabric and, you know, we weren't able to ship that for about three months, but we sold over two thousand units of it. People were willing to wait and we had, you know, tons of preorders. All the stores wanted it.$$And so you were able to sell it at regular price, even though it was delayed--$$Oh definitely, definitely, because it had never been at retail at any other points.$$Right. And typically, what is the, how many units of the dress do you normally sell?$$Oh, god. Usually, like. It depends. It goes anywhere from like 100 to a thousand, or twelve hundred. Two thousand--$$Right, so two thousand is a huge difference.$$Yes, definitely.$$And you know, pre-Michelle Obama, first ladies did wear American designers, like Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta.$$Yeah, definitely, and much more mature look.$$Yeah.$$I mean, I think that Mrs. Obama has been such a modern first lady and, you know, she's always appropriate but there's like a, like a youthful feminine energy to the things that she selects and wears. And I think she's just been much more herself, I guess, and she hasn't stepped into that typical first lady mold. I don't think we've seen her in one red suit (laughter).$$(Laughter) (Unclear).$$Or blue suit for that matter.$$Don't remember that. Actually she wears a lot of prints and patterns and flowers and mixed prints.$$Yup. Abstracts, you name it.$$Yeah. Which, and feminine, so in terms of your collection, which, I mean feminine is part of your signature.$$Exactly, and, you know what I love about how she wears clothes is, you know, she is still, she still is powerful even though she is, you know, dressing as a woman and not afraid to assert her femininity and I think it's speaks to the times too, where I think we, as professional women, we don't feel so much that we have to you know, be working a power suit or some uniform to be taken seriously.

Byron Lars

Fashion designer Byron Lars was born on January 19, 1965 in Oakland, California to Gloria Gardner Bonds and Earnest Lars. Lars grew up in nearby El Cerrito, California, where his mother encouraged his creativity, and his father, who worked in construction, nurtured his interest in craftsmanship. Lars attended El Cerrito High School, taking advanced math classes in preparation for a career in architecture. In the tenth grade, a friend taught Lars to use a sewing machine; and Lars taught himself to make patterns. He designed his classmates’ prom dresses in order to fund a school trip to Europe, and created a gown for his own senior prom date. Upon graduation from high school, Lars completed a two-year fashion program at Brooks Fashion Institute of Technology in Long Beach, California, where he earned first place at the student design fashion show. In 1986, Lars enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, although he left before graduating.

Between 1987 and 1991, Lars used his patternmaking skills to obtain freelance work for Kevan Hall, Gary Gatyas, and Nancy Crystal Blouse Co., among others. He developed his first sample set of seven garments, which he marketed to high end retail buyers. In 1990, Lars received an order for forty pieces of his designs from Henri Bendel on Fifth Avenue in New York City. The following year, Lars received orders from Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, and other high end retailers. His collection won widespread acclaim, and Lars was named Women’s Wear Daily’s Rookie of the Year. Faced with a rapidly growing business, Lars signed a licensing contract for his Shirt Tales line in 1995. Lars then entered into a contract with Mattel to design collectible Barbie dolls, and began designing Green T, an affordable clothing line he founded in 1999.

Lars was well-known for his menswear designs, especially men’s dress shirting and pattern mixing, as well as his sensitivity to fit and cut, and his use of draping and sarong-inspired tying. His line, Byron Lars Beauty Mark, which launched in 2001, expanded to include plus sizing. Lar’s Byron Lars Beauty Mark pieces were worn by celebrities such as Angela Bassett and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Byron Lars was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 6, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.094

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/8/2016

Last Name

Lars

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Fashion Institute of Technology

El Cerrito High School

Brooks Institute

First Name

Byron

Birth City, State, Country

Oakland

HM ID

LAR02

Favorite Season

Fall

State

California

Favorite Vacation Destination

Mexico

Favorite Quote

Even A Broken Clock Is Right Twice A Day.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

1/19/1965

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

All Foods

Short Description

Fashion designer Byron Lars (1965 - ) won widespread acclaim for his 1991 collection, first ordered by retailer Henri Bendel. Known for his menswear designs and pattern mixing, Lars also launched a women’s line called Byron Lars Beauty Mark in 2001.

Employment

Kevan Hall, Gary Gatyas, Ronaldus Shamask, and Nancy Crystal Blouse Co

Byron Lars

Byron Lars Beauty Mark

Favorite Color

All Colors

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Byron Lars' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Byron Lars lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Byron Lars describes his mother's career

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Byron Lars talks about his maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Byron Lars remembers his maternal uncle

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Byron Lars describes his father's creativity

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Byron Lars talks about his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Byron Lars describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Byron Lars describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Byron Lars describes his brother's musical talent

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Byron Lars remembers his early interest in art and fashion

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Byron Lars describes his neighborhood in Richmond, California

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Byron Lars talks about his grandparents' experiences of racial violence in the South

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Byron Lars remembers the honors program at El Cerrito High School in El Cerrito, California

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Byron Lars remembers learning to sew

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Byron Lars recalls designing prom dresses for his high school classmates

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Byron Lars remembers his first mentor in the fashion industry

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Byron Lars describes the fashion of the 1980s

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Byron Lars talks about his early career aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Byron Lars remembers moving to New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Byron Lars talks about his early fashion ideas

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Byron Lars describes his experiences at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Byron Lars describes his experiences at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Byron Lars talks about the changes in the fashion industry

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Byron Lars remembers his search for employment in Paris, France

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$2

DAStory

14$3

DATitle
Byron Lars remembers the honors program at El Cerrito High School in El Cerrito, California
Byron Lars remembers his first mentor in the fashion industry
Transcript
(Simultaneous) But you personally, did you experience racism growing up?$$Not--no, at least not that I was aware of. The first time that I pretty much suspected it was when I and another classmate, black classmate, Tim Kuzmicki [ph.], were ushered into honors English because, you know, we had--we were in honors classes in high school [El Cerrito High School, El Cerrito, California]. You had the same classes with all the same people 'cause that's how it worked or whatever. But I remember when it was determined that we were honors students and we were like taken out of like this English class that was gonna be a cakewalk. I was like, nice (laughter). And they were like, no, no, you two don't belong here, and they took us to honors English. And I remember Mrs. Protter [Ruth Rotman Protter] who was a white lady from Boston [Massachusetts] was just like, "No, no, they don't belong here." And we were the only two black people.$$In the honors class?$$Yes. And she was just so adamant that we--she kept looking at the documentation and I was just like, really? 'Cause at first, I didn't really want that extra challenge, but then I'm like, oh, watch me do so well in here just to spite you (laughter) because I was so put off that she was so (laughter)--$$So, she wasn't gonna--$$--incredulous.$$--get away with it. You did take the class.$$Yeah, I did. And, you know what--and she didn't treat us unfairly once we were in there. But, there was definitely some funkiness in the beginning that I was just like--I knew what that was, you know. That was probably my first time being aware of it. Maybe other things had happened, but I was so not in that headspace that I just would not have even recognized it, but that one, I was like--both Tim and myself, we were like, um-hm (laughter).$$And you both stayed in the class?$$Oh, yeah. And were tortured with Jane Austen. I'm like, if we read one more Jane Austen novel--. No Richard Wright.$$Oh, no.$$No. In honors English--I--like, if I stuck out in my old class, in that class they took us out of, I might've had some black authors, but no, not in honors.$Across the way from Neiman Marcus from this--was I. Magnin [I. Magnin and Company] and there was--in their couture salon, there was this black sales lady, Binky [ph.], who would take me in and she's like, "Listen, we got some new Valentino in. I want you to see this shoulder pad, come see this new Saint Laurent [Yves Saint Laurent]. I like want you to see how they finished this hem." And it was like amazing. She was like--she was--'cause first, she was like, what's your deal? Why are you here? Why is a boy here in the salon, couture salon?$$So you would go--$$I told her I wanted to be a designer and she was like, "Oh, really?" And then she just started showing me all the things that they had. Like, she didn't just like, you know, really? Well, I'm trying to make sales. Get lost. Beat it. She was very, very nurturing. And, you know, they close and before I even started--I, I wished I could've found her at some point. She was older then, so I'm--would find it very difficult to believe that she's still with us. But I never was able to thank her, you know what I mean, and find her because it was like, she really--she was such a special part of my development, an integral part of it, you know, like to really start developing taste. I mean, like what--this is what something like nice looks like. You know, even like the idea of brown for evening. I just--it was unheard of for me in high school [El Cerrito High School, El Cerrito, California]. I'm like brown, nobody wears brown at night (laughter). You know, I'm like, oh, brown with gold and coppers and--(laughter). I'm like, oh (laughter), you know? She was really, you know, she really mentored me (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) And she showed you the clothes inside out so you could see--$$Yes.$$--how they were made.$$Yeah. Because, honestly, that's what--I was probably more interested in that than fashion. I was interested in making stuff, even to this day. I--I like fashion (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Well, this is a construction that you do.$$--but I love, you know, building clothes. But, I like fashion, but I love that. I love--I love making clothes. I love figuring out the problems. I love that part of it.

Stephen Burrows

Fashion designer Stephen Burrows was born on September 15, 1943 in Newark, New Jersey to Gerald Burrows and Octavia Pennington. At a very young age, Burrows started sewing and making clothes under the guidance of his grandmother, Beatrice Simmons. He went on to attend elementary school in Newark, New Jersey, and graduated from Arts High School in 1960. Burrows then attended the Philadelphia Museum College of Art from 1961 to 1962, and later graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City in 1966.

