Black Fashion Week USA shines spotlight on Chicago designers

CHICAGO (WLS) -- "Since the Oscars, I've had a dress at the Emmys. I've dressed a Grammy nominee. I have national celebrities," Borris J. Powell said

To be taken seriously in the fashion industry Powell says designers have to be focused and driven. He calls the competition "fierce."

"You're competing with not only other talented designers these days, but we have the celebrity designer that we have to compete with and they come with the money. So how are we going to compete with them? We have to be very, very creative to get our brand out there," Powell said.

Powell and other Chicago designers hope Black Fashion Week USA will help them get a leg-up in the industry.

"Connecting them with African-American boutique owners and stylists and key influential players in the fashion industry that can help them with their brands, and they can have that exposure for their creative talent," fashion historian Melody Boykin, founder of Black Fashion Week USA, said.

Luxury designer Etu Evans recognizes not only the legacy of African-Americans in the fashion world, but also their influence on the urban aesthetic of this city.

"I think when you look at the very core of fashion a lot of it is driven by what people see on the street. So there are many designers who are going to urban centers and look at that inspiration and put in on the runway," Evan said.

The idea is to turn that legacy and history into dollars for today's designers. One of Jennifer Akese Burney's gowns was showcased in the recent Miss World competition. Born in Ghana, she wants to continue to build her business in Chicago.

"I feel very strongly that this is a good platform for me to be able to get out there because most people are not so sure about Chicago. But they should watch out. We will get them," Burney said.

Black Fashion Week USA concluded with a sold out runway show with emerging designer. Boykin hopes to make it an annual event.
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