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Birmingham native wins Emerging Designers fashion competition

Daniel Grier (left) interviews Emerging Designer winner Kelechi Mitchell (center) during Splashiveray at Magic City Fashion Week as Derek DeAndre looks on. (Reginald Allen, For The Birmingham Times)
By Ameera Steward
The Birmingham Times

A model walks the runway wearing a look by Emerging Designer winner Kelechi Mitchell at Splashiversary during Magic City Fashion Week. (Reginald Allen, For The Birmingham Times)

Emerging designers were part of the many highlights during Magic City Fashion Week (MCFW) held last week in Birmingham.

MCFW was founded in 2017 by Derek DeAndre and Daniel Grier, designers of Splashed by DKG, and the event includes the Splashiversary Emerging Designer Competition.

The show last week began with a presentation from the winner of last year’s competition, Kenya Buchanan, who was one of the judges that included marketing promoter from Sheen Magazine, Darren Martin; creative director of B-Metro Magazine, Robin Colter and blogger and Birmingham native, Vic Styles.

Contestants for this year’s title included Carlos Antoine of Atlanta, Ga.; Kerstin Marie, a University of Alabama alum from Columbus, Ohio and Kelechi Mitchell, a Birmingham native and Fashion Institute of Technology graduate.

Mitchell’s line not only won the crowd’s vote but the judges as well and he was announced winner of Season II Emerging Designers Competition.

Mitchell impressed everyone with his glamourous evening wear collection and his line consisted of glitter, big sleeves, as well as statement hats. It was glitz and glam which he said was made for women like his eighth-grade teacher from Bottenfield Middle School, who are powerful with a love for some bling in their lives.

“It looked like it was ready to be sold; it looked like it was ready for the photoshoot, ready for the magazine,” said Martin, one of the judges. “Everything was completed and it had an edgy look. More importantly it was sexy, sophisticated, and he showed enough skin and then still did not make it raunchy.”

The first emerging designer to present was Antoine, who staged an Avant-Garde inspired line. He brought the Met Gala to the runway with his extravagant pieces.  It was all about the bold and dramatics with voluminous sleeves, deep hues, and metallics.

“Carlos’ work is so sculptural and architectural. When you look at it, it’s such an interesting shape, and his use of color, it’s just all so unseen,” said DeAndre, of MCFW.

Next to present was Marie, the only designer who showed a swimwear collection, which made her standout. Marie’s line had a focus on simplicity yet she used bold colors such as yellow and electric blue. She said her focus was resort wear.

“I don’t really like dramatic, dramatic is not me, it’s never been me even if I didn’t do swimwear it wouldn’t have been dramatic,”

A model walks the runway wearing a look by Emerging Designer contestant Carlos Antoine at Splashiversary during Magic City Fashion Week. (Reginald Allen, For The Birmingham Times)

Marie said. “It would have been more like ready-to- wear but I’ve always wanted to do resort wear. I did graphics for a resort wear company before so that was cool. And I always said I was going to do my resort wear and this is it so I’m proud of myself.”

Although she came with more minimalistic looks, Marie impressed the audience and the judges with her craftsmanship as well as her perspective on what fabrics could be used in resort wear.

“I should say that Kerstin had impeccable craftsmanship, I mean what she did, and she did so, so well. She did some amazing work, but the type of her work was so different that it was almost a completely different show,” said Colter, one of the judges.

After announcing the winner, Buchanan said, “I think we chose the winner on showmanship.”

“I worked really hard on this collection,” said Mitchell. “I was worried about it not being cohesive because I just wanted to show only strong looks so I’m glad it came together. I’m glad everyone responded to it.”

Mitchell said he plans on opening a store as soon as he can figure out where. He wants to have a boutique and design studio together, where people can get a custom design or buy merchandise off the rack.

The goal of MCFW is to showcase the artistic community of Birmingham through fashion by placing an emphasis on emerging designers and using fashion as a vehicle for change. They also partner with Birmingham AIDS Outreach to bring awareness about HIV/AIDS as well as having stations at different events for people to get tested.

Major Announcement

Grier, of MCFW, announced that he was HIV positive.

He released his positive status through video on its website, and said every time he gave a release date he would push it back because he just wasn’t ready. But ever since the video release, he’s had inner peace.

In the video, he said, “I’ve always routinely had my HIV tests done and it was always simple, but that day was very different. I just had a moment of pure silence. Like did I just hear this correctly? Is this real? All I could think about was my son and my mom, and them not having to bury me or anything like that.”

He also said HIV is not a death sentence and he’s been dealing with it for four years.

“I had to love myself with HIV,” he said. “I had to love myself through every single mistake and say, ‘though these things aren’t what I would have hoped for myself, but I’m still giving life my best shot,’”

A model walks the runway wearing a look by Emerging Designer winner Kelechi Mitchell at Splashiversary during Magic City Fashion Week. (Reginald Allen, For The Birmingham Times)

MCFW founders Grier and DeAndre also individually presented their fashions lines since they will no longer work as a team.

“I feel good, I have mixed feelings too, simply because I’ve been with Splashed for so long and to now be splitting and going in different directions it’s bitter sweet,” said DeAndre, who presented his first solo line this year. “I will miss working with Daniel but I’m excited to just see where we go on our own.”

Although the two will no longer be creating a line together, DeAndre said he believes they will continue to nurture their relationship by continuing projects such as Magic City Fashion Week together.

MCFW, in its second year, is held during the week of the Magic City Classic football game between rivals Alabama State University and Alabama Agriculture and Mechanical University. It began on Wednesday October 24 with a learning lab for black women, HIV and prep, as well as a screening of “The Gospel According to Andre” and a panel of designers.

On Thursday, October 25 the events featured a trap yoga session, learning lab for street photography and a portrait mashup. MCFW came to an end on Sunday, Oct.28, with “BirminGLAM”, a fashion show dedicated to celebrating the lives of those living with HIV. The event was hosted by Sherri Jackson of CBS 42, and Project Runway All-Star winner, Mondo Guerra who also presented a clothing line.

-This story was updated on 10/30/18 at 3:45 p.m. to correct that Vic Styles is not a Birmingham blogger, but a Birmingham native. She’s not a blogger in Birmingham.