Upon graduation, Burrows was hired as a fashion designer for Weber Originals, but decided to work freelance in 1967. In 1968, he co-founded O Boutique in New York City. The following year, Burrows launched a ready-to-wear collection for the upscale department store Bonwit Teller with his friend Roz Rubenstein. In 1969, Burrows was introduced to Geraldine Stutz, president of the Henri Bendel department store, and was hired and offered his own boutique called Stephen Burrows World. The success of Stephen Burrows World was immediate, and allowed Burrows to cater to celebrity clientele such as Diana Ross, Cher and Barbra Streisand. In 1973, he left Bendel’s, founded Burrows, Inc., and began working on New York’s Seventh Avenue. That same year, Burrows was one of five American designers invited to show his clothes on the runway of Versailles, France, where he received rave reviews. He became the first African American designer to gain international fame.

In 1977, Burrows returned to Henri Bendel and joined Pat Tennant, Inc., but left again in 1982. In 1993, he became affiliated once more with Bendel’s, and in 2002, reopened Stephen Burrows World. In 2010, Burrows designed a collection for Target retail stores and opened a showroom and design studio in New York City’s garment center. In 2013, he became designer and president of Stephen Burrows, LTD.

Burrows has been honored with three Coty American Fashion Critics’ Awards, the highest praise that can be awarded in fashion. In 1975, he received the Council of American Fashion Critics Award and the Knitted Association Crystal Ball Award. He was named to the Fashion Walk of Fame in 2003 and received the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Board of Directors Special Tribute Award in 2006. In 2014, Burrows was honored with lifetime achievement awards from the Savannah College of Art and Design and the Pratt Institute of Design.

Stephen Burrows was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 14, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.200

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/14/2014 |and| 08/13/2014

Last Name

Burrows

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Middle Name

Gerald

Occupation
Schools

South 8th Street

Arts High School

Philadelphia Museum College of Art

Fashion Institute of Technology

First Name

Stephen

Birth City, State, Country

Newark

HM ID

BUR26

State

New Jersey

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

9/15/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Short Description

Fashion designer Stephen Burrows (1943 - ) founded Stephen Burrows World at the Henri Bendel department store in New York City, and was one of five American designers showcased at the infamous 1973 benefit fashion show in Versailles, France.

Employment

Stephen Burrows / LTD

SBX Holdings LLC

Stephen Burrows, Inc.

Pat Tennant, Inc.

Amsale Aberra

Fashion designer Amsale Aberra was born on March 1, 1954 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Her father, Aberra Moltot, was an Ethiopian diplomat and government minister; her mother, Tsadale Assamnew, a homemaker. In 1973, Aberra moved to Poultney, Vermont to study commercial art at Green Mountain College. She then moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where she attended Boston State College (now known as the University of Massachusetts Boston) and received her B.A. degree in political science in 1981. She went on to earn her A.A. degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City in 1982.

Upon graduation, Aberra was hired as a design assistant for Harve Benard, Ltd. Then, in 1985, when she was unable to find an elegant and understated gown for her own wedding, she founded the bridal gown company Amsale Aberra, Inc. As her business grew, and Amsale gowns began to sell in boutiques and upscale department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, she purchased two other wedding design lines, Christos and Kenneth Pool. In 1996, Aberra opened the Amsale flagship salon on New York’s Madison Avenue, and a year later, she launched the Amsale Evening Couture Collection. Aberra serves as co-founder, co-chief executive officer, and creative director of The Amsale Group, which includes the Amsale, Christos and Kenneth Pool labels.

Aberra’s wedding gowns have appeared in many films including Runaway Bride, Analyze This, American Wedding, 27 Dresses, When in Rome, and The Hangover, and on television shows such as Grey's Anatomy, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and The View. She has also dressed numerous celebrities, including Halle Berry, Julia Roberts, Selma Blair, Salma Hayek, Katherine Heigl, Kristen Bell, Katy Perry, Ariana Grande and Hilaria Thomas.

Aberra is a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and a trustee of the Fashion Institute of Technology. She has also served on the international advisory board of the Ethiopian Children's Fund, and was twice included on Ebony magazine's "Power 150" list of the 150 most influential African Americans.

Aberra and her husband, Neil Brown, live in Manhattan, New York City. They have one daughter, singer-songwriter Rachel Brown.

Amsale Aberra was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 17, 2014.

Aberra passed away on April 1, 2018.

Accession Number

A2014.162

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/17/2014

Last Name

Aberra

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Schools

Green Mountain College

University of Massachusetts Boston

Fashion Institute of Technology

First Name

Amsale

Birth City, State, Country

Addis Ababa

HM ID

ABE01

Favorite Season

Spring

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

3/1/1954

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

Ethiopia

Favorite Food

Hamburger

Death Date

4/1/2018

Short Description

Fashion designer Amsale Aberra (1954 - 2018 ) was the cofounder, co-CEO, and creative director of the Amsale Design Group, which included the Amsale, Christos and Kenneth Pool wedding gown labels.

Employment

Amsale Aberra LLC

Harve Benard

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:2552,80:3016,85:4060,96:4524,101:15544,336:21460,414:21924,419:42560,616:50660,761:52100,787:52460,792:55880,842:60020,907:65240,1028:82612,1223:83308,1243:89920,1353:92269,1405:92878,1413:93400,1420:98359,1530:98968,1547:99577,1564:113786,1687:151547,2071:152321,2106:158771,2210:168645,2273:177091,2422:179872,2463:207366,2826:207802,2831:218300,2969:218986,2977:227610,3062:229374,3093:233914,3143:235240,3168:236800,3197:238126,3231:239610,3236$0,0:406,3:12418,256:21658,387:34498,478:34988,484:37046,509:37830,518:57750,770:58284,778:62734,859:71456,1013:76440,1087:90832,1233:94927,1303:95746,1313:98658,1343:99386,1351:123827,1771:124475,1779:133990,1872:138280,1927:182568,2382:188046,2550:200790,2692
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Amsale Aberra's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Amsale Aberra lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Amsale Aberra describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Amsale Aberra talks about her relationship with her father

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Amsale Aberra describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Amsale Aberra remembers her community in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Amsale Aberra remembers the Menelik II School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Amsale Aberra talks about her early aspirations

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Amsale Aberra remembers immigrating to the United States

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Amsale Aberra describes her experiences at Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Amsale Aberra recalls the start of the Ethiopian Civil War

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Amsale Aberra talks about her mother's efforts to reunite her family

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Amsale Aberra describes the Ethiopian refugee community in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Amsale Aberra remembers returning to Ethiopia

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Amsale Aberra recalls her mother visiting for the first time in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Amsale Aberra remembers meeting her husband

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Amsale Aberra describes her decision to attend Boston State College in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Amsale Aberra talks about her early relationship with her husband

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Amsale Aberra recalls her early interest in clothing design

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Amsale Aberra remembers studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Amsale Aberra recalls her training at Harve Benard, Ltd.

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Amsale Aberra describes the process of creating a sample garment

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Amsale Aberra recalls her promotion to design assistant at Harve Benard, Ltd.

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Amsale Aberra recalls her husband's marriage proposal

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Amsale Aberra describes her wedding ceremony

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Amsale Aberra recalls her start as a bridal gown designer, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Amsale Aberra recalls her start as a bridal gown designer, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Amsale Aberra talks about her first bridal clients

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Amsale Aberra recalls receiving bridal gown orders from fashion editors

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Amsale Aberra recalls meeting Katharine Hepburn

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Amsale Aberra remembers the birth of her daughter

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Amsale Aberra talks about the operations of Amsale Aberra, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Amsale Aberra talks about her relationship with her clients

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Amsale Aberra remembers her exclusive contract with Kleinfeld Bridal

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Amsale Aberra recalls hiring Peter Schiffman

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Amsale Aberra describes her early fashion shows

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Amsale Aberra talks about the cost of custom fashion design

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Amsale Aberra describes Peter Schiffman's role at Amsale Aberra, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Amsale Aberra describes her bridal collections

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Amsale Aberra describes the growth of Amsale Aberra, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Amsale Aberra talks about her husband's decision to join Amsale Aberra, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Amsale Aberra describes her husband's role at Amsale Aberra, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Amsale Aberra remembers the design of the first Amsale Salon

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Amsale Aberra remembers designing a collection of eveningwear

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Amsale Aberra remembers designing dresses for film and television

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Amsale Aberra talks about designing her iconic wedding dress with a blue sash

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Amsale Aberra recalls the inspiration for the Kenneth Pool collection

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Amsale Aberra talks about the changes in the bridal industry

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Amsale Aberra describes the corporate structure of Amsale Aberra, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Amsale Aberra describes the office culture at Amsale Aberra, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Amsale Aberra talks about the acquisition of Christos

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Amsale Aberra recalls the sales growth of Amsale, Inc. in New York City

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Amsale Aberra recalls her appearance as a judge on 'Project Runway'

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Amsale Aberra remembers appearing on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Amsale Aberra talks about her daughter

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Amsale Aberra recalls the impact of appearing on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show'

