‘Believe the Hype’ Column by Christine Stoddard: Farewell to New York Fashion Week but not to Brooklyn Fashion

By Christine Stoddard | [email protected]

Another New York Fashion Week (NYFW) has come and gone, not to stir up a storm again until September. As it stands, the “week” sprawls into nearly a fortnight come February. This year the Starrett-Lehigh Building in Chelsea rivaled Spring Studios, which had been NYFW’s hub for more than five years. Yet those are not the only sites where fashion shows take place; they are merely the ones where major designers trample the runway. But not every designer is a household name. There are designers who make a name (and a living) for themselves without being known by Midwestern housewives. 

A Brooklynite’s Foray into NYFW

Now, not being a household name does not mean obscurity or failure. Some designers prefer to be uncommon, aiming for a narrowly-defined customer versus aiming to be loved by all. On Feb. 10, The New York Times ran a story on B Michael, a designer who has dressed everyone from Beyoncé to Halle Berry. Yet you might get deer-in-the-highlights looks if you mentioned B Michael in Des Moines. While he has a new book out—a memoir called MUSE: Cecily Tyson and Me: A relationship forged in fashion—he had zero presence at this year’s NYFW. Maybe some designers, even successful ones, don’t want the hassle of producing a world-class event and all of the digital media content that is expected these days. These things require different skill sets than producing the garments themselves, and B Michael basically runs a three-man shop. However, not every designer can afford to be so selective when it comes to opting out of NYFW. Up-and-coming designers may feel they have to participate in order to get their name out there. 

Designer: Candence Caprice. Photo by Nani Creative.

This latter category intrigues me because they are fledgling artists fueled by passion. When Lina Neubauer aka “Rainstorm”, a current Fashion Institute of Technology student, invited me to model in her Rising Collective NYFW show, I jumped at the opportunity. This was a confident young businesswoman with a vision and several events under her (very stylish) belt. The fact that she was uplifting newer designers thrilled me. Most of them were FIT and Parsons students or recent alumni. On Feb. 17 at Dom Lounge in Gramercy, we—the show producer, designers, models, hair/makeup stylists, dressers, and other crew members—collectively made many dreams come true in one night. I especially loved the energy of Hayden Lehr, who had me model her mini skirt made of recycled soda tabs and a crop top bearing her line’s logo. Just 21 years old, this was her first-ever fashion show. I heard more than one person congratulate her for having such a cohesive look: punky but still modern and bright, with clean lines. You can find her on Instagram @haydenlehr. 

Rainstorm, who also goes by Rain, was generous enough to have the “Don’t Mind If I Don’t” comedy show attend the event. In the Jan. 25, 2024 edition of the Brooklyn Downtown Star/Greenpoint Star newspapers, you may have seen the article “Brooklyn Goofballs Release ‘Don’t Mind If I Don’t’ Episode on Bagpipes.” The whole concept of our comedy TV show is that fans and experts try to persuade my boyfriend,  Aaron Gold, to like things he hates. The TV show stemmed from Aaron’s long-running podcast. Now I am in the mix as his co-host/art director and we have a team lending their directing, cinematography, editing, and producing skills. So far, we have filmed episodes on bagpipes, psychics, Shakespeare, painting, and now fashion. The hope is to convince Aaron that fashion has aspects worth appreciating. 

Fashion Week Brooklyn

Last weekend’s fashion experience made me wonder: Why is there no Brooklyn Fashion Week? Google proved me wrong. There is a Brooklyn Fashion Week, but the name is actually Fashion Week Brooklyn. It just doesn’t have the cachet or visibility of NYFW because, as cool and creative as our borough is, Manhattan is still our city’s center of commerce. FWBK was founded by the non-profit BK|Style Foundation, which aligns itself with several social causes, from human rights to HIV/AIDS awareness, and also produces international fashion events that highlight Brooklyn designers. This year, we can expect FWBK on April 7 and 13 at Kings Plaza Mall in Mill Basin.

The storefront of MOSHOOD at
Restoration Plaza in Bed-Stuy. Photo by Christine Stoddard.

