Melody Boykin Gives Us A Sneak Peek At Chicago’s Black Fashion Week

January 28, 2015  |  

Black Fashion Week has found its way to Paris and Montreal and now to the USA. Melody Boykin, founder of Chicago Black Fashion Week has made it her mission to combine both the fashion industry and African-American talent to create alliances and develop entrepreneurs as they learn and grow in the world of fashion.

This February, Melody will be launching Black Fashion Week USA in her hometown of Chicago. Attendees will have the opportunity to network, learn from industry professionals, and strengthen their brand.

Melody shared with MadameNoire what else attendees can expect from the launch of this event.

MadameNoire: When and how did Black Fashion Week USA begin?
Melody Boykin: The inspiration behind Black Fashion Weeks started with research. About two years ago, I had been researching African- American fashion designers and boutiques… So a full year of planning although it was an idea for last couple of years. That is the vision behind Black Fashion Week USA, stemming from the love of African- American history and wanting to unite the Black fashion industry together.

MN: When people think of fashion capitals, places such as NYC and Miami come to mind. Would you place Chicago in that category as well?
MB: Yes, Chicago has the feel of a busy city. It’s kind of in between LA and New York. We have quite a bit of fashion here. I’m from Chicago so no other place… for the first Fashion Week, but I think we can definitely have a lot of great fashion and I think we can compete with the best of the cities for high fashion.

MN: Do you plan to continue this solely in Chicago?
MB: We want to launch in Chicago, but we definitely want to take it to the other cities.

MN: What should attendees expect?
MB: Attendees should expect to come to network for the private trade industry. If you’re in the fashion industry, you should come expecting to meet and greet with other fashion professionals whether they’re fashion stylists, boutique owners, photographers, models, or designers. And they also should come expecting to learn and gain wisdom and insight from other successful African-American fashion professionals such as: celebrity shoe designers, accessory designers, and celebrity makeup artists for those in the beauty side of the business. They should come expecting to connect and to be inspired by those who’ve paved the way.

MN: Would this be an event for people who are aspiring to get into the industry? Those who may not have a business and are in the beginning stages?
MB: Most certainly. If they have a fashion business in their back pocket, they can pull it out because we will have the right people there to help and give them a little bit of an overview of how to get started in the fashion industry.

MN: Why the mix of business and fashion?
MB: Fashion is a business and sometimes people look at fashion and only see the glam. And sometimes it’s entertainment, but it is a business and a designer is in the business of selling garments, bottom line. They may go to fashion shows and do a lot of fashion shows, but really at the end of the day it’s about selling their garment and getting exposure. So, we definitely felt like it’s something that’s needed.

To train designers about the business side of fashion and making the income that they want to make and helping them with their strategy of how they want to present their garment and then how they want to sell their garment. If they’re looking to mass produce or have a custom design business. We think it’s important. The two go hand-in-hand, they’re married.

MN: What will attendees be able to pull specifically from the business aspect?
MB: Our fashion attorney will touch a little bit on trademarking and the importance of protecting your intellectual property or getting started, filing a business structure, branding yourself. Those are some of the things that they can take away. Also, business contracts or if they’re looking to do commercial property, open up a physical location or maybe they want to open multiple locations, she’s definitely got the insight to go about doing that.

The celebrity shoe designer will talk about starting a business, being able to manufacture your product. We also have another speaker that’s not on the flyer, who is a former buyer and she’s a stylist and consultant so she will be giving insight as far as what buyers look for in a line and collection. We also plan to have financial institutions to talk to them about banking and potential financing for businesses.

MN:  What’s next for Blacks in fashion?
MB: I think what’s next is being able to say that we have a chain of stores. To say that we have our own H&M. We have our own Forever 21. To say that we have multiple stores around the U.S. I don’t see that currently for the Black designers in America. And I know that it’s possible and I know that it’s coming or that there will be that one fashion business that will have their chain of stores throughout the U.S.

Also, having more manufacturing companies in the fashion industry. And fashion museums geared toward Blacks in fashion. I’m writing an African-American fashion history book. I’ve been researching for about a year, so I’m hoping to wrap my book up by the end of this year, going into next year.

MN: What changes would you like to see the fashion industry embrace?

MB: I would like to see more diversity. I know that has been a big topic in the last few years. Some of the models were saying that there are now fewer Black models on the runway than there was in the 1970s. I think during that time, the 60s and the 70s, is when we had the birth of the Black model and America was now accepting her. And now, I think maybe we’ve gotten a little too comfortable.

So, I would say more diversity in the models, but not only the models, the African-American designers [as well] because I would like to see more embrace of more Black designers. The issue is sometimes they can’t afford the cost of New York Fashion Week. That’s another reason why we have Black Fashion Week USA is because if they can’t afford a platform to show their garments, how will the buyer at Macy’s, Saks, or someone else connect with them to potentially buy their line? Having something where they accept so many designers based on their economic status to be able to come in and participate and reap the benefits.

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