Is it cos’ I is black?”–Sasha Cohen as Ali G

One of the great things about living in New York is that there are tons of fashion focused exhibits, forums, and events. This weekend I decided to check out an exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York called Black Style Now.

I’d read recent evaluations (and critiques) of the exhibit in articles by Eric Wilson of the New York Times and Robin Givhan of the Washington Post and just had to go to see for myself.

If you haven’t heard of it, the exhibit’s purpose is to display the evolution of black fashion and style…from the 1920’s until present. A few pictures:

Cute, huh?

As well put together as the exhibit was, my overall impression was mixed. On the one hand, it was really interesting to walk down memory lane and remember the days when Cross Colors were the bomb, and when everyone wore shirts and jeans with puffy handwriting on them.

And I enjoyed the tributes to hip-hops finest:

But I, like many others, felt that the exhibit was extremely ambitious. It says it will deliver ‘Black Style’…but those Tommy Hilfiger and Nautica windbreakers, jeans, etc we all used to wear in high school were noticeably absent; I didn’t see any trace of Starter Jackets or basketball paraphernalia; and I also feel like the exhibit sort of shafted black style of today by putting up designs of House of Dereon (Beyonce’s line) and Todd Smith (LL Cool J’s line…who knew?) at the end. I’m sorry, who has even seen House of Dereon in stores? I haven’t!

In case you were wondering what House of Dereon clothing looks like, this was the outfit on display:


Also, Todd Smith’s outfits:

Riiight. Both are fine (I guess), but how is this Black Style if noone (black or other) wears these clothes?? I’m just sayin…

Bottom line, the exhibit would have been better if it were more focused. Ya know how you write a paper and it has a thesis…and then the rest of the paper elaborates on that thesis? The thesis of this could have just been ‘Black Design’..and everything could’ve been about black designers through time. But it was sort of a mixture of everything…the exhibit mentioned black models in the industry (or lack thereof) very briefly, and then there was something about skin bleaching and hair straightening?

Informative, but a little irrelevant.
The best thing about the exhibit is that I learned the names of SO MANY black designers (when up until this point, I thought that there was only Tracy Reese and Stephen Burrows and not many more…). I saw the work/read bios of designers like Irma McLindon, Ruby Bailey, Wesley Tann, Douglas Says, Byron Lars, Bill Smith, Stefan Young, Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes, Cassandra Bromfield, CD Greene, Ann Lowe, Jean Wade, Jon Hagins, Willi Smith, Scott Barrie…I could go on!

If you’re interested, the exhibit will be at the museum until February 19th, 2007. Just take the 6 train to 103rd street. The museum is located at 1220 Fifth Avenue at 102nd street. For hours and admissions info, log onto