In doing some digging about FWBK, I found out that MOSHOOD/Afrikan Spirit, a Bed-Stuy mainstay of three decades, is in on the action. This is yet another gem located at Restoration Plaza. When I recently popped my head in there on a Saturday, the spot was, well, it was the spot. MOSHOOD’s designs have appeared on BET’s Teen Summit, Queen Latifah’s sitcom “Living Single,” and Brandy’s sitcom “Moesha.” The line, which blends African tribal designs with Western flair, has the slogan “WEAR MOSHOOD, WEAR YOURSELF,” as well as the saying, “We focus on the ensemble, not just the pieces.” Through FWBK, Moshood showcased designs at V.O Curations in London on Feb. 17. 

Designer: Hayden Lehr.
Photo by Nani Creative.

Another Brooklyn designer in that same show (there were ones from the UK and New Jersey, too), was “Free.” This tongue-in-cheek designer is totally new to me. Founder Richard Kauli, a graduate of Brooklyn Tech, declares a “distaste for the attention economy and mass surveillance of a free state” on the line’s website, the cheekily named FreeInQuotes.com. Three principles seem to guide the brand, which I am pulling directly from the Info page:

1. Lack of new/original thoughts and ideas as we consume mass media (group think)

2. Privacy is no longer possible (mass surveillance from governments and advertising companies)

3. Social media leads to constant comparison to others (lower life satisfaction and increase depression and suicide)

One example of a T-shirt you can buy from “Free” bears the words: “Great Minds Think Like Us.” Maybe calling “Free” anti-fashion would be more apt.

Snow at Floyd Bennett Field

But enough about fashion for now. While I believe the arts are essential to a beautiful, joyful, and meaningful life, I am also aware of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Physiological needs come first. After another snowstorm, I had to know: Did the tent shelter for migrant families at Floyd Bennett 

Field have heat? Did the shelter run into any issues during the storm? A couple of days would pass before I could head over there. That meant a week had gone by since my last visit, when I staked out the public transportation situation. By then, most of the snow had melted. It was easy to drive my car around and not worry about ice or running into a snowbank.

Floyd Bennett Field, with the remnants of the snowstorm.

I noticed that steel barricades had been installed since the previous week. They formed a corridor that went from the tent shelter to the bus stop. Families walking from the shelter to the bus stop, which involved going down one road, crossing another road, and then cutting across a large empty lot, largely stayed within the barricades. I noticed one little boy stumbling along the barricade, just outside of it to play in the bits of snow that remained. A man I presumed to be his father walked inside of the barricade, almost parallel to the boy.

I parked my car at the intersection before the large lot. In the couple of days leading up to that point, I had called and emailed organizations on the NYC 311 webpage entitled “Asylum Seeker Resources.” I have many questions and many stories I am researching to write about immigration in New York City. Only one source picked up the phone: the principal of Brooklyn Collegiate High School, who said that the list is horribly outdated. The school no longer provides resources for asylum seekers. This is why on-the-ground reporting still matters. We cannot count on the Internet for everything.

I got out of my car and stopped the first family to get some quick answers. In Spanish, I introduced myself and asked if there was heat in the tent shelter. The answer was yes. And were there any problems at the tent shelter during the snowstorm? Or since? No. 

What a relief! I look forward to finding out more about our city’s asylum seekers and promise to bring updates in the Brooklyn Downtown Star/Greenpoint Star.

‘Believe the Hype’ Column by Christine Stoddard: Caring For Yourself and Others, Come Clay or Snow

By Christine Stoddard | [email protected]

The following was originally published in the Jan. 25, 2024 print edition:

On yet another teeth-chattering morning, I found myself yanking on my snow boots and burying myself under an annoying amount of clothing. In less than 20 minutes, I was due at Artshack, where I would begin my first-ever wheel-throwing class. It was just enough time to walk, I realized as I double-checked Google Maps, but I didn’t want to risk slipping on the ice. I remembered walking through NYCHA’s Red Hook Houses earlier on in the week. The largest public housing project in Brooklyn has been under construction since 2020, and I found myself sliding on its frozen paths like a penguin. Such frustration would not be repeated that week. On a clear spring day, I could bolt over to Artshack, located on Bedford Avenue in Bed-Stuy, in a quarter of an hour. So into the car I went.

