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Noir Fashion Week

Event brings diversity to Boston scene

Laura Onyeneho
Noir Fashion Week
Stanley DeSarmes, Founder of Noir Fashion Week (Photo: Courtesy Noir Fashion Week)

Last fall, Boston experienced the 20th anniversary of Boston Fashion Week, showcasing the best collections of international and local designers in the industry.

On March 18 and 19, one man’s vision will come to fruition in the production of the city’s first-ever Noir Fashion Week Boston: Walk United launch.

Author: Courtesy Noir Fashion WeekDawn Adeyemi, Promotional Shoot for Noir Fashion Week

The two-day launch will be hosted in Cambridge at the Multicultural Arts Center, featuring the best in alternative high fashion. This year’s emcees are Miss Brazil Massachusetts USA 2014, Lisa Batista Viriato and, Yosaris Rodriguez, actress and fitness model. It features 10 designers, from different backgrounds and tastes in fashion.

Stanley DeSarmes, founder and president of Noir Fashion Week, says he envisions the launch as an opportunity to provide a platform for local and emerging models, designers, makeup artist, stylist, and photographers to display their work to the fashion industry.

“This started as an idea to bring awareness of the lack of diversity on the runways,” said DeSarmes. “I wanted to see more opportunities for models of color in the high fashion industry.”

In 2006, DeSarmes created iMan Fashion Group Inc., a fashion production and management company, based in Boston. Responsibilities include management and event design, talent castings, and photography. The company is the producer of this year’s Fashion Week launch.

After years of studying the fashion industry, he realized that it was necessary to launch in Boston, because there is more to artists of color than just the “urban styles and trends.” He believes people of color in fashion have more range and versatility, and need more platforms to showcase that diversity.

DeSarmes saw potential in the Boston fashion industry, but realized that the variety of faces of the city were not well represented in the city’s fashion industry.

“The show is titled ‘Walk United’ because this show is for everyone,” he said. “Skin color shouldn’t be a priority when it comes to walking.”

The launch was designed in collaboration with artists from around the city. Among them is James Mason, vice president and creative director of Noir Fashion Week.

Mason, associate professor of fashion design at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, joined the team in August.

“As a designer in Boston, I never knew why there were few fashion designers of color,” he said.

As creative director, he reviews designers’ collections and gives the designers feedback.

“My job here at Fashion Week is an extended version of what I do as an instructor at MassArt,” said Mason. “Failure is not an option here.”

Preparation for the show took several months. It included a high fashion promotional photo shoot partnering with local talents like photographer and founder of the Flawed Beauty Project, Valerie Staja Anselme and Makeup Artist Loriane Adeyemi.

Noir Fashion Week model Dawn Adeyemi was featured in the campaign and wanted to be fully involved after learning about the mission of the launch.

“I’ve known Stanley for 10 years and it was around the time I started modeling,” said Adeyemi. “He took a chance with me, especially in an industry where it’s not accommodating to women of color like myself.”

For many years, Adeyemi has worked with local designers and with the guidance and mentorship from DeSarmes; she said she has developed more as a model. She hopes that anyone who comes to support the show understands that it is more than just fashion.

“This launch is representative of the world we live in,” said Adeyemi. “So many dreams die and do not come to fulfillment because of fear of not being accepted in this industry. There is a bigger picture Stanley wants us to see, and he is looking to break barriers.”

Featured designer Avari Thomas said she appreciates being a part of a show that invests so much on fresh talent and ideas. Thomas, 30, is from Worcester and a graduate of Lasell College.

Her collection, A ST. COLE LEONE, will showcase never-before-seen classic one-of-a-kind pieces. As a mother and businesswoman, Thomas says she hopes her collection inspires everyday women.

“I’m always inspired by the ’70s. Maxi dresses, geometric shapes, high waist pants, and fringes,” she said. “It’s a collection for fashion forward women who like to experiment with authentic and trendy styles.”

The launch is an introduction to next season’s official weeklong showcase. The theme entitled “Timeless Beauty” will host a showroom presentation called Palette, highlighting the artwork of current and newly graduated fashion designers. The designers will showcase 5-8 pieces from their collections, each day devoted to one student designer.

DeSarmes plans to feature plus-size models and educate designers and models on body diversity and health.

“Plus-size fashion can be done with taste and class, and that’s what people should expect when they come to Noir Fashion Week.”

He is optimistic about the outcome of the Noir Fashion Week launch and hopes that supporters will engage in the experience.

“I want people to learn. I want people to engage. I’m very open-minded and hope to use any feedback I receive to improve for next season’s fashion week.”