by Mellissa Thomas
Florida Fashion Weekend lived up to its name last weekend. The two-night event, hosted by Dennis Liddy’s Jai Gallery in the heart of downtown Orlando, was an eclectic mix of avant-garde art and high fashion, drawing designers, models, makeup artists, and guests from all over Florida; some from as far as South America. Orlando’s own DJ Magz and Fabo Piano with Buddy Blues provided the sounds for both nights.
Friday’s kickoff soiree brought media and photographers from some of Orlando’s hottest outlets, including Orlando Weekly, Lapalme Magazine, and Whats2Hot.com. Fashion columnist, entrepreneur, author, and speaker Dr. Denise Y. Mose was the mistress of ceremonies, and the night began with her warm welcome at 7 p.m.
Attendees took photos at the press wall and checked out the night’s vendors, including local model Starr Dalton, who sold hair accessories from her Starr Flowers line. Onli Beverages (above) was on hand to provide free samples of its naturally flavored sparkling water, even introducing two new flavors that night; Brandy “Bahiyah” Wajd, one of the designers in Saturday’s show, offered a trunk show; Lisa Stern exhibited herbal body wraps and supplements, and I sold copies of my latest novel Faded Diamonds.
Java Lava, the restaurant located next door to Jai Gallery, provided hors’ d’oeuvres (quiche, breaded creamy veggie wedges, and bruschetta) and a cash bar, which were the night’s hits. DJ Magz and Fabo Piano alternated turns in entertaining the guests with great music: DJ Magz with radio hits, Fabo Piano and Buddy Blues with original songs and jazz covers, and even a little German rap.
To provide attendees with a taste of what to expect on Saturday, designer Misly Beltinor displayed her clothing line, her models walking the very path Saturday’s models would walk, which covered each corridor in the gallery, so everyone in every room could see them. Her clothing featured monochromatic ensembles and solids. The women’s apparel was playfully sexy, including a black lace top matched with pink skirt and a black tube top made of flower-shaped cloth. Once the models walked the full “catwalk,” they posed on small black platforms scattered throughout the gallery as living “mannequins,” an audience favorite. Flash bulbs got them from all angles.
Filmmaker and videographer Hallaye Sow and his team were part of the photographic multitude and further recorded video footage of the evening’s activities.
Some of the night’s attendees included Jai Gallery’s featured artists and supporters, including James Cornetet, who recently exhibited his “Unconventional” portrait series there. Even community leaders attended, including emergency medical training nonprofit Unity in Uniform, Inc. President Hezedean Smith, who was promoted to Orlando Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief on May 2, 2014. Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce Secretary Donna Morton was there as well, representing for Caribbean American Passport News Magazine. Angela Odum, one of the designers in Saturday’s show, came out with one of her models, Myesha Ford.
Liddy’s typically open-spaced gallery was heavily populated with white chairs by 7 p.m. Saturday evening, broken up into three-tier seating sections: the whole eastern side of the building was general admission, where the models would emerge and begin their walk through the gallery. The southwestern quadrant of the gallery (the front left side of the building) was VIP, which included an open hors’ d’oeuvres buffet; and the northwestern quadrant, near the gallery’s audio booth, restrooms, and rear exit, was preferred seating.
Java Lava provided the hors’ d’oeuvres and cash bar again, and further opened their restaurant space for the hair and makeup artists, including an incredible army from Aveda Institute, and models to prepare for the show.
Saturday’s show brought out even more VIPs than Friday, including celebrity chef Alfred Mann and his Elite Catering & Events, LLC team, who catered quality Jamaican cuisine for the models and makeup artists as they prepped. Florida Civil Rights Association President J. Willie David III and Miss International World Jenny Rosario also attended, earning a special acknowledgement from Dr. Mose. Rosario’s aqua single-shoulder show-strap dress, designed by Mike and Susan Drobnis Ratcliff, made her fit right in with the show’s edgy beauty – she could have been one of the night’s models herself.