Warming up the car adds to the list of tasks that require winter’s slower pace. This is not a pace most New Yorkers seem to appreciate. We want to get moving, fast. Yet the reality is that we live in a place that demands extra prep on a typical January day. After we go through the annoyance of bundling up, maybe with a warm thermos in hand, we arm ourselves with ice scrapers, snow brushes, salt bags, and shovels. Then we brave the cold and all of its inconveniences. The upside is that we live in a place that experiences changes in season and snow, when it first falls, is a sight to behold.

Artshack, a Haven

Though I had never been to Artshack prior to that class, from the moment I entered, I felt at peace. Started in 2008 by McKendree Key, this non-profit community ceramics studio offers classes to children and adults, but, this being the heart of Brooklyn, it has a progressive slant. The studio, which moved to its current location in 2016, brands itself as anti-racist and queer-affirming, and claims a strong belief in “the healing powers of clay.” Classes are affordable, with opportunities for scholarships and free and subsidized programming for low-income members of the community. (Benefitting from such financial aid allowed me to take my pottery class here.) In addition to there being studio space, there is a gallery and café. The café seems to be an ecosystem of its own, with folks chatting or clacking away at their laptops.

Donations to Artshack are collected year-round and very tangibly broken down on the website at ArtshackBrooklyn.org. A $50 donation, for example, will pay for one child to come to Open Clay Time. On Jan. 27, Artshack will offer a free clay workshop in honor of Gun Violence Survivors Week as one of its regular Community Days. Participants will “create, connect, and shape symbols of peace with clay.”

My wheel teacher is Ivan Samuels, a talented artist whose pottery depicting coral reef motifs called to me. From my first interactions with him, I found him to be patient and good-humored. Any teacher will tell you that these can be difficult qualities to cultivate and maintain. Still, I didn’t detect even the slightest strain in Ivan’s voice, no matter how much I bumbled. In a society that emphasizes perfection, it was a relief to have a space to try and fail among encouragement. Clay is messy, figuratively and, of course, literally.

As I cleaned up, I remembered that working with clay sucks the moisture out of your skin. On a wintery day, that means applying even more lotion than usual. I personally prefer cocoa butter, though I must admit I have not tried any of the local Brooklyn brands. (Of course, I am open to suggestions.) You have to take care of yourself in the studio, much as you do in the rest of your life. There are consequences for neglecting what your body needs.

Severe Cold Tips For Everyone

NYC’s Severe Weather web page outlines snow safety because, depending on where you grew up and how long you have lived in the Tri-State area, it is not necessarily common sense. Our city has recently welcomed more than 100,000 new arrivals. Many come from warmer parts of the world; at this time the top countries of origin for New York City’s asylum seekers are Venezuela, Ecuador, and Colombia. Can they really be expected to know how to dress for the weather? After all, how many New Yorkers neglect to layer up? How often do I see people of all kinds not wearing hats, hoods, or scarves, despite the fact that most of our body heat escapes through the head? Proper winter attire is not common knowledge across America; even so, having knowledge does not mean having access. Thanks to that blast of Arctic air from Canada, more than 90 people died due to weather-related causes this past week. At least three of those deaths occurred in New York state.

Floyd Bennett Field Migrants

You may be aware that many asylum seekers live at a shelter at Floyd Bennett Field in Marine Park. According to ardent complaints in a Facebook group called “STOP FLOYD BENNETT ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS” (which I found because of a recent New York Post article), some of these migrants are going door to door not only asking for food and money but for warm clothes. Calls for donations to the “tent city” families have filled my social media.

