August 30 2014

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2 posts tagged "Jeffrey Banks"

Pratt Puts Black Designers in the Spotlight


Pratt Exhibition

“It actually started with my godmother,” explained Pratt Institute fashion professor and curator Adrienne Jones. “She has been collecting information on black designers—she’s 85 now—forever. And one day I was talking to her and I said, ‘You know what? The information is not out there—and it needs to be out there.’”

Five years later, Jones is presenting Black Dress: Ten Contemporary Fashion Designers, an exhibition that opens at Pratt Manhattan Gallery this Friday and showcases the works of contemporary black designers. Jones has brought together a diverse range of today’s African-American talent—artists such as menswear fur pioneer Jeffrey Banks, ready-to-wear designer Tracy Reese, and the iconic Stephen Burrows, as well as newer designers including Michael Jerome Francis, known for his hyper eco-conscious designs, Queens-based body-con aficionado LaQuan Smith, and former Project Runway star Rodney Epperson (above). Photographer and mixed-media artist Carrie Mae Weems has also contributed an original film for the project.

Pratt Exhibition“We wanted to show the huge span [of talent] that we have,” related Jones. “I talk to my undergraduates and say, ‘Who’s your favorite designer?’ And they name the designer or designers that they like. And whether [the students] are black or white, they never know any black designers. So this was an opportunity for me to not only teach them, but [all the others] who don’t know that this collection of people, this collection of talent, exists.”

“This is an honor,” said Smith, in front of his three chosen designs in the gallery (set up to mimic a series of Madison Avenue-esque storefront windows). “If anything, it’s a celebration for us as African-American designers to be able to show our work in such a prestigious spotlight with Pratt, alongside legends like Stephen Burrows, and to be able to say, ‘This is our message.’”

Black Dress: Ten Contemporary Fashion Designers will be on view from February 7 to April 26. Jones hopes to take it nationwide, as well as translate the research into a Black Dress book in the future.

Photos: Steve Eichner 

Remembering Perry Ellis—the Man and the Brand


Archival looks from Perry Ellis

“Most people today think of Perry Ellis as a brand,” said menswear designer Jeffrey Banks, the co-author (with Doria De La Chapelle and Erica Lennard) of the new Rizzoli monograph, Perry Ellis: An American Original , of his late friend and colleague. “They don’t realize there was a real person named Perry Ellis. And that he was such an incredible influencer—he never followed other designers. He did what he believed in.”

The book, which will launch this evening alongside a one-night-only exhibition of Ellis’ finest designs at Parsons The New School For Design, traces the sportswear enthusiast’s all-too-short career (he died at age 46) with an aim to change that. A forward by former Perry Ellis designer Marc Jacobs (“When we talk to Marc, the one designer he ever idealized and wanted to be like and loved his clothes more than anyone was Perry Ellis,” recalled Banks) and never-before-published photographs from Lennard, who was Ellis’ campaign photographer, accompany Banks’ narrative.

The pieces on view at the show (a sneak peek of which debuts here) are a celebration of Ellis’ singular ability to push the aesthetic boundaries of sportswear classics. A hand-knit sweater emblazoned with a P for Perry (from Ellis’ first collection in which Princeton University cheerleaders danced down the runway) brings to life the moment the designer brought hand-knits into the high-fashion lexicon; a mohair dress and matching cape (“Perry always had amusing touches that were not silly, but fun,” remembered Banks) sits alongside a rich cashmere tunic in a graphic print inspired by French cubist artist Sonia Delaunay. Elsewhere, an oatmeal tweed jacket with Ellis’ signature dimple sleeves and an all-red suit for men (“It takes a gutsy man to wear a raspberry red tweed suit,” said Banks with a laugh) are on display. Each element of the show illustrates Ellis’ take on traditional, all-American sentiments—loosened up and ever-so-slightly irreverent.

“There was no compromise in his vision,” said Banks. Lennard continued, “He really had his own path. He was, to me, the only American designer of his time who was completely original. The other designers were looking at Europe. He had his own vocabulary.”

Photo: Samuel Bristow