Fashioning Futures with the Past and Present: Philly Fashion Week Fall 2016

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Fashioning Futures with the Past and Present: Philly Fashion Week Fall 2016

Aquilla Harrell never owned a dress form, yet that didn’t stop him from designing clothes. The 23-year-old didn’t allow homelessness to get in the way of his passion either.

“I just made it work,” the local designer said of building his brand, Aquilla Savoy.

Moved by his perseverance, Philly Fashion Week signed Harrell onto their fall show but on the night of, gave him an opportunity that would last longer than a catwalk. Ushered from backstage, Harrell held back tears as he received a dress form, full funding for his future line and a mentorship with current Project Runway contestant and Philadelphia resident, Mah-Jing Wong.


Aquilla Harrell (third from left) will work with Project Runway contestant Mah-Jing Wong (right) on further building his brand Aquilla Savoy. Harrell hopes to open a thrift store where clothes can be donated and reconstructed in the future.

“Onstage it was hard not to cry, but I’m just overwhelmed and excited by this opportunity,”  Harrell said.

Featuring local designers, the fashion shows on Friday and Saturday nights were all about using available material and cultural fabric to make art. Burning Guitars stitched collages of Disney characters and political movements into hoodies, bomber jackets, and dresses stating “Black Lives Matter.” Ornate embroidery on Elizabeth Delgado’s sombreros struck a cord of mariachi while the same pattern on conquistador-like jackets and floor length skirts invoked mixed images of Spain and the Middle East from Faiza Antri Bouzar. Perhaps in response to contemporary discourse, designers like Carmelita Couture and Bowties and Turbans by DMS used head wraps to top nearly every look.

Philly’s urban landscape was not overlooked. Dahsar by Rashad, whose designs have been shown in both New York and Paris Fashion Weeks, dressed the city as a sort of Gotham, piling black fabric as wings and face masks while keeping the models’ remaining limbs sheerly coated and sleek. Menswear revealed just as much, with funky blazers and short skirts giving glimpses of chiseled glutes and abs. No one, from the designers to the models to the audience, tried to hide their character or culture.

Uncover more of the looks here:

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Dahsar by Rashad

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Ke Collection


Radical TZ

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Shirley Elle

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Milano Di Rouge

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Carmelita Couture


Closet by Christobal

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Jenny Lee Maas

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Jenny Lee Mass

-Emily Cieslak

Images courtesy of Meredith Mitchell and Emily Cieslak

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