While writing this column, I saw @southbrooklynmutualaid post a call for donations on Instagram. On the list were gently used or new winter coats, warm layering clothes (sweaters, heat tech, jackets), winter shoes, and ponchos. Advertised drop-off locations include Roots Cafe (639 5th Ave.), Community Bookstore (143 7th Ave.), Van Alen Institute (303 Bond St., Tues.-Thurs., 10am-5pm), and Brooklyn Army Terminal (with a filled out form, available on @southbrooklynmutualaid’s Instagram bio link). Inquiries for joining up the organizing work can be sent to [email protected].

Savvy Snow Removal

Now back to NYC’s Severe Weather tips. In perusing the list, I was reminded to stretch before going out; shoveling snow especially is a work-out. Another tip is to cover your mouth so brutally cold air does not enter your lungs. Shoveling snow can be a major heart attack risk, so take breaks and guzzle your H20. Also, keep dry, which means going back inside and changing your clothes if you get wet from lots of sweat, melting snow, or who knows what. And let’s not forget our neighbors! If someone is a senior citizen or has disabilities, they may need assistance. We may not always have the patience for kindness, but looking out for each other is part of what makes New York City liveable.

The City of New York also has a whole Snow Response webpage on the New York City Department of Sanitation site. Did you know that you can track snow plows in the city? There is a feature called PlowNYC that supposedly lets you see where plows are working in real-time. Of course, I found out about this feature after it snowed, so I cannot tell you how well it works. I will have to wait until the next snowfall to investigate.

According to the DSNY site, it is up to residents and businesses to clear snow and ice from sidewalks. The path must be at least four feet wide; snow and ice must be removed from around fire hydrants, as well as sidewalk corner ramps. If the snowfall ends between 7am and 4:59pm, it must be cleared within four hours. If it ends between 5pm and 8:59pm, it must be cleared within 14 hours. Snowfall ending between 9pm and 6:59am must be cleared by 11am. Precise! Fines range from $100-250. Yikes. Let’s try to avoid those, shall we? And not just because of tickets, but again, to do right by our neighbors.

Undocumented residents share their stories

By Matthew Fischetti

[email protected]

 

Members of the nonprofit New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE) members last week shared how their immigration status prevents them from being able to get steady work.

Around two dozen members waited an hour outside NICE headquarters in Jackson Heights wearing masks that said “Citizenship for All” as Senator Chuck Schumer listened to testimonials about how undocumented status affects immigrants’ lives.

Araceli Cerrano is an undocumented immigrant who spoke at the meeting about how her immigration status is literally threatening her life. Cerrano has kidney issues and is on dialysis three days a week.

“Without being able to be admitted to a transplant list, her time is literally running out,” said Diana Moreno, interim executive director of NICE. “This is a truly life-or-death situation for so many of our members, not just because they might be dealing with a health issue, but in the labor we do, during the pandemic, we have sometimes risked our very lives.”

Cerrano said it felt good to have Schumer listen to her issues.

“I really hope they are helping us because we all really need it,” she said. “Especially in my case. I need to get on the list for a transplant, so I really need papers.”

Democrats in Washington have failed multiple times to pass immigration reform since President Joe Biden took office. Schumer said talks are resuming with one Democratic holdout, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and is “confident they will be able to set aside the parliamentarian”.

The parliamentarian is a nonpartisan position that makes decisions about procedures in both the House and Senate. The Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, has previously ruled that immigration reform could not be tacked onto Biden’s spending bill, a crucial decision as spending bills only need 50 votes to pass and cannot be filibustered.

“As you know, Joe Manchin couldn’t come to an agreement with the president on this,” said Schumer. “And we need all 50 Democrats because we have no Republicans. But talks are resuming and we’re going to try to get as much of the BBB bill done as we can. Once we have a BBB bill on the floor, then we can move for a path to citizenship for immigrants to be added to it.”

Schumer emphasized how grassroots organizations like NICE need to get every Democratic senator to support the measures.

“I wish I could get all of my senators to hear you, but I will be your voice,” Schumer said. “You’re hard-working and want the best for yourselves and your families. We have to do everything we can to make that happen.”

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing