In its fourth year, Black Fashion Week MN is reemerging with new energy. The series of events, starting May 21, will coincide with the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder on May 25. With social justice and celebrating creativity within the Black community at top of mind, this year’s fashion week promises to propel new designers to center stage and recognize Black fashion icons.
“The murder of George Floyd … it changed the world forever,” says Natalie Morrow, CEO and founder of the week-long event. “People are finally starting to see the things that have always been happening. Even with fashion, people are wanting to see what we have to offer.”
Black Fashion Week MN (BFWMN) has continued to grow rapidly since its humble beginnings in 2018, when it had only 100 social media followers, says Morrow. Now, it’s armed with nearly 5,000 online supporters, new sponsors, and a renewed fervor.
The week of events kicks off Friday, May 21, with the Refresh Mixer. Hosted at the W Minneapolis hotel at the Foshay Building in downtown Minneapolis, it will feature designs from Monica Morlai.
Events start to heat up on May 27 with the “Revolution of Fashion” show. By pure coincidence, this year’s designers are all men who put an emphasis on streetwear in their collections. Headliner Energy Gear, plus Loudberries Clothing, Intro[$]pek Clothing, and Lgendary Clothing will be on full display. Protest footage by videographer Adrian Wilson will play in the background as a reminder of last summer’s uprising. On the 28th, the “Black Man Magic Fashion Show” will present designs by Ruva Afric Wear and Urban 29.
“We’re taking newcomers under our wing to help build their brands and businesses,” Morrow says.
A fresh partnership
In addition to new designers on this year’s roster, another development is the long-time-coming collaboration between Black Fashion Week MN and the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery (MAAHMG). The fashion week’s finale will culminate in a free two-day pop-up exhibit at the museum, “BLCK STYLE,” held May 28 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and May 29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For MAAHMG curator Tina Burnside, partnering with BFWMN was a no-brainer. The museum and fashion week both have similar visions and goals of celebrating Black history and innovation.
“Fashion, art, and music always originates in the Black community,” Burnside says. “Black people have always been trendsetters.”
BFWMN and the museum also worked with Hannah Novillo Erickson, the Minnesota Historical Society’s associate curator of 3D objects, to source Prince memorabilia from the mid-’80s. Novillo Erickson says the pop-up will include the singer’s boots and gloves from his “Purple Rain” video, plus a poster of him wearing the full ensemble, perched on a motorcycle.
It’s a whole process to get these items from point A to point B; Historical Society staff will meticulously take the garments out from behind a series of locked doors, inside drawers, and under special lighting conditions for the pop-up.
“It’s such an iconic outfit that a lot of folks seek it out,” Novillo Erickson says. “I’ve taken a lot of people down into our collection on tours to view it.”
In addition to spotlighting Prince, the exhibit will feature information on prominent Black fashion designers Ann Lowe and Dapper Dan, plus retro photographs by Charles Chamblis from 1980s Twin Cities fashion shows. The event will showcase looks from designers Troe Williams, Alexis Brazil, Rammy Mohamed, and Kendall Ray, in addition to jewelry by Robyne Robinson, a designer, arts consultant, and former KMSP-TV anchor.
“For all of the designers to show their clothes alongside Prince’s is an incredible experience,” Morrow says.
BFWMN’s finale fashion show on May 29 will be held on the museum’s rooftop patio, weather permitting. Tickets for up to 100 people ranging from $30 to $50 are available, Morrow says, and both the exhibit and the fashion show will follow COVID-19 safety and social distancing procedures.
For the full lineup of Black Fashion Week MN, head to its Eventbrite page.