Ms. International World pictured with Karina Kercado, Miss Hispana International Pre-Teen 2014
Artistic director and photographer team Andrea Puglia and Numa Delgado (respectively), coming from Venezuela, also came. Frank Boscarello, who painstakingly enhances digital images through traditional art, enjoyed the show. Kevin Lapalme, founder and publisher of Lapalme Magazine, distributed free copies of his newly released Spring 2014 issue to all attendees.
In the gallery’s central room, international model, brand ambassador, and actor Rocco di Cardielli interviewed guests by the press wall with the help of Hallaye Sow’s video team, including Dr. Mose and consultant and community leader E. Chenice Thompson.
Katerina Fedotova’s Russian Ballet of Orlando principal ballerina Marissa opened the night with a brief dance through the gallery, greeting the audiences in each room, setting the artful tone for the rest of the night.
The fashion fanfare began with Yong Lin, who displayed his trademark bridal looks, including Eastern wedding garb, followed by sexy swimsuits for both men and women. Body artist Brit Lytle augmented the men’s swimwear with intricate tribal body paint from head to foot (below); and Lin closed out his showcase with vibrant floral haute couture, which included the models carrying floral boxes to contrast their solid colors. 2014 Miss Hispana International pageant winner Karina Kercado, hailing from Tampa, walked in Lin’s showcase as well, donning a black dress with floral tiara and floral flounce.
Angela Odum’s collection, Angel Ice, was next. She first displayed monochromatic ensembles of black-and-white, and gray, followed by vintage-style print ensembles and dresses.
Keisha Edwards’s Me Plaire Boutique (below) was one of the longest showcases. The audience loved the pieces she showed, including bodycon band dresses with fluorescent colors, provocative swimsuits, and playful dresses with foam flounces. According to the Fierce Entertainment Management team in a post-show conversation, Keisha secured several buyers after the showcase.
Brandi “Bahiyah” Wajd, also from Tampa, appropriately closed out the show, bringing the house down and into Africa with her custom-made African-inspired Bahiyah Epifania Fashion collection, African music and all. Bahiyah Epifania, which means “beautiful awakening” in Swahili, is made solely of African fabrics and offers modern African looks, and Saturday’s showcase included delightful face paint (multicolored dots across the brow, on the cheeks, and beneath the eyes) crafted by Brit Lytle. Wajd’s designs embraced the season’s maxim: Print is back. And better than ever.
Like Keisha, Wajd came away with interested buyers.
Between each designer’s showcase, Java Lava’s cash bar was so popular, the area had a constant line. During one of the breaks, the line was so long that Dr. Mose used the time to go around to the different rooms and conduct impromptu interviews with random people in the audience to keep the energy going, including Ms. International World, Jenny Rosario. Some conversations had the audience laughing.
While the fashion show was entertaining, the two-day event proved an important point: When small businesses unite, they create big things that benefit everyone involved and then some. Over forty businesses, entrepreneurs, and individuals made Florida Fashion Weekend possible, including Aveda Institute, Elite Catering & Events, Lapalme Magazine, and Jai Gallery.
These entities banded together and not only increased the public’s awareness of the event, but of each other’s services. The night’s designers engaged buyer interest; and those who had never been to Jai Gallery, or experienced the delicious cuisine Java Lava, Onli Beverages, or Elite Catering & Events offers, they know now, and prospects made connections with these businesses. Local artists and models connected with media outlets for potentially greater exposure, and Friday night’s vendors met prospects and made sales as well.
Downtown Orlando is a beautiful place, but usually busy with individual affairs. Events like Florida Fashion Weekend galvanize the area, even the region, in celebrating the unsung artistry that has always been here, and welcomes artistry from everywhere else.
Photos credited accordingly. Florida Fashion Weekend partners banner created by Ready Inc.
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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’s currently available for hire, writing content for websites, blogs, and marketing material. She also writes poetry, screenplays, and ghostwrites books.
She has published four books, all available on Amazon.com. Her most recent release, Faded Diamonds, is now available in paperback on all major online book retailers and digitally available on the Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.
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