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Amsale Aberra remembers designing for the Lincoln Motor Company and 'Grey's Anatomy'

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Amsale Aberra talks about her celebrity clientele

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Amsale Aberra recalls becoming a trustee of the Fashion Institute of Technology

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Amsale Aberra remembers her mother's death

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Amsale Aberra describes her preparations for a ready to wear collection

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Amsale Aberra talks about the 'Amsale Girls' reality show

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Amsale Aberra remembers designing a wedding dress for Hilaria Thomas Baldwin

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Amsale Aberra reflects upon her career

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Amsale Aberra talks about her support from the Ethiopian and African American communities

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Amsale Aberra shares her advice to aspiring designers

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Amsale Aberra describes her design process

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Amsale Aberra talks about her signature design elements

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Amsale Aberra reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Amsale Aberra shares a message to Ethiopian immigrants

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$3

DAStory

11$5

DATitle
Amsale Aberra recalls the start of the Ethiopian Civil War
Amsale Aberra recalls her start as a bridal gown designer, pt. 1
Transcript
So you're there a year [at Green Mountain College, Poultney, Vermont]; and then what happens at that point?$$Four months after I got here, revolution broke out in Ethiopia (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) That's right.$$And my dad [Aberra's stepfather, Aberra Moltot] became a political prisoner. So I, you know, can't pay my tuition. Went back to Boston [Massachusetts] when there were Ethiopian students and at that time, we all kids. There were just nobody older than us or younger than--now it's a whole, it's a very big community. So we were for all the students who were just pretty much stranded. We were just together and helping out and figuring it out and helping out, you know, to get job, so I went back and stayed. And it's probably one of my favorite time when at the same time as sad as my situation was but being with my friends in one room, it was still also very good, you know, good time of my life.$$All right. So talk about Amsale [HistoryMaker Amsale Aberra], that whole, how that had even happened. Your father had--was--had risen up in the government of Haile Selassie, right (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Um-hm.$$And can you talk about the circumstances and you know what--why because the, because I have a, I have another friend, her name is Yemi. She goes by Yemi--but Priscilla Brown [Priscilla Sims Brown], but her mother, Mar- Marta [Marta Gabre-Tsadick], who has a project called Project Mercy [Project Mercy, Inc.] also--well, she had to leave the country in a hurry, you know, because of that but she had also been in the government of Haile Selassie.$$Yeah.$$So can you talk about, you know, what happened?$$I don't know what happened. I know that they were, you know, definitely they--high official, sixty people--they just massacred them almost, you know, just in a way. And my dad, I think the tie with Haile Selassie not very clear about it and they really didn't tell me exactly. They took him one day and for seven years he was, and he was one of the lucky one to get out. And what was so interesting, my father--it's become more religious in a way and more spiritual than--when I ask him and, you know, "How, you know, how did you deal with it?" How, you know, with, you know, unfairly just being in--with no, nothing that he had done. And he just--his simple answer was it was a change and it's inevitable, you know. People when there's a change there's, this is, this is what happens. So he's unique in many ways, you know. He just never, you know, he never just been a--bitter about it and moved--he got out and he moves on. He's eighty-three years old and a very amazing guy.$$That's amazing.$$Yeah.$$He sounds like Mandela [Nelson Mandela] (unclear) (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) He's--I mean I hate to say, I mean I didn't wanna compare him with Man- he is that kind of person, just very, he gets it, you know, they did, they--that's what happen in--with the revolution and he moves on.$$All right. Because this is--what we're talking about is 1974 I think you--$$Yes, yes.$$--and there were riots and political unrest and people go and they're--$$Yeah.$$--you know, going after Haile Selassie and people, you know, a bunch of people are killed--$$Yeah.$$--you know.$So what about the dress then, so you're, you were looking around for your dress?$$So I was getting, you know, I always knew that I was gonna make my dress, no question. But for ideas, you know, you look at magazines and just for inspiration. And at that time everything seems to be really elaborate. You know, lots of beading, lots of ruffles, puffs. And what I wanted was something simple, so I ended up, I ended up just like you know what I made, I made my own dress, but right after my wedding, I keep thinking about it was just like can't be me the only one. I mean really if you really could go back on those dates if you look at those magazines, they just no simple thing that you can find at all. And, so I made my, so I call Neil [HistoryMaker Neil Brown] from my office and I have an idea. I have no business idea, I'm terrible in it. Never, never in my life thought I want to own anything. But I felt like this, like there's a need for it. And he asked me, "What should I do?" And he, and he said, "Well, first you need to know where, you know, how to talk to peop- people find you. So call the magazine." He did, usually he is very supportive of that because he'll take care of it and this time he just like, this is your fantasy, go ahead kind of thing and I, and I call, and I connected with this--Lillian. She's an African American woman which is a beautiful, you know. She also passed away. And she was the one who really just took me under her wing. And--$$So wait, you called the magazine?$$Yes. For how do, how do I advertise to say.$$So you called Modern--was--$$Modern Bride (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Bride--$$Modern Bride.$$--magazine and you--$$Mo- and the person who is a salesperson was Lillian Caldwell [ph.], which is an African American woman--$$Oh, my god.$$--and amazing. I mean she don't know how many times, so many times how she really guide me. And, so she found me a photographer and then to have an, to have my own ad. So I--we--photographer, find me a model. So we have this photo shoot, just me and this guy. So we took the picture and we went--I went to Ethiopia to for the second wedding. So the photograph came. I was so excited and did not even notice it and I call Lillian, "What do you think of the ad campaign, you know?" And when I call the company and I say, "What do you think of the picture?" And she said, "Well, good, but the model had a mustache," she say to me (laughter). It was like I say I mean in those days you have to do airbrush it, you know. And was just like my first, you know (laughter), ad and the girl had a mustache. So anyway, so she did, she did help me a lot to really set me up in that.

B Michael

Fashion designer B Michael was born in 1957 and raised in Durham, Connecticut. His mother was a real estate agent and his father, a certified public accountant. B Michael found early design inspirations in his mother’s creativity and keen sense of style. He attended the University of Connecticut and also studied at the New York Fashion Institute of Technology.

B Michael was first hired as an account executive for a Wall Street firm, but decided to pursue a career as a millinery designer. He started designing hats under Oscar de la Renta, Louis Feraud, and Nolan Miller for the 1980s television soap opera Dynasty. Following his success on the show, B Michael became creative director for the Aldo Hat Corporation. In 1989, he decided to launch his namesake millinery line and in 1999 developed and launched his first couture collection with the help of PR Guru Eleanor Lambert.

B Michael’s collections have garnered appreciative fans including socialites and personalities such as Cicely Tyson, Ashley Bouder, Amy Fine Collins, Tamara Tunie, Beyoncé, Nancy Wilson, Susan Fales-Hill, President Barack Obama's poet laureate Elizabeth Alexander, and Lena Horne, among many others. He also designed Whitney Houston’s costumes for the motion picture, Sparkle. He has shown his b michael AMERICA Couture collection in Beijing, China, Korea and Shanghai, and his ready to wear fashion line b michael AMERICA RED sells in Macy’s department stores across the United States.

In 1998, B Michael was granted membership in the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). He has served as a guest lecturer at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. He also serves on the advisory boards of Dream Yard Project, YAGP (Youth America Grand Prix) and the Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts. In addition to his work and community activism, B Michael is an avid collector of vintage books, artifacts and photography.

B Michael lives in New York City with his life partner Mark-Anthony Edwards and their two daughters, Saferra and Mychal.

B Michael was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 8, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.106

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/10/2014

Last Name

Michael

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

University of Connecticut

Fashion Institute of Technology

May V. Carrigan Intermediate School

Harry M. Bailey Middle School

Coginchaug Regional High School

West Haven High School

First Name

B

HM ID

MIC03

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Connecticut

Favorite Vacation Destination

Giverny, France

Favorite Quote

God's Will For Me Is My Will For Me.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

3/31/1957

Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Oxtail

Short Description

Fashion designer B Michael (1957 - ) was a noted milliner and couturier, and created the b michael AMERICA brand.

