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BRAG Panel Talks Men's Fashion

Special Issues Editor

Published: Monday, November 15, 2010

Updated: Monday, November 15, 2010 02:11

TheBlaqueBook Blog

The Diary of a Refined Man Panel brought together models, bloggers, designers, and PR professionals to discuss the stateof men's fashion.

 Last Wednesday, the Howard Chapter of the Black Retail Action Group presented the "Diary of the Refined Man" forum in Blackburn. The panel brought together prominent young males in both the urban and high fashion industries to speak on today's man in fashion.

 The panel began as the brainchild of current BRAG President Erica Hawkins, a senior fashion merchandising major. Realizing that BRAG was becoming an all-female organization, Hawkins began to brainstorm ways to pull the Howard man back in.

 "We wanted the dialogue on fashion to be all-inclusive. Fashion doesn't have gender limitations, so why portray that in our membership and programs? Diversity is key," Hawkins said.

 Joining albino model Shaun Ross, Triple L Society Lifestyle Brand CEO Lawrence E. Nurse, Ghubar Magazine Fashion Editor Ugo Mozie, DURKL Marketing Director Luke Pierce, The Brooklyn Circus (BKc) Founder Ouigi Theodore, Street Etiquette bloggers Joshua Kissi and Travis Gumbs, and alumnus Pharoh Martin of The Smugger and PR Consultant LaRon Howard, the panel featured some of the industry's fast-rising talent.

 Ranging from hip hop's effect on men's style and their feelings on the narrowing gender gap to opinions on sagging and baggy jeans, the panelists talked about topics BRAG hoped would strike a new chord with Howard students.

 "We aren't trying to give you tips on how to break into the industry, or what to do and not do as an intern. You've heard those things a million times. [BRAG] wanted to go a little deeper and make this panel more beneficial," Michelle Previlon, a senior public relations major, BRAG member and panel coordinator, said.

 Panelists spared no feelings when giving their input on the industry so many people try to join, yet few succeed in.

 "Research, research, research, and when you get tired of researching, research again," Theodore, leader of the BKc clothing and lifestyle brand that has been featured in the likes of GQ, Complex, and Nylon magazines, said. "Too many people come to the industry with this ‘I'm gonna do me' attitude, but there's so much more to it."

 Theodore spoke on the importance of men, especially black men, embracing their culture and realizing that it is their uniqueness that is their biggest asset.  Citing his ability to take an "urban" brand and turn it into a rising global force, Theodore made it clear what he believed many needed to refrain from doing in order to really make an imprint in fashion.

 "Stop chasing high fashion," Theodore said, sending a shockwave throughout the ballroom.  "You have style, essence, your own thing to bring to the table."

 This brought Ross, who seemed despondent and even tweeted during the panel "this is sooooo black get me out of here!" to feverishly interject.

 Adorned in all black: vintage round sunglasses, fingerless gloves, scarf, and Rick Owen wedges, Ross feverishly retorted Theodore's warning.  "You're saying high fashion isn't real. Well I'm saying you telling people not to follow their dreams isn't real!" Ross exclaimed.

 Theodore and Nurse, proponents of urban fashion, and Howard and Ross, proponents of high fashion, proceeded to go back and forth on the issue, with various interjections from all the panelists.

 The conflict of high end versus urban caused arguments, to the point when the moderator Lauren Woulard, a senior fashion major, nearly had no control, which was something attendees did not appreciate.

 "There was no respect of different opinions," Jacqui Smith, senior psychology major, said. "This became a panel of battling egos."

 Many in the audience, some of whom have dreams of working in high fashion, didn't like Theodore's advice. However, others admitted to understanding his way of thinking outside the box when approaching the industry, but disagreed with his delivery.

 "This is Howard. You're at the wrong school to tell anybody they can't do something," Eunique Hansel, a senior advertising major said.

 The seeming subplot of high fashion versus urban fashion dominated the tone of the panel until a more relatable topic was brought up: Blogging.

 Kissi and Gumbs have garnered the respect of fashion's elite through their protocol and style blog Street Etiquette. Featured in top U.S. publications, such as GQ, Huffington Post andEssence and abroad, like Vogue Italia, London Times andGuardian UK because of their attention to aesthetics and the historic implications of fashion, the two provided useful input on how one can stand out and be noticed.

"The key is creating your own content and being unique. Don't regurgitate other people's [blog] posts. Find your niche, and grow in it," Kissi advised.

 Pierce, a notable personality on the D.C. fashion scene, reiterated the importance of originality. "If you're serious about this, you have something to bring to the table. Do what you believe is the best, and in the end, you'll see the best results," Pierce said.

 Regardless of the minor snafus, and at times questionable decorum from the panelists, students had an overall positive opinion of the panel.

 "[The panel] was overall effective," Malcolm Mattison, a junior fashion merchandising major, said. "A lot of emotion was evoked, but that's the whole point of fashion, personal expression."

 Planning to build on the success of the Refined Man panel, BRAG is already fast working on their next panel to dive even further on the high-end verse lifestyle brand "feud."

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