by Mellissa Thomas
Imagine you are a burgeoning fashion designer, you win a competition that offers you a grand prize that could literally send your fashion career soaring. That was indeed the Fashion E.D.G.E. (Emerging Designer Gauntlet Exhibit) 2015 Spring Competition grand prize, and six designers battled hard for it in the glamorous Vanity Night Club in Downtown Orlando from 7-10 p.m. Saturday.
The Edge of Florida Fashion and Beyond
The Fashion E.D.G.E. (Emerging Designer Gauntlet Exhibit) is more than just a show, it is a bona fide contest with real, career-transforming stakes. In fact, despite this being only its second show, it is quickly becoming the Shark Tank of Florida fashion.
It premiered during Orlando International Fashion Week in November 2014 at Russian Ballet of Orlando and yielded not one, but two winners: Katarzyna Zuzak from Tampa, and designer duo and couple Rich & Norelis. Last year’s panel included Digital Tiger Studios CEO Jon Maple, Ego Lab Boutique owner Mezo Riccio, and LAPALME Magazine owner and CEO Kevin Lapalme. The prizes included a feature in Orlando Fashion Magazine, Ego Lab purchasing some of the pieces and placing them in its boutique, and as Rich & Norelis experienced on February 25, 2015, a LAPALME Magazine editorial photo shoot at the state-of-the art Digital Tiger Studios.
The Fashion E.D.G.E. Spring 2015 Competition grand prize winner would receive a plaque, a feature interview in Orlando Fashion Magazine, an interview on Tampa’s award-winning “The Jorge Show” on MiraTV, and a guaranteed free spot in Orlando International Fashion Week 2015’s designer lineup.
Furthermore, last year’s competition was that alone—a competition. This year’s event was a full-on show, featuring performances from independent artists N.I.K., an Orlando Hip-Hop and pop singer, and D’Shon, Atlanta’s emerging R&B crooner. Classic rock artist Shayne Leighton made a special appearance.
Some OIFW 2014 designers were present at Saturday’s event as well: CJ Designs’ CJ Golden, winning duo Rich & Norelis, La Maison De La Rosse’s Rosemarie Vargas, Pletora’s Isabel Tse, and Alienphant’s Loritza Castillo. Other event VIPs included Jimmy Star’s co-host Ron Russell and professional baseball player Chris Duffy.
Last year’s competition offered stylish cocktail shots from LIQS, while Saturday’s event boasted not only tasty beverages from Onli, but hors d’oeuvres courtesy of celebrity chef Alfred Mann’s Elite Catering & Events, LLC.
This year’s judges included Ms. Latina International and Ms. International World CEO Angela Posillico, a thirty-year fashion industry veteran and singer, Miami’s Jimmy Star, fashion designer and host of “The Jimmy Star Show”, and “The Jorge Show” host Jorge Alvarado.
The competition kicked off at 8:15 p.m. with Sharon Griffin’s Xanimich Roy’el clothing line, which she describes as a reflection of herself, “sexy, sassy, and sophisticated.” She showcased her summer collection, which featured ebullient, colorful patterns and flirty cutouts. The judges’ favorite was a blue multicolor print cutout jumper (below).
The judges enjoyed her line, but Alvarado encouraged her to wear her own fashions in future shows or buyer presentations. “You said your clothes represent you, right? So wear them, honey! That way when [people] ask you ‘who are you wearing?’ You can say ‘Me!’” They also unanimously agreed that they saw two separate collections in her showcase, which she would need to identify and separate to increase her chances of winning buyers.
The Lion of Art
Hicham Ouidad, who closed out OIFW 2014, returned with his classic-yet-sporty solid Moroccan collection with colored trim, and like last year, he also walked in the show.
The judges encouraged him to expand his collection, given that all the outfits were identical, just in different colors. “I can definitely see it working here in the U.S.,” Jimmy Star offered, “but it kinda looks like a harem frat suit.” Angela Posillico encouraged him, but touched on an important branding point: “You wanted your clothes to show your spiritual element, but I didn’t really see that here. Work on adding that element a little more.”
Sumita Bhojwani’s clothing line featured colorful, flirty wares with a Polynesian flair that ranged from the boardroom to the bar, and even included gowns. She boldly paired disparate patterns together in some pieces, including a mini dress with blue and white print on the top and a fully floral bottom.
The judges loved her line, especially her final piece: a solid blue gown with chiffon accents flowing from the back and shoulders as the model graced the catwalk (as seen at top). “You have me on the checkout line at the KalaXpress,” Alvarado praised. “Your clothes are rich with your culture,” Posillico said. “And I love that last blue gown. I can totally see that on the red carpet.”