Employment

Dynasty (Television Show)

Aldo Hat Corporation

B Michael America

Candadian Hat Company

Favorite Color

Navy Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:402,10:871,18:2278,36:4891,113:5628,126:7102,156:9313,210:9782,219:11524,249:11792,254:12596,269:12931,275:14539,309:16080,337:16348,342:16884,351:17822,370:25772,438:26456,450:26912,457:27672,469:27976,474:37020,662:38616,684:40972,732:42188,752:42568,758:48628,788:50804,823:52300,850:52572,855:53184,868:53660,876:53932,881:61548,1036:61820,1041:62092,1046:62364,1051:71689,1179:73000,1205:73621,1217:75484,1248:77278,1279:83530,1321:84097,1330:84907,1340:85312,1346:87418,1385:90415,1431:91063,1440:93898,1505:94789,1517:95356,1529:96085,1540:99163,1587:106052,1613:108392,1640:108938,1649:110342,1665:113696,1706:115958,1739:119780,1798:120170,1804:122744,1842:130864,1892:131320,1899:132840,1919:136488,1978:142970,2038$216,0:504,5:1368,21:3528,78:4104,87:4608,92:12210,203:12840,212:13470,221:15180,253:15540,259:19410,316:19860,322:21300,340:23370,373:23730,378:24180,383:25440,399:25890,405:27780,422:28230,428:28590,433:29850,449:37367,506:37769,513:38908,538:40717,580:41119,587:44046,607:52810,687:58150,759:58822,769:59830,784:61174,802:61846,812:63862,848:64366,859:64870,866:65206,871:68818,944:69154,949:73606,1014:73942,1019:76042,1063:77470,1085:78478,1102:78814,1107:79234,1113:87640,1173:87990,1179:88620,1190:90510,1224:91490,1245:96250,1364:97720,1398:105070,1562:111380,1610:111700,1615:112340,1628:112900,1637:113460,1646:117140,1702:117860,1712:119300,1737:121060,1768:123140,1819:128893,1842:131566,1890:132862,1910:133348,1917:134239,1934:135292,1949:135616,1954:136912,1972:137398,1979:138451,1993:140395,2015:140881,2023:141853,2043:142501,2052:144121,2081:149263,2113:149974,2124:150290,2129:151001,2140:151475,2148:152423,2174:157953,2259:159691,2294:163470,2308:164190,2319:164750,2331:165790,2348:169150,2392:170350,2407:171950,2432:172830,2444:175310,2482:176750,2507:177230,2516:177550,2521:178030,2529:178350,2534:178670,2539:179230,2550:179550,2555:186190,2625:186750,2634:192870,2646:193362,2653:193854,2660:194756,2665:195494,2676:196068,2684:198200,2707:198692,2714:200824,2754:201234,2760:203530,2796:203858,2801:208405,2824:209155,2837:209680,2845:212830,2892:214780,2927:217705,2989:219355,3016:220330,3031:227989,3087:228394,3093:231229,3133:231634,3139:232444,3152:232930,3159:233254,3164:246936,3369:255181,3477:257121,3501:257994,3513:258964,3523:265438,3551:266149,3563:266623,3570:268993,3608:273575,3685:275076,3709:275629,3718:277051,3741:277367,3746:283997,3801:284480,3809:286964,3852:287723,3865:288413,3876:288965,3885:289241,3890:291860,3918
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of B Michael's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - B Michael lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - B Michael talks about his roots in Connecticut

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - B Michael describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - B Michael describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - B Michael talks about his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - B Michael talks about his early awareness of race

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - B Michael describes his early interests

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - B Michael talks about his early education

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - B Michael remembers his communities in West Haven, Connecticut and Durham, Connecticut

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - B Michael talks about his maternal family's Cape Verdean ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - B Michael remembers his early influences

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - B Michael recalls watching 'I Love Lucy'

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - B Michael recalls his awareness of the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - B Michael remembers his paternal grandmother's influence

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - B Michael talks about the development of his fashion taste

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - B Michael recalls his extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - B Michael remembers enrolling at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - B Michael remembers the mentorship of Ann Albrizio

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - B Michael recalls studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - B Michael remembers becoming the milliner for 'Dynasty'

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - B Michael describes his contract with 'Dynasty'

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - B Michael recalls being featured in the millinery issue of Ebony

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - B Michael describes his professional growth during the 1980s

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - B Michael remembers joining the Canadian Hat Company

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - B Michael recalls the launch of the B Michael millinery line

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - B Michael talks about his decision to start his own company

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - B Michael talks about the Aldo Hat Corporation

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - B Michael recalls the start of b michael AMERICA

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - B Michael talks about his relationship with Oscar de la Renta

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - B Michael talks about the Council of Fashion Designers of America, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - B Michael talks about the Council of Fashion Designers of America, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - B Michael talks about the designers launched by Eleanor Lambert

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - B Michael remembers meeting Elsa Klensch

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - B Michael describes his support from Eleanor Lambert

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - B Michael remembers preparing for his first New York Fashion Week show

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - B Michael talks about his creative process

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - B Michael talks about his first apparel collections

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - B Michael remembers the reviews of his first New York Fashion Week show

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - B Michael reflects upon the relationship between designers and muses, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - B Michael talks about his relationship with Cicely Tyson

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - B Michael reflects upon the relationship between designers and muses, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - B Michael describes his clientele

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - B Michael talks about the decline of couture in the early 2000s

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - B Michael remembers creating a bridge collection for Saks Fifth Avenue

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - B Michael talks about his challenges during the early 2000s

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - B Michael talks about the process of building a fashion brand

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - B Michael describes the financial challenges faced by African American designers

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - B Michael talks about his influences and aspirations

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - B Michael recalls the start of his relationship with Mark-Anthony Edwards

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - B Michael describes his business plan with Mark-Anthony Edwards

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - B Michael describes his company's relationship with Mercedes-Benz

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - B Michael talks about his retail agreement with Macy's, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - B Michael talks about his relationship with Mark-Anthony Edwards

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - B Michael remembers meeting his business attorney

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - B Michael describes his plans for the future of b michael AMERICA

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - B Michael talks about the financial model of b michael AMERICA

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - B Michael talks about his support from prominent African Americans

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - B Michael reflects upon the legacies of his predecessors

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - B Michael talks about the future of black fashion design

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - B Michael remembers dressing Whitney Houston for 'Sparkle'

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - B Michael remembers the death of Whitney Houston

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - B Michael remembers the tributes to Eunice Johnson

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - B Michael talks about the diversity initiatives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - B Michael talks about Arthur McGee

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - B Michael reflects upon his career

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - B Michael shares his thoughts on diversity in the fashion industry

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - B Michael describes his hopes and concerns for the African American fashion community

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - B Michael reflects upon his relationship with Mark-Anthony Edwards

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - B Michael reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - B Michael talks about his gown in the Nancy Wilson exhibit at the National Museum of American History

Tape: 7 Story: 11 - B Michael remembers his friendship with Lena Horne

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$6

DAStory

4$1

DATitle
B Michael describes his support from Eleanor Lambert
B Michael describes his business plan with Mark-Anthony Edwards
Transcript
There are several stories. Eleanor used to do during Fashion Week [New York Fashion Week], an open house in her apartment on Sunday from like twelve until four [o'clock] and she invited editors and, you know, very key people in the industry and we were required to be there because it was an opportunity for them to get to know us in a more intimate setting, and who's turning down an invitation to go to Eleanor Lambert's? So, I mean, most of the senior editors all went through at some point and that was her way of giving us exposure and just letting them get a chance to meet us and see who we are and so forth. She always had a press package that they'd take away but she fed them great food and it was very, you know, very special.$$So in her press relations, how did she get to know you at the beginning? I mean because if she is going to work with you and decides that you're worthy of investment, is she observing you first from afar?$$She is.$$Okay.$$She's observing me from afar and then her office called one day to say that they were doing the Easter Parade and it was ending up with this big tea at the Plaza [Plaza Hotel, New York, New York] and if I could do some millinery to go with some of the clothing. So she connected me with a designer by the name of John Anthony, whose work was amazing, and that was really my first exposure to her.$$Okay, and what other things did you learn about her in the--in the industry from her during your, your little, even your little time periods that you're talking and getting to know. Was she sharing any, any--$$I would say that she, in her way, was beginning to rebel against what was becoming modern about fashion and how it's presented and publicity and how that was being used. I, I would say in her conversations with me, it was clear that she was not embracing of the way things were evolving because she believed that it should always be about the artist. If that person is worthy, which is subjective, of course, but you know giving opportunity and showcasing that.$What does he say you have to do, though? What is your business plan?$$So the business plan really, again, you know in terms of that conversation with Mark-Anthony [Mark-Anthony Edwards], has to do with funding, funding, funding, okay. Have to be, you know, financially sound as a business and putting together the right infrastructure in terms of team and management and then also positioning the brand properly as well being very important as we relaunch b michael [b michael AMERICA].$$So what are the things that he--that you put in place to relaunch? That's why I'm saying that's important. I--$$So what we did was we, again, in terms of, for instance, my pattern draper who was with me through all of my struggles, is still with me, and so there was already a nucleus on the creative side, at least, of people who, you know, there are two people who really were with me through struggling, you know, who sometimes got paid or got paid when they got paid, and, but who hung in there with me because it was also feeding their spirit and feeding their soul artistically and they also believed at some point that this is going to make sense. And so, you know, two of those people are still with me, and, you know, and participate in every collection with me. So we had that nucleus.$$So the nucleus (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) On the creative side was there.$$But who were the two, two roles or two names?$$So, my pattern draper and one of the sample makers, Andrea [Andrea Thurlow] and Josephine [ph.] are their names. So, so you know, it now, you know, I just, they bring me so much joy and the fact that they're doing so well and that we are now a business that blesses them, is just a wonderful feeling. But, so we had that, but then what we did not have on the other side was, you know, management. Management meaning the financial end which, you know, Mark-Anthony put together, a team of people that we couldn't necessarily at that stage afford, but people that we had a relationship with and that we thought if we could speak to them and they understood the vision, would support us. And, indeed, in most instances, that is what happened. So we put together an advisory board and I will say of some very, you know, respected powerful people who are chiefs in their own industry, and presented: this is our challenge, we're repositioning b michael as a brand. We are building a new business, needing to put together an infrastructure and needing to attract funding and for us to do that, we need help to tell that story. We need help to attract the right kind of support and so that advisory board, with his leadership, really worked hard around the kitchen table, if you will, to really just kind of help us hammer out some of those details in terms of how we do that, what would be looked for in business and someone else's point of view in terms of how we market that or how we promote that and so forth. And, you know, and in the meantime, we understood the importance of presenting a collection and staying visible. We were fortunate to attract sponsors which really helped us, you know, in terms of being able to show during that time as participants in Fashion Week [New York Fashion Week] which was very important for us and--$$So you created a sponsor model for Fashion Week?$$We did, we did, at that time, yes. That time meaning, when Mark-Anthony--$$Came?$$Yes, exactly.$$And has that pattern continued?$$Well that pattern continued for probably four shows and then we had reached a point of needing then to go back to the bigger screen of fashion and we went back to under the Mercedes-Benz umbrella and we were then in a financial position to support our show but it also was important for us to do that because we were branding ourselves and launching the b michael AMERICA RED collection and so--but we were grateful for having had sponsors that helped get us to that point.

