Black Dress | blak ˈdres | verb

The Black Dress exhibit premiered at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery in New York City in February, 2014.  These are the ten contemporary designers, from the initial exhibition, chosen to represent a cross section of the talent in the fashion industry.

Jeffrey Banks The Coty-Award designer began his creative education at Pratt Institute in the early 70's.  In 1971, while still a student at Pratt, he embarked on a professional career as a protege of Ralph Lauren.  He later moved to a position at Calvin Klein, before starting his own company in 1978, at the age of 25.  Banks was inspired by the sophistication of photographer Richard Avedon's fashion magazine spreads.  His creations reflect the elegance of classic Hollywood but always with a contemporary edge.  In addition to being an exceptional designer, Jeffery has evolved his business into an empire, which includes everything from menswear and accessories to bedding and home decor.  Jeffrey Banks at HSN ®                                                                                                                                                                                         

Photo source:  Coloures

Photo source: Coloures




Samantha Black who graduated from Pratt Institute in 2005, has been featured on Project Runway (2012) and Project Runway All-Stars (2015).  She has interned with Jill Stuart, Michael Kors, and Alexander McQueen. These experiences have led her to a job as lead designer for the women's denim division of the brand Jimmy'z.  Soon after, she launched her own line, Sammy B.  She understands her work as challenging the perception that all Black designers create "urban brands".  Samantha's pieces are elegant, sophisticated, exquisitely tailored, and rich with detail.  Her 2012 collection included designs that tastefully accentuated a woman's shoulders and midriff through lace reveals and tailored accents.  She currently designs under a second label, called Samantha Black.



Photo source: Atlanta Black Star

Photo source: Atlanta Black Star


Stephen Burrows became known to the fashion industry in 1973, when he (along with four other American designers) was invited to show his collection at the Palace of Versailles fashion spectacle, now known as the Battle of Versailles (  In 2006, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) honored him with the distinctive Board of Directors Special Tribute.  In 2014, Burrows celebrated 48 years as a fashion designer.



Photo source :   Donna Dove

Photo source: Donna Dove




Donna Dove is both an artist and fashion designer.  Born in Trinidad, and now based in Harlem, NY, her creations meld art and fashion, serving as a framework for both historical and cultural references.  The carnival of Trinidad continues to have a strong influence on her creations, as evidenced through her use of vibrant color and her particular take on colonial fashions.  For Black Dress, Dove takes a page from fashion history with a recreation of Ann Lowe's wedding gown for Jacqueline Kennedy.




Epperson is a primarily self-taught designer.  He was featured in the sixth season of Project Runway.  He is known for his belief in his personal vision, which can be characterized by two constants - deconstruction and an emphasis on the individual.  A native New Yorker, Epperson thinks of his collection as protective urban wear.




Photo source: New Pittsburgh Courrier

Photo source: New Pittsburgh Courrier




Michael Jerome Francis is an environmentally conscious designer.  He is a skilled tailor who gives new life to reclaimed materials such as old curtains, couch covers, chandelier beads, and shoe laces.  His products - including everything from clothing to jewelry - are meant to be interchangeable and to create layered and theatrical looks.  He believes that the structure of his garments acts as an armor, giving the wearer a feeling of protection and power.  Michael also embraces other sustainable philosophies, such as hand-craftmanship and local production.



Photo source:  Detroit Doll Show

Photo source: Detroit Doll Show


Byron Lars is known for his striking ability to mix textures and patterns. He started his own label in 1991, and was named "Rookie of the Year" by Women's Wear Daily. Soon after, his designs were brought by prestigious retailers such as Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale's.  His success also led him to an invitation by Mattel, to design limited edition Barbie dolls.  His current line, Byron Lars Beauty Mark, continues his exploration of shirts and shirt dresses, with a deliberate, accessible pricing structure.




Photo source:    Trendy Mii

Photo source: Trendy Mii


Tracy Reese began creating fashions alongside her mother in her hometown of Detroit.  She later moved to New York, where she received an accelerated degree from Parsons School of Design, in 1984.  She worked for many fashion houses, and eventually became the head of the women's division of Portfolio for Perry Ellis.  In 1996, Reese launched her own collection.  Her distinctive style - retro influences and bright colors - was met with rave reviews.  She went on to create a separate collection of home fashions and more affordable women's wear, many of which are available in her flagship boutique in New York City.  Reese is also a board member of the CFDA.



Photo source:  Exhibiting Fashion

Photo source: Exhibiting Fashion


Omar Salam was born in Dakar, Senegal.  He is the founder and head designer of Sukeina (which means bright light), named in honor of his late mother.  Salam began his fashion career with a sales position with renowned French designer Madame Sonia Rykiel, and was eventually promoted to visual director of her New York City branch.  After seven years, he left for a short stint at Christian Lacroix, before finally deciding to branch out and start his own brand.

Photo source:  Art Nouveau Magazine

Photo source: Art Nouveau Magazine






LaQuan Smith has carved out a niche for himself in the fashion world, demonstrating ambition and resilience.  When he was 13, his grandmother gave him a Singer sewing machine.  Soon after, he was creating his own patterns and techniques.  After an internship with Blackbook magazine, LaQuan quickly evolved into a designer whose youthful and exuberant fashions are sought after by celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Tyra Banks, and many others.






In order to illustrate how these designers' creations come to life, the exhibit is complemented by a video, which was directed and produced by Carrie Mae Weems, famed MacArthur Fellow (2013), photographer and video artist.  It is a sizzling, fashion-forward video presentation featuring each of our designers, which gives the visitor an abstract fashion experience.        

Celebrity stylist Ty-Ron Mayes worked alongside Ms. Weems and created the looks for the fashion video in Black Dress.

Ty-Ron Mayes (@TyRonMayes) | Twitter

Nykhor Paul and Devin L.T. Clarke are the models featured in the video.