Fashion Week MN: Harlem Renaissance vibes hit Minneapolis

This fashion week runway event featured an all-POC model lineup and a celebration of Nubian heritage.

A brand new experiential runway event took on a Harlem Renaissance theme during this past weekend's robust schedule of Fashion Week MN (FWMN) runways, events and panels.

See also: 5 stylish looks from Fashion Week MN's kickoff event

Culture Piece Magazine (CPM) co-founders Maya Clark and Pierre Ware and crew hosted the intimate event at Le Méridien Chambers' basement bar, the Library, on Saturday night.

Speakeasy ambiance

Whether it was intentional or not, the combination of low lighting, small, decorative lamp fixtures, walls of vintage books and warm-toned furniture all worked together to create speakeasy-like atmosphere. A jazz trio played as guests arrived in 1920s-themed looks, including women decked out in fringe and pearls and men in full suits and felt fedoras.

However, the heart of Saturday’s showcase was two Harlem Renaissance-influenced clothing collections by local designers Rammy Mohamed and Sumaya Keynan. The dimly lit space created a one-of-a-kind viewing experience, and “seeing all of the looks reflect off the flashing lights of the cameras was beautiful,” CPM co-founder Maya Clark said.

Rihanna meets Harlem Renaissance

Sumaya Keynan described her collection as her own modern interpretation of the Harlem Renaissance era. When it was time for the runway portion of the night, models sporting the 2016 Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising graduate’s creations poured into the the narrow walkway bordering the space. Many of her designs included floor-length gowns of various silhouettes and textures. The fabrics were a mix of lurex, plissé, sequin, velvet and silk, which all encapsulated the luxe aspect of original fashion trends popping up in New York City nearly 100 years ago.

Keynans’s favorite piece was a long silk jacket inspired by Rihanna that was completed the night before the runway event. "I’d seen Rihanna’s picture and I was like 'Whoa, I gotta make this, so that was like a last minute add on,'" Sumaya said.

As a FWMN first-timer (and New York Fashion Week hopeful) she added, “If I make it in Minneapolis, I can make it anywhere, so that’s what I tell myself. This is just the start.”

Highlighting Nubian heritage 

On the other hand, this was Rammy Mohamed’s second year showing at FWMN and second event this season.

Mohamed’s collection continued with the feeling of luxury, as her designs featured varying tiers, tasteful embellishments, and a thoughtful mix of fabrics including tulle and brocade. 

After a long-time fascination with women’s fashion, she decided to to leave her career in accounting for her passion. Now Mohamed is just two weeks shy of graduating a year early from The Art Institutes International Minnesota. “When I got the opportunity and was mature enough to make that decision, I followed my heart and went to school for it,” she said.

For her pieces, she built upon her senior collection called Nubian Queen, which is inspired by the women of ancient Nubia. “Nubian women have almost like sun-kissed skin," she said. "I wanted to celebrate that side of heritage.”

Her favorite design from the showcase was a striped, sequin palazzo pant and jacket set. “On purpose, it kind of fits me. I don’t know if I want to sell that piece,” she said.

The relaxed, yet personal finale

To conclude the evening, Haelee Honore sang her rendition of Bessie Smith’s “Nobody Knows When You’re Down And Out” and her personal favorite, Etta James’ “At Last.” Several guests moved forward to hear and see, and people closer up to the action sat down on the floor for the cozy performance.

Clark’s final thoughts on the evening: “I honestly couldn't be prouder of my team and what we've accomplished in this small time. I'm definitely looking forward to being a part of Fashion Week MN in the future.”

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