Etu Evans

Fashion designer and entrepeneur Etu Evans was born on February 2, 1969 in Orangeburg, South Carolina though he spent much of his youth with his family in Harlem and Queens, New York. His mother Rosa was an educator, who helped Evans overcome a learning disability and eventually excel in school. Evans started his first business, in flower arranging, at the age of six. By the time he was thirteen, he began showing interest in fashion and interior design. Evans attended South Carolina State University, where he graduated cum laude with a degree in social work in 1992.

Evans established the design company Etu Evans, LLC in 1993, focusing on jewelry and hats. However, he continued a career outside of fashion and in 1996, earned his M.S. degree in applied behavioral science from Columbia University, graduating with a 4.0 GPA. Evans moved to Europe, where he worked in Italy and France as a behavioral therapist. In a chance meeting on the streets of Paris, Evans met the publicist for Gucci, and decided to leave his job in order to focus on design.

The scope of Etu Evans, LLC has broadened to include accessories and, especially, shoes. Evans became known for his fashion forward footwear designs, which have been worn by celebrities including Tyra Banks, Halle Berry, Erykah Badu, Queen Latifah, Beyoncé Knowles, Danny Glover and Chris Tucker. His work has been featured at New York’s Fashion Week and covered in a broad range of international fashion magazines.

In 1998, Evans founded the Solesville Foundation. This organization collects, repairs, and redistributes new and used shoes and is frequently cited for the effectiveness it had during the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans, Louisiana. Solesville also coordinated a youth AIDS walk and a shoe repair apprenticeship program for underprivileged youth. Evans’s philanthropic efforts have earned him the Burger King Everyday Heroes National Campaign Honor and the “Citizen of the Year” award from his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., and the National Association of Social Workers. Etu was also chosen by Ebony magazine as one of its “30 Leaders of the Future.”

Etu Evans was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 30, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.243

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/30/2007

Last Name

Evans

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Occupation
Schools

Marshall Elementary School

Brookdale Elem

Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School

South Carolina State University

Columbia University

Fashion Institute of Technology

Parsons School of Design

First Name

Etu

Birth City, State, Country

Orangeburg

HM ID

EVA03

Favorite Season

Christmas

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris, France

Favorite Quote

Since Greatness Is Achievable, Then Excellence Is Not An Option.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

2/2/1969

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Broccoli

Short Description

Fashion designer Etu Evans (1969 - ) designed shoes for celebrities including Erykah Badu, Halle Berry and Beyonce Knowles. He was also the founder of Solesville: Etu Evans Foundation.

Employment

Columbia University

Delete

Institute of Youth Entrepreneurship

Etu Evans, LLC.

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
0,0:19280,332:19730,338:20090,343:30496,440:30848,445:42992,611:76545,1196:80547,1286:83769,1302:101837,1613:123719,2015:137082,2177:137670,2190:149150,2388:149750,2397:151475,2418:161696,2593:162911,2612:176452,2855:177764,2938:185650,3018$0,0:9418,195:10573,209:12113,233:12575,248:14808,311:17734,396:19505,423:22508,542:27821,614:29592,664:37717,717:39376,747:40640,778:47018,830:48346,851:56336,924:56752,929:57480,938:66944,1103:68192,1138:72040,1195:77690,1211:79576,1250:83758,1319:84414,1328:88432,1410:94990,1472:95358,1481:101729,1555:104630,1657:104955,1663:105995,1688:106255,1693:111990,1759
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Etu Evans' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Etu Evans lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Etu Evans describes his mother's family background and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Etu Evans describes his father's personality and profession

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Etu Evans talks about his paternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Etu Evans remembers his paternal grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Etu Evans describes his early fashion influences

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Etu Evans talks about the significance of footwear in the African American community

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Etu Evans talks about his early memories and entrepreneurship

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Etu Evans remembers celebrating the holidays

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Etu Evans lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Etu Evans describes his community in Orangeburg, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Etu Evans describes the sights and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Etu Evans talks about his learning disability

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Etu Evans remembers Brookdale Middle School in Orangeburg, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Etu Evans remembers his parents' divorce

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Etu Evans talks about his early business ventures

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Etu Evans recalls developing his taste for luxury fashions

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Etu Evans talks about his interest in interior design

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Etu Evans remembers visiting his relatives in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Etu Evans remembers South Carolina State College in Orangeburg, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Etu Evans recalls his introduction to social work

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Etu Evans describes his religious influences

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Etu Evans talks about mental health in the African American community

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Etu Evans talks about the history of footwear

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Etu Evans talks about the process of making shoes

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Etu Evans remembers establishing Etu Evans, LLC

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Etu Evans recalls opening Sole Kitchen in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Etu Evans remembers his admission to Columbia University in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Etu Evans describes his graduate studies at Columbia University

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Etu Evans remembers the Parsons School of Design in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Etu Evans recalls transferring to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Etu Evans describes his work as a behavioral therapist

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Etu Evans describes his start in the footwear design industry

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Etu Evans talks about his celebrity clientele

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Etu Evans describes his coursework at the Fashion Institute of Technology

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Etu Evans recalls his peers at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Etu Evans recalls working with the Institute for Youth Entrepreneurship

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Etu Evans talks about the Solesville: Etu Evans Foundation

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Etu Evans talks about the value of quality footwear

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Etu Evans shares two of his shoe designs

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Etu Evans talks about teaching at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Etu Evans talks about his reputation as a shoe designer

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Etu Evans talks about the invention of the shoe lasting machine

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Etu Evans lists his awards and honors

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Etu Evans describes his public speaking career

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Etu Evans talks about his perspective on religion

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Etu Evans talks about the next generation of shoe designers

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Etu Evans describes his plans for the future

Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Etu Evans reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Etu Evans narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$4

DAStory

7$5

DATitle
Etu Evans describes his early fashion influences
Etu Evans shares two of his shoe designs
Transcript
And then, your father [Frederick Evans, Jr.], how would you describe your father if you had to describe him (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Gregarious, very outgoing, very talented printer, everyone comes to him for his printing services. And when I look at all of his pictures, very sophisticated dresser for his--for the times.$$What, what kind of elements were included in your father's style?$$He had a--I remember a picture of him in high school with a white dinner jacket on, some really nicely tailored black slacks, a great black bowtie, kind of sleek European in its silhouette, and a red carnation. Great mock neck sweaters, he just had impeccable taste.$$And what about your mother [Rosa Johnson Evans]. Was she fashionable?$$My mother is (laughter) fashionable and anything that has color in it, it has her name on it. I had to actually a few years ago pull her back from the metallic. I said, "Mom, we're not doing--that's no longer the trend, need to let that go," and I gave her some neutral pointier shoes. But she loves fashion$$And then, of course, your grandmother [Queen Esther Evans] you said is still wearing stilettos--$$Yes (simultaneous).$$--(simultaneous) can you just describe her fashion for us a bit?$$Yes, well, my mom borrows my grandmother's shoes still to date. She's very fashion forward when it comes to shoes, very pointy, very feminine. And she would sit me on her canopy bed--first of all her room is the ultimate jewelry chest.$$This is your grandmother?$$Yes. It's a treasure chest, it's congested but it's certainly purposeful (laughter). The shoeboxes connected like trains around the top of the ceiling, there are beads of every color cascading off of the dresser, and in another corner there is a, a some archtectrical high-rise of hats, so she loves fashion. Everywhere you move you see something to wear.$$And so did you get an opportunity to observe your grandmother dressing and--$$That's how I got into shoes (simultaneous).$$--(simultaneous) do you think that influenced your--$$Absolutely, she would sit me in her emporium of fashion and she would say, "Etu [HistoryMaker Etu Evans], what shoes should I wear?" And then I would always select the shoes that she should wear to church. And then I began--that's probably why I'm in behaviorism, 'cause I believe kids become who they are before they're age seven, that's just my personal philosophy, based on what they are exposed to. So, she would sit me on that, on that canopy bed and then I noticed that her body would change, so then I moved from you should wear that shoe or I like that toe or I like this bow to what's making your body change. And I realized the magic of shoes, and ever since then I was smitten, I began tearing my grandfather's shoes apart, running around through the house wearing his shoes. And I discovered how to take his dress shoe and, if I took the sole off of it, it became a driving shoe so that's really what--$$So (simultaneous)--$$--(Simultaneous) sparked my interest.$We were just talking about how a shoe is made and how it makes you feel, can you show us a couple of shoes and talk about the construction (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Absolutely. Impeccable construction, well made last, Italian last, and then this shoe, actually, this is one of the samples that I started working on. I wanted to kind of like when you're saying does she--she loves me, she loves me not, that's where this is inspired from the petals when you pull them apart. And I've discovered that once I completed this shoe design that she would love me. We've gotten a lot of love for this design, so this is one of the designs that I've been playing with in the factory, and just playing with different heels. We've done it without this, in patent leather in the back and metal. And this one, the feminine fanfare continues, you know, with grosgrain ribbon over suede and a lattice of bows, which I think is very sexy and sophisticated, a wider heel.$$And are you doing anything for the person who needs extreme arch support or for people who need a wider shoe, or support in the heel? Some of your common--$$I would say what we are doing is that with what I've found rather is that many women come to us to have their boots spliced because they have trouble particularly in the Latino and the African American community with the calves. So what I've decided to do in my line is I'm creating what I call equity girls, who are larger in size. So you can have the special ordered boot in particular where you have the calf you won't have those problems (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) So the shoe can come up high.$$Yes, that seems to be a major problem. We haven't had many problems with shoes not fitting.$$So people are quite comfortable.

