There's been much talk about black models in the last few months, but little has been said about black designers. Stephen Burrows, probably America's most famous black designera three-time Coty Award winner, member of the Fashion Walk of Fame, and recipient of a CFDA Lifetime Achievement Awarddidn't have as large an audience at his show today as he should have.
In recent years, some of Burrows' collections have been justly criticized for being a bit mired in the pastspecifically the seventies, the designer's disco heyday. But this collection, titled "Afro Summer," was his best and most forward-looking in a long time. Asked about the titleand the invitation, which came with an Afro pickthe designer said that he wasn't making a political statement so much as an artistic one: He equated the "naturalness" of unstraightened black hair with the natural cottons and silks he used. That's right: Burrows has broken out of his box, wholly abandoning his signature jersey for Resort and using little of it for Spring.
Fluiditywhat he calls a "feeling for softness"is still at the core of the designer's work, but this time he sought it through "wovens." The focus was on a truly smart series of khaki piecesincluding one dress with grommets and another in red with top-stitching and a crumb-catcher collarthat were quintessentially American, fresh, and wearable.
One of the week's most convincing arguments for the harem pant came here, in a pair of culotte shorts in a brilliant floral print (paging Rihanna). And the finale gowns were simply stunning. Yasmin Warsame closed the show in a mermaid-tailed column with suspended sleevesthis one in jerseythat melded the best of Burrows past and Burrows present. A dress like that deserves its share of the limelight, and so does the man who designed it.