Jamaica native Meleissa Dunkley-Hampton wowed the audience with her confident and sexy monochromatic eveningwear collection, which included dresses, suits, gowns, and skirts. She also included a bold black and white polka dot top with high, pointed shoulders and black skirt, accented with a rich red bow tie. One black alligator-print gown flaunted side cutouts, shielded only by black sheer (second below). The audience cheered and clapped for almost every piece that emerged, and gave her a standing ovation at the end.
The judges equally gushed. “They say this is the year of the woman, and you have embodied the epitome of woman,” Posillico said. Star agreed. “Your clothes are confident, and sexy as f—. Like, there’s no other way to say it. It’s really sexy. I love it.”
The night’s hostess Christine Okoye pointed out her stunning blue cutout gown (above), which was an MDIZ Collection piece.
Zhe Yang is fresh off the plane from China—she said she has “only been in Orlando about…two years.” Her culture showed in her pieces: innocent-yet-flirty dresses, skirts, and suits across a blue-and-white monochromatic palette, including lots of lace; ready-to-wear pieces for the teen ready to break free but cautiously waiting for the right time and having fun in the meantime.
Yang’s potential was not lost on the judges. “I love your young energy, and your designs are very detailed,” Alvarado noted. “Yours was the most cohesive collection of the night. This is just the beginning of your career.”
Posillico agreed. “I like your designs…they seem simple, but they’re actually very detailed. [We] can see that you put a lot of hard work into your pieces.” She did offer one key piece of advice: “Create more of a statement, and you’ll go far.”
Star praised her but noticed in her showcase what they had seen in Griffin’s. “I feel like half of your clothes were really good, and half was only okay. Amp it up a little.”
Sew In Vogue
OIFW 2014 designer Jenee Dionne also returned to showcase her collection of stunning dresses and evening gowns. The first three pieces were white and looked wedding-ready. The remainder explored other colors and flowed freely on the models, several of which had trains. Dionne explained that she channeled her daughter in the pieces, which influenced their youthful-yet-classy look.
The judges appreciated her work, but advised her to be a little more creative in her designs. “I know you were capturing the emotion with your daughter, but add creativity and technique to that and you’ll have much more success,” Alvarado noted. Star reiterated his point of distinguishing multiple collections, and advised her that she chose some fabrics that were very difficult to sew.
And the Winner Is…
Decision time came at 9:43 p.m. Attendees jumped on their phones and voted at orlandofashionshow.com, which displayed an online form to cast their vote—a simple and interactive move contrary to Fall 2014’s pen-and-paper approach. In addition, this year’s winner was exclusively audience-voted. Last year, the judges voted, and since there was a tie, the audience had to make a vote as well.
The numbers confirmed what most already knew: Meleissa Dunkley-Hampton’s MDIZ Collection won. The audience roared in adulation. She will receive all the treats promised to her, with some delightful surprises: Alvarado pointed out that he would be featuring the winner along with stars from Project Runway; and Posillico said she loved her designs so much, she’s considering using Dunkley’s dresses to clothe the 2015 Miss Latina International Pageant contestants for its red carpet night in August.
Back and Here to Stay
Hostess Christine Okoye mentioned that the event was “back by popular demand,” and considering the judges in both competitions, Florida’s fashion and entertainment industry has taken notice. “I loved it,” Alvarado said of Saturday’s show. “This was something that actually got something done, y’know? And the designers took it seriously. We don’t even have anything like this in Tampa. And we need to.” He also echoed his observation from OIFW 2014: “I loved that it was a diverse group of people.”
Indeed. Jamaica, China, Morocco, and the U.S. represented; and even that was not exclusive to Florida. Dionne is based in Atlanta, and Posillico traveled from Miami Beach.
Vanity had a packed house despite the slightly cooler and breezy weather, not to mention the competing Elton John concert at the Amway Center and the Orlando City Soccer Pub Crawl in preparation for tomorrow’s big game. In the name of fashion, that’s saying something. Fashion E.D.G.E. has officially made its imprint.
About the Author:
Orlando Fashion Magazine Chief Editor and Publisher Mellissa Thomas is a Jamaica-born writer. She’s a decorated U.S. Navy veteran with Entertainment Business Masters and Film Bachelors degrees from Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL.
She’s currently available for hire, writing content for websites, blogs, and marketing material, and as a manuscript editor. She also writes poetry, screenplays, and ghostwrites books.
She has published five books, all available on Amazon.com. Her next ebook, In the Rough: Episode 2 of the Tenderfoot Series, is coming to the Kindle March 31, 2015.
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