Steven A. Cutting

Fashion designer Steven Alan Cutting was born in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, New York on June 8, 1961 to Russaloin and Clement Cutting. Cutting learned to sketch at six years old, and by the time he graduated from Queens’ Christ the King Regional High School, he was determined to pursue a career in fashion. Cutting earned his B.F.A. degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1983.

After college, Cutting worked on Seventh Avenue with the design firm Enrico Masei. Then he moved to Italy and worked at a freelance studio owned by Anna Schpioni. Cutting worked in Italy and Germany where he was a designer for Krizia and Chiwitt from 1983 to 1985. In late 1985, Cutting returned to the United States and became the head designer for Philippe Monet. While at Philippe Monet, Cutting traveled extensively and began to specialize in leather and cloth outerwear. In 1990, he established his own freelance company, Steven A. Cutting, Inc. The company’s clients included Kenneth Cole, Reebok, Collage, and Pony. Cutting worked for himself until 1996, when he became head designer for Perry Ellis America. In 1999, he joined First Manufacturing Company, where he was the design director for Jimmy and Marylou and the Whet Blue Collections. In 2000, Cutting was hired by the Larry Levine and Boston Outfitters labels. Cutting has worked with the House of Dereon owned by Beyoncé and Tina Knowles and has also established his own label, Katalyst.

Cutting joined the faculty of the Fashion Art Department of the Fashion Institute of Technology in 2001, where he teaches design techniques with leather. From 2003 to 2005, he was the president of the Fashion & Arts Xchange, a networking organization for people of color in fashion and the arts. In 2006, Cutting joined the board of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, working to fight AIDS. Cutting lives in New York with his wife, Asha Shetty, and has three children.

Steven Cutting was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 30, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.242

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/30/2007

Last Name

Cutting

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

St. Teresa of Avila

P.S. 169 Robert F Kennedy School

Christ the King Regional High School

Fashion Institute of Technology

First Name

Steven

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

CUT01

Favorite Season

Christmas

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

St. Kitts

Favorite Quote

Live Your Passion And Don't Stop.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

6/8/1961

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Short Description

Fashion designer Steven A. Cutting (1961 - ) was the head designer for Philippe Monet. He was a designer for Reebok, Kenneth Cole, Collage, and Pony and is also the president of the Fashion and Arts Exchange.

Employment

Enrico Masei, design firm

Anna Schpioni

Krizia and Chiwitt

Philippe Monet

Steven A. Cutting, Inc.

Perry Ellis America

First Manufacturing Company

Larry Levine and Boston Outfitters labels

Fashion Institute of Technology

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:470,3:7130,114:11090,246:17348,323:17900,330:18452,337:18912,344:23236,420:24984,461:27744,510:31245,534:38445,673:64874,1060:66866,1095:72795,1127:73260,1133:74004,1142:74469,1152:74934,1158:76470,1166$0,0:3485,129:9690,314:10285,327:10710,333:11900,349:19130,412:20480,434:21020,448:21380,453:22280,466:24080,495:25250,511:33924,635:37428,707:38085,717:38523,726:39034,733:39545,741:40129,751:40421,756:41078,768:41808,779:42100,784:45385,846:45969,857:46626,868:50276,976:62182,1087:73622,1274:75558,1297:75910,1302:80486,1377:83654,1430:89996,1443:90724,1459:94924,1524:95320,1529:97993,1562:102892,1623:103756,1637:133544,2003:134030,2010:134597,2018:147557,2292:151980,2298
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Steven A. Cutting's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Steven A. Cutting lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Steven A. Cutting remembers his mother's influence

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Steven A. Cutting describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Steven A. Cutting describes his maternal family's professions

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Steven A. Cutting describes his parents' relationship

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Steven A. Cutting describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Steven A. Cutting describes his relationship with his father

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Steven A. Cutting describes his paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Steven A. Cutting describes his parents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Steven A. Cutting describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Steven A. Cutting remembers his mother's cooking

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Steven A. Cutting recalls celebrating the holidays

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Steven A. Cutting describes his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Steven A. Cutting describes his childhood home

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Steven A. Cutting describes the sights and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Steven A. Cutting remembers his childhood trips to museums

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Steven A. Cutting describes his childhood pastimes

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Steven A. Cutting describes his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Steven A. Cutting recalls travelling abroad with the Robert F. Kennedy Incentive Program

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Steven A. Cutting recalls his early aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Steven A. Cutting describes his religious background

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Steven A. Cutting remembers Christ the King Regional High School in Queens, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Steven A. Cutting remembers applying to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Steven A. Cutting describes his skills upon entering the Fashion Institute of Technology

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Steven A. Cutting recalls his tuition at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Steven A. Cutting describes his influences as a fashion designer

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Steven A. Cutting recalls learning to sew at the Fashion Institute of Technology

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Steven A. Cutting describes his interest in the fashion industry

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Steven A. Cutting remembers the Harveys Bristol Cream fashion show

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Steven A. Cutting remembers his award at the Harvey Bristols Cream fashion show

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Steven A. Cutting recalls the impact of winning the Harveys Bristol Cream award

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Steven A. Cutting remembers working as a fashion designer in Italy

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Steven A. Cutting talks about influential Italian fashion designers

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Steven A. Cutting remembers living in Italy

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Steven A. Cutting recalls his return to New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Steven A. Cutting recalls developing his expertise in leather designs

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Steven A. Cutting describes his fashion design consulting firm

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Steven A. Cutting remembers his partnership with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Steven A. Cutting remembers designing for Perry Ellis America

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Steven A. Cutting describes his transition to designing menswear

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Steven A. Cutting remembers meeting his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Steven A. Cutting recalls meeting his parents-in-law

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Steven A. Cutting describes his wedding ceremony

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Steven A. Cutting talks about his children

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Steven A. Cutting remembers Kevin Pinnock

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Steven A. Cutting talks about reestablishing Steven Cutting, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Steven A. Cutting talks about teaching at the Fashion Institute of Technology

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Steven A. Cutting describes his work with the Fashion and Arts Exchange

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Steven A. Cutting remembers the mentorship of Clara Branch

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Steven A. Cutting describes the Gay Men's Health Crisis

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Steven A. Cutting reflects upon his career

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Steven A. Cutting describes the cultural differences in the fashion industry

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Steven A. Cutting describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Steven A. Cutting describes his current fashion design projects

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

12$6

DATitle
Steven A. Cutting describes his skills upon entering the Fashion Institute of Technology
Steven A. Cutting remembers his award at the Harvey Bristols Cream fashion show
Transcript
So what is the fashion world that you're--what's the fashion world like what's moving you in that bigger world of fashion when you're arriving at FIT [Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, New York], who are you favorite designers? Sort of what do you think you're gonna do once you get there?$$I didn't know what to really expect when I went to FIT. I just knew that I knew how to sketch. I went to my cousin's house, because you had to be interviewed before you were accepted in Fashion Institute of Technology, so I had to make a garment. I had never sewed before in my life you know. I was this typical teenager just like all thumbs and you know just all not together, but she taught me how to make this one simple black dress that I had sketched and that she helped cut out and showed he me how to put it together so when I got to FIT I wasn't aware that you had to do--really do draping, you had to do sewing you know, I thought I was just gonna be a designer to sketch you know become fabulous, you know just, just make all this money without knowing all these things. I was a straight D student in sewing my first semester until the final project.$You said you didn't know that it was a contest (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) I didn't know, you know Ms. Branch [Clara Branch] said you know, "There's a show that you know is coming up at FIT [Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, New York], Audrey Smaltz [HistoryMaker Audrey Lavinia Smaltz] of The Ground Crew," who's still around now, "is involved. Do you wanna do it?" I said, "Yeah, okay." And she said, you know, "They will give you some money to buy fabric and it's up to you to create your own design, you know there's an evening wear theme to it." "All right, all right, no problem." I just did it you know it was just having fun but I knew I wanted to make it a little bit different. Everybody else was making evening gowns and they knew how to really sew very well and for me I went and had a friend of mine who I--at the time I was working at Macy's [R.H. Macy and Co.; Macy's, Inc.] and her name was Ms. Trudy [ph.]. She was also you know she was a seamstress in the fashion industry but I didn't know where she--she was just my friend Trudy and she helped me make my hat. I designed--decided to do a hat, a jacket and a pair of pants, evening pants and I did like a Moroccan theme to it and we had--we met on the eighth floor in the president's office of FIT. At the time they had the student models who were involved from the Soul Club model the outfits. There was a judge there, Audrey Smaltz was there, and a couple of other people were there and they selected my outfit as the one--as the most promising black designer for the time and I was shocked, I hadn't--no clue. I just wanted to design it and make it hot, make it fresh you know and the night of the show Billie Blair wore my outfit. So I was like on an eighth--nowadays it would be as if you know Tyra Banks or, or Naomi Campbell wore the outfit or Alek Wek you know wore the outfit for a student, but Billie Blair was phenomenal 'cause she was a swan walking down the runway, and she wore my outfit and we became friends after that and I gave her the outfit you know 'cause that as my Billie Blair you know who wore it and Pat Cleveland was in the show and she wore the outfit for a good friend of mine, his name was Alex [ph.] and she--you know it was just fun, it was, it was awesome. It was great.

