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Bushwick Fashion Weekend Ditches Catwalks and Makes Everyone a Model

By Mary Emily O'Hara | February 5, 2014 9:36am
 Living Gallery owner Nyssa Frank organizes the biannual Bushwick Fashion Week with local vendors and performers.
Bushwick Fashion Weekend
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BUSHWICK — Who needs runways?

For the third year in a row, Bushwick designers are banding together to throw their own Fashion Week showcase with designers boasting handmade clothing and jewelry — as well as acting as their own models.

“We want people to come dressed in their own designs, where everyone is the model and the whole gallery is the runway,” said Nyssa Frank, organizer of Bushwick Fashion Weekend, which is set for Thursday at The Living Gallery at 1094 Broadway near DeKalb Avenue.

The aim is to provide an alternative environment that she said is dedicated more to community building than to getting picked up by Barneys.

“I love fashion, but never really felt comfortable in that world,” said Frank, who owns Living Gallery and previously directed The Dash Gallery in TriBeCa with hip-hop mogul Damon Dash. “It all has so much to do with money and wealth. Here, it’s not about money. Everyone’s celebrating each other. People feel open.”

Frank, 29, opened the gallery in the spring of 2012 to showcase emerging artists and less commercially viable work, such as video art. Her boyfriend, Mike Garcia, joined later to schedule the gallery’s live music acts.

Frank launched her first Fashion Week event in September 2012, originally dreaming of doing something along the lines of Bushwick Open Studios but deciding it would be easier to use the gallery.

“At first we had each designer create an installation,” Frank said. “And then people started contacting us because they wanted to be vendors. We figured that was a way we could help local designers.”

Frank added that she wants Bushwick Fashion Weekend to be “about more than just the gallery,” noting that its fall showcase would feature a parade through the street in lieu of a runway show.

The egalitarian experience of the event extends to designers and models alike.

Yazmin Colon, 33, a Brownsville native who moved to Bushwick in 2005, said that “being in a room with all different kinds of people from all different backgrounds" is what she enjoys most about Bushwick Fashion Weekend.

“It gave me some insight on how Bushwick is changing and what it’s turning into,” said Colon, who owns Jazzabelss Boutique at 1009 Broadway, which operates as half showroom for her handpainted jewelry, half meeting place for the youth culture group she runs for Bushwick kids called Educated Little Monsters.

On Colon’s fashion blog, all of the models are young local girls who participate in crafting and music workshops at her store. She sees Bushwick Fashion Weekend as part of an effort to bridge the gap between Bushwick residents and to create more diverse community events.

“People are buying everything out and opening bars all the time. It’s expensive,” Colon said, noting her 13-year-old son inspired her to become more involved in the community. “There’s nothing for the kids to do.” 

Frank said this is the first year most of the vendors will be unfamiliar, after they contacted her when news of the event spread online.

“It’s exciting because it will be a lot of new people and new faces,” she said. “We really try to get a diverse participation from the local community."

But when it comes down to it, a love for fashion is Frank’s impetus for hosting the event.

“We all have to wear clothes,” she said. “Might as well make them amazing.”