by Mellissa Thomas
There’s a lot to do on a Friday, so if you missed Friday’s Caribbean American Heritage Month (CAHM) Fashion Extravaganza at Orlando Fashion Square Mall, that’s understandable. However, you missed one incredible show featuring hot styles from four emerging Central Florida Caribbean American designers (and even a sneak peek showcase for a brand new boutique opening at FSM), stirring live music from local band TYB, and an after party celebrating birthdays for two of the extravaganza team members: Caribbean American Passport News Magazine Publisher Sam Roberts and Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce member Mario Morgan. The event was co-produced by the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida (CACCF), which markets all of the events for Caribbean American Heritage Month across Central Florida, including the massive annual CAHM Festival at Lake Eola, and Fierce Entertainment Management—the team that brings the eagerly awaited annual Orlando International Fashion Week and the Fashion E.D.G.E. designer competition.
The Perfect Location
What better place to host a fashion show than at Orlando Fashion Square Mall, and what better place in the mall to stage the show than the mall’s center stage? The stage is virtually the heart of the mall; it can be approached from every corridor on the ground floor and is in clear view from the second level. The limited-seat engagement saw a full house, including spectators on the second floor.
Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida President Guenet Gittens-Roberts welcomed everyone and introduced the night’s emcee, international model Stephanie Bolivar. Bolivar excited the audience for the night’s show and mentioned the annual Orlando International Fashion Week, happening the first week in November 2015, and introduced official OIFW Ambassador, model Pearl Suen.
From there the show was underway with killer threads.
The night’s first design collection was by Guyanese designer Wendy Roberts. Her summer collection consisted of sexy solid-color cutout dresses, short dresses that flirted with revealing more than the usual, and swimwear, and even included a peek at fall wear with a black pleather peplum dress and a diaphanous off-white faux-mink coat. When asked about her inspiration, Roberts replied with a laugh, “I don’t like to shop.” She prefers to make and wear her own clothing.
Haitian designer Dorothee Hilaire’s summer collection featured ebullient multi-color print swimwear and provocative long and short slit-dresses—some of which intentionally show the matching hot pants beneath—all meant to accentuate a woman’s freedom and self-expression. She wrapped up with a solid black cutout one-piece swimsuit with a pop of turquoise thanks to the coordinating shoulder-less side-slit duster.
Cassandra Alexis’s swimwear collection was unabashedly titillating. Some swimsuits were coupled with black lace pantyhose and other fancy hosiery, with some swimsuits featuring a thin hood, giving the models a swooping neckline. When Bolivar asked her inspiration, Alexis explained that she didn’t want to wear what everyone else was wearing, because her sense of style combines her New York flare with her Caribbean roots, and she incorporated that dichotomy into her designs.
Nailuj Villarroel of Venezuela, who has designed for popular pageants and television shows, brought formality to the night’s show with dazzling high-end couture dresses and ensembles. The crowd-pleaser was a yellow and white ensemble (below), with its glove-like white mermaid skirt and flourishing hat, perfect for a formal affair by the sea or on a cruise. Bolivar herself closed Villarroel’s presentation, modeling a magenta gown with a purple sash.
As a surprise bonus, BOG Boutique, which is open in Orlando Fashion Square Mall, showcased some of its summer wares. With a primarily blue palette, the clothes varied from casual to business casual to party wear, featuring bodycon overalls, the ever-popular multi-color print patterns, and tassels. The collection wrapped with a black ensemble with multi-color print accents and sweeping black side-slit pants (below).
Jamaican designer Meleissa Dunkley-Hampton’s MDIZ Collections closed the night with an array of ready-to-wear styles: swimwear, dresses, business casual ensembles that featured bold black-and-white palettes, and a gray jumpsuit. Suen and Bolivar simultaneously walked last, modeling a bodycon white cutout dress and black asymmetrical dress with leather accents, respectively.
Dunkley-Hampton was then awarded with a recognition plaque for her victory during the Fashion E.D.G.E. competition. She announced that all the fashions seen that night are available for order on her website.
The After (Birthday) Party
CACCF Secretary Karen Fortune catered jerk chicken, cocktail patties, and punch for the night. Once the show wrapped and all the official group photos were taken, TYB sang “Happy Birthday” to Sam Roberts and Mario Morgan, at which point the two birthday cakes were cut and served to all who stayed for the party: models, designers, team and Chamber members, and guests alike.
Not a bad way to spend a Friday night.
For more information about OIFW, visit orlandointernationalfashionweek.com. All photos taken by J. Willie David III of Florida National News except where otherwise noted. For more event photos, visit Florida National News on Facebook.
About the Author:
Orlando Fashion Magazine Chief Editor 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 has published six books, all available on Amazon.com. Her most recent release, all available on Amazon.com. Her newest ebook, In the Rough: Episode 2 of the Tenderfoot Series, is now available on the Kindle.
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