Leonard Davis

Fashion designer, fashion event producer and Black Americana collector, Leonard Davis, was born on March 12, 1953 in Washington, D.C. to Jordan and Cleo Davis. He graduated from Coolidge High School in 1970 and earned his associate degree in applied science at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York in 1973. Davis then continued his education at the world famous L'Ecole de la Chamber Syndicale De La Couture Parisienne in Paris, France where he earned his “Couture Design” certificate in 1975.

After working as an apprentice for Jean-Louis Sherrer in Paris, Davis returned to New York and began his designing career working for Willi Wear. On more than one occasion throughout his career, Davis was the first African American designer to head a division for companies including Adrianna Papell, Josephine Chaus, Inc. and Donnkenny. For twelve years, Davis worked developing private label products at Liz Claiborne, QVC, The Home Shopping Network (HSN), Essence by Mail and retail stores including Saks, Nordstrom, Bloomindales, Macy’s, JC Penney, Sears, Ashley Stewart and Steinmart. Davis has also worked abroad as Design Director for several International fashion houses including Mihang International, (Korean) Sage Apparel, (India) Tanzara/Plus Impact, (India).

In 1990, Davis realized the necessity for an annual event to honor African Americans in the fashion industry. With the collaboration of The Fashion Institute of Technology and Fashion and Arts Xchange, Davis’ vision was realized. He produced several annual events which honored black fashion pioneers including Ophelia DeVore, Naomi Sims, Andre-LeonTalley, Iman, Geoffrey Holder, Carmen De Lavallade, Wesley Tann, Helen Williams, Audrey Smaltz, Susan Taylor and Stephan Burrows. The event was hosted by Diahann Carroll and Phylicia Rashad.

In 1985, Davis began collecting Black Americana. He has published two books entitled “Black Americana Price Guide.” Davis has appeared in numerous magazines and newspaper articles, and The Davis Collection has been featured on several television shows including “Antiques Road Show,” “Treasures in Your Home,” ABC News, and featured in Spike Lee movie “Bamboozled.”

Leonard Davis was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 31, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.119

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/31/2007 |and| 6/22/2007

Last Name

Davis

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School

Calvin Coolidge Senior High School

Fashion Institute of Technology

Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale Couture Parisienne

First Name

Leonard

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

DAV19

Favorite Season

None

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

The Will To Do Will Make A Way

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

3/12/1953

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Soul Food

Short Description

Fashion designer Leonard Davis (1953 - ) designed for many 7th Avenue fashion houses including Willi Wear, Josephine Chaus, Liz Claiborne, Adrianna Papell, Donnkenney, QVC, Home Shopping Network, Chico’s, and Tarzana International. As an avid collector of Black Americana, he authored two books and several articles on black collectables.

Employment

Tanzara

Chaus

Adrianna Papell

Willi Smith

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
0,0:20572,223:20956,228:21340,233:26332,334:27196,345:33504,411:37622,529:40036,567:40746,578:41598,602:41953,608:42947,626:43373,635:51254,730:55235,796:55690,806:56990,819:64850,950:69352,1016:69696,1022:71416,1068:78124,1238:78468,1243:79156,1264:97892,1557:100325,1585:100641,1590:109931,1729:110279,1734:115966,1832:119136,1872:119566,1914:124943,1965:125866,1983:127570,2034:129700,2075:130197,2084:130694,2093:131617,2115:132824,2154:135735,2196:136090,2202:140110,2210:141033,2232:141388,2238:141814,2246:142098,2251:148240,2473:152003,2502:153004,2519:154775,2548:155083,2553:156007,2567:157085,2583:157393,2588:158779,2610:162321,2686:166170,2695:166702,2703:167538,2716:171642,2799:172326,2810:182335,2975:182635,2980:183160,2989:183610,2996:184360,3007:185110,3025:185935,3040:196718,3188:200270,3265:203896,3328:205228,3350:207226,3382:208114,3396:208854,3408:215703,3447:216200,3456:217904,3489:218259,3495:218685,3502:219182,3511:225828,3620:227236,3653:228292,3667:229524,3694:232868,3758:249474,4023:250200,4036:252114,4075:253104,4104:254226,4134:255678,4171:261070,4192$0,0:237,7:553,12:869,17:4582,82:5214,91:14378,243:14931,252:16511,277:16827,282:19197,314:19987,334:28529,409:29113,419:29405,424:30792,443:44224,684:45173,709:45757,719:46049,724:46414,730:57452,824:57963,833:58474,842:59131,862:63980,894:70294,940:81519,1055:81931,1060:82549,1067:89120,1131:93220,1189:95020,1222:95420,1227:96220,1236:96820,1243:97220,1248:98020,1258:98820,1268:100020,1287:103270,1292:103678,1297:104086,1302:110991,1380:112771,1403:115263,1441:115708,1447:116242,1454:116776,1461:124040,1519:126590,1564:130790,1626:132290,1648:138399,1707:139378,1721:143116,1806:144896,1834:153647,1950:159758,2012:160498,2029:160942,2037:162422,2067:167262,2166:167586,2171:169773,2210:178325,2333:191760,2490:195560,2555:196260,2564:197160,2574:209460,2727:210180,2737:210900,2746:218068,2801:221344,2866:227428,2987:228520,3050:231562,3086:234994,3136:237568,3179:238426,3194:250654,3280:252328,3309:253816,3330:265552,3443:268401,3517:268709,3522:269248,3530:269787,3539:271558,3565:275023,3621:275870,3666:282723,3796:289620,3808:289912,3813:291518,3849:291810,3854:292394,3865:293562,3893:295022,3920:298088,3971:298599,3980:299183,3990:299840,4002:301446,4034:304512,4089:304877,4095:306921,4135:314210,4180:317950,4231:318290,4236:322115,4292:322407,4297:322699,4331:327955,4404:332360,4452:334490,4470
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Leonard Davis' interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Leonard Davis describes his mother's education and upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Leonard Davis describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Leonard Davis' mother describes her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Leonard Davis describes his father's career

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Leonard Davis describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Leonard Davis describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Leonard Davis describes his upbringing in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Leonard Davis describes his neighbors

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Leonard Davis describes Washington D.C.'s racial environment

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Leonard Davis remembers his early interests

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Leonard Davis remembers Rabaut Junior High School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Leonard Davis recalls his fashion column at Chamberlain Vocational High School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Leonard Davis remembers his growing interest in fashion

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Leonard Davis recalls learning to sew

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Leonard Davis describes his early fashion shows

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Leonard Davis remembers winning a national art competition

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Leonard Davis recalls his decision to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Leonard Davis remembers the Fashion Institute of Technology

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Leonard Davis remembers learning about fashion designers

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Leonard Davis recalls his black peers at the Fashion Institute of Technology

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Leonard Davis remembers the emergence of black fashion designers

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Leonard Davis remembers the disco scene in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Leonard Davis recalls his early aspirations as a designer

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Leonard Davis describes his education at the Fashion Institute of Technology

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Leonard Davis recalls his decision to study couture in Paris, France

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Leonard Davis recalls his experiences of discrimination in Paris, France

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Leonard Davis recalls his training at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Leonard Davis describes his design apprenticeship in Paris, France

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Leonard Davis remembers the arts community in Paris, France

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Leonard Davis recalls searching for employment in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Leonard Davis remembers being lost in Paris, France

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Leonard Davis remembers searching for housing in Paris, France

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Leonard Davis remembers working with Helen Faske

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Leonard Davis remembers visiting his family for Christmas

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Leonard Davis remembers his interview with Oleg Cassini

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Leonard Davis describes Willi Smith's design career

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Leonard Davis explains the development of junior sportswear

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Leonard Davis remembers working at WilliWear Ltd.

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Leonard Davis talks about the African American fashion community

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Leonard Davis remembers being hired at Adrianna Papell

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Leonard Davis remembers designing for Bernard Chaus, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Leonard Davis recalls designing for Oak Hill Sportswear Corporation and Donnkenny, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Leonard Davis describes his international career

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Leonard Davis describes his experiences of racial discrimination in the fashion industry

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Leonard Davis describes the stereotyping of African American designers

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Leonard Davis describes the urban wear market

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Leonard Davis talks about designing for the moderate market

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Leonard Davis talks about notable African American fashion designers

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Leonard Davis talks about the changes in the fashion industry

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Leonard Davis describes Tanzara International, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Leonard Davis describes his organizational involvement

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Leonard Davis lists black fashion pioneers

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Leonard Davis talks about preserving African American fashion history

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Leonard Davis shares advice for aspiring African American fashion designers

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Leonard Davis talks about the term ethnic

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Leonard Davis shares lessons from his career

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Leonard Davis talks about his parents' influence on his career

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Leonard Davis lists his favorites

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Slating of Leonard Davis's interview, session 2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Leonard Davis remembers buying his first apartment

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Leonard Davis recalls his first purchase of African American memorabilia

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Leonard Davis talks about the value of African American collectibles

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Leonard Davis shares the history of Aunt Jemima

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Leonard Davis describes his Weller Pottery cookie jar set

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Leonard Davis describes his collection of black Americana artifacts

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Leonard Davis talks about negative caricatures in his collection

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Leonard Davis describes the reactions to his black Americana collection

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Leonard Davis describes the history of racist images in advertisements

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Leonard Davis describes the Weller Pottery Aunt Jemima set

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Leonard Davis shares his collection of black beauty products

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Leonard Davis describes the educational value of historical artifacts

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Leonard Davis talks about the importance of preserving family histories

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Leonard Davis describes his relationship with his Americana collection

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Leonard Davis talks about the advertising images of African Americans

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Leonard Davis describes the changes in images of Aunt Jemima

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Leonard Davis talks about depictions of African Americans on cereal boxes

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Leonard Davis shares tobacco cans from his black Americana collection

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Leonard Davis describes the history of racial slurs in product names

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Leonard Davis shares an advertisement for Nigger Hair Smoking Tobacco

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Leonard Davis describes his collection of piggybanks with racist imagery

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Leonard Davis shares his artifacts from the Madam C.J. Walker School of Beauty Culture

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Leonard Davis describes his artifacts from the Coon Chicken Inn

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Leonard Davis describes his Weller Pottery set depicting Aunt Jemima

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Leonard Davis shares the Aunt Jemima products in his collection

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Leonard Davis narrates his photographs

DASession

1$2

DATape

2$7

DAStory

4$5

DATitle
Leonard Davis remembers his growing interest in fashion
Leonard Davis shares the history of Aunt Jemima
Transcript
Lo and behold, (gesture) this lady [Cleo Williams Davis] saw one of the drawings one time and so she turns around on the front porch to Pauline Jackson [ph.] who lived to the left and goes, "Pauline, look at this dress. I love this dress. I wanna have it made." I'm going, "Ma, will you give me my sketch back? I gotta turn in my column for this week." "No, I wanna look at the--." I said, "Ma, who cares about the dress? I'm just--gotta do my--I'm doing my column, you know." I, I--I'm doing my--I'm in the back--in the back room, tinkering trying to make a transistor radio 'cause that's the class that I was in and this was just something on the side. What is everybody getting crazy over these stupid sketches? It's nothing. I'm just trying to write captions under the drawing and keep this column alive that I'm suddenly obligated to do. No. Mom kept flipping and she's telling Pauline, "We're gonna get patterns and I'm gonna make this dress because it's beautiful." Oh, boy. So, the week after that, again, I had to do a tracing and come up with something and I was--you know, after weeks went by, I got a little more interested in the drawings, tried to make them a little nicer, tried to take the hair and flip it like this. I didn't know what I was doing, but I was trying to do something. I was trying to keep my, my column alive and she kept on flipping over the dresses. And I kept saying, "Mom, stop. I don't care about the dress." She said, "But you don't understand. Look how fabulous this dress is." So then I started taking a look. So then the next week I would say, well, don't put two buttons on the dress, put six buttons on the dress and try to make it plaid. Then I would say, "You like this one?" (Screams) And she was dropping dead every time I would put my pencil on the paper. So slowly, I started believing, maybe I am doing something. Maybe I am--maybe it is something, I don't know. So then I started paying more attention to fashion. Then, I started paying attention to what people were wearing, what I was wearing, what was going on around me in terms of fashion.$$And what grade were you in?$$That was te- elevent- tenth--no, that was tenth grade. That was tenth grade, first year of high school [Chamberlain Vocational High School, Washington, D.C.].$$Okay, and that--and then how did you end up at Coolidge High School [Calvin Coolidge High School; Calvin Coolidge Senior High School, Washington, D.C.]?$$So, then, the elect- electronics took a back seat because I became--now, I got less interested in electronics and more interested now in the fashion thing.$$In the column.$$In the col- well, the column which led onto actually drawing clothing and really gain- gaining an interest in fashion. Okay, now wait a minute. So, now my mother and father [Jordan Davis, Sr.] are members of the Masons for the men and the Eastern Star [Order of the Eastern Star] for the ladies, that organization. So they know a vast array of people throughout Washington [D.C.] just from that organization and then, of course, my father is a Mason, he's also a Shriner, blah, blah, blah, you know. So that--there was a exposure to a lot of people and so my parents being gregarious as they are, are constantly out at meetings where--and bringing us out, okay. So as parents talk about their kids, you know, at the various events and functions and parties and picnics and outings that we go to, the word got around, you know, that my mother would always tell her friends, you know, he's interested in clothing, he's interested in designing, he's designing clothings. So, this was in the '60s [1960s] and everybody was wearing, you know, Michael Jackson, you know, the dashikis, you know, big afros, you know, black power, all that stuff. So then$$(CLEO WILLIAMS DAVIS): (Unclear).$$I was trying to--so then what I did was, I got a--my mom got me a sewing machine and I started making dashikis, making my own dashikis, you know. You could go and buy African fabric and get creative and make your own dashikis and all of that stuff, so started having fun making dashikis, you know, at home, whatever. That was kind of my first sewing pursuit.$And at what time does Aunt Jemima pancakes start advertising with Aunt Jemima and possibly making these types of items, the advertisements and the cookie jars and the--$$Okay, and for--and for Aunt Jemima, now, Aunt Jemima in particular, that story is that something about the fact that the, the, the producers of that product at the turn of the century, okay, when, well let's say Mr. Kellogg, Mr. Post were coming up with this new invention which was a, a dry--a cereal and you just add milk, okay, but it was nutritious and it was instant, okay. Then, Cream of Wheat was there and then the pancake mix suddenly came along. And so it was at a point in time when industrialism was going on and people were coming up with these various inventions, but then your product, okay, had to have a, a logo, a name, a face, okay, that was going to sell to the--to the public and so it's kind of--the concept was we have a product, pancakes. Who makes the best pancakes? Okay and these are instant pancakes, so in actuality, you will be making them, okay, but they should taste like what? Like who? So, the best cook in the world was your maid, the black maid, the black mammy in the kitchen from the Old South. It was just that American notion that she's the best cook that there is. So then some very smart producer, promoters, okay, advertising geniuses thought, hum, if we put that notion and we put that face on the box and the--and the first actual person that portrayed the image of Aunt Jemima because there was never an actual Aunt Jemima. Aunt Jemima is just a, a--sort of a, a phrase. It's just sort of a nickname that was given to old southern women in the South rather than try to figure out, remember your name or whatever, all of them were auntie, auntie, you know what I'm saying. Every, every old woman was auntie, every old man was uncle. So, auntie, Aunt Jenny, Aunt Jemima, Aunt--auntie. It was--it was just a common southern name for old black women. And so Aunt Jemima, I think at the time there was a play on Broadway [sic.], 'Aunt Jemima Slide' ['The Aunt Jemima Slide']. I even have the sheet music for it, and so it was just a common name that was around and it would--it would just again--just say--it would mean an old fat black woman, an Aunt Jemima. She's an Aunt Jemima. But she's again--she's that faithful figure in your home. Typically, she probably raised you, okay. She may have even breastfed you. You were raised by her. You love her. She loves you and she keeps your home. She--she's there and she's a trusted, respected figure. She's your psychiatrist, she was your wet nurse, she's your doctor, she's your, your, your grandmother, okay, for what it's worth, okay, in the psyche of American people at that point in time. So imagine her image on that product box to say that's who made these. That--if you use this product, it will be as if she made them. You will--it will taste--but you can do it. So now, it's the turn of the century. The, the idea of having a maid and a cook and all of that stuff, it's no longer, it's no longer. The, the, the Beulah is no longer in the kitchen now. Times have changed, okay, so this is how we brought her forward. Now, Beulah is in the box, okay. And so that's why we're using that image. Again, realize, that product has the black image on the--on the box, okay, but this is a product that is not being advertised to the black consumer. That was not the intention. The intention was that we just wanted you to just realize that you trusted her, okay, and so that's why you're willing to buy this product, assuming that it's gonna taste as if she made it, the person that you trust, the Cream of Wheat that you trust, Rastus on Cream of Wheat, Uncle Ben that you trust as a very, very--the best cook. This product will make you the best cook just like them, someone that you know. But that product was not being advertised to the black consumer as the end user. That was never the intention. However, it was not a negative, also. It was--the, the, the image, the black image on those products was not also put on there as a negative, okay. It was put on there because this was a trusted figure that everyone knew for a food item. This is gonna taste great if you have it in your mind that this Cream of Wheat product, this oatmeal is gonna taste good if you buy it because it's in your mind that he made it. So that--I just wanted to put that point across.