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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Local Designer Spotlight: Darrell Cortez and Capetown

You can tell when a designer has put in his time. When you go to a fashion show and the clothes are impeccably finished and the fabrics are amazing, you know that the designer has been involved in just about every aspect of the fashion industry. Working as a design assistant at DKNY, DC native Darrell Cortez has seen it all. He knew that his life would in some way revolve around fashion. Cortez, the youngest of five, was mesmerized my his older brother's stylish garb. His brother wore Burberry and Polo and Brooks Bros., just to name a few. Cortez would happily accompany him on his shopping trips. These shopping trips made an indelible impression on the 7th grader who would later graduate from the Visual Arts program at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

But New York was calling and Cortez initially enrolled at Pratt Institute but later transferred to the Fashion Institute of Technology majoring in what else - Fashion Design. But his real studies began at DKNY. As a design assistant, he was privy to that special insider knowledge that one only gets at a design house. He was researching information, running errands, working with designers to get the fabrics that were sent back from the buyers during their travels, helping with model fittings for shows, as well as, doing whatever was needed to help DKNY designers get ready for Market Week (which are the shows/viewings by the buyers that occurs after Fashion Week). He learned things about the industry that he would not find in his textbooks at FIT.

After 2-1/2 year year stint at DKNY, Cortez came back home. He immediately began to build his clientele. But in order to pay the rent, he worked as a costume designer with the renown costume designer, Reggie Ray. Not bad for a job to pay the rent. But NYC was calling him and calling him. It wasn't long before he moved back to NYC to work with celebrity stylist June Ambrose on everything from Busta Rhymes videos to Puffy videos to touring with Missy Elliott. Life was good. Well, almost good.

Back in DC, Darrell's sister was fighting for her life. Funny how life will put things quickly into perspective for you. She was fiercely battling Lupus. Even though it had seemed that she was winning her battle, the Lupus has unexpectedly re-appeared in 1990. He continued to travel back and forth from NYC to DC to support his sister. But in late 1990, Darrell received that one phone call that he had been dreading - come home now. Darrell returned to DC to have those last precious moments with his sister. She passed away in September 1990. In honor of his beloved sister, Cortez became an advocate for Lupus.

His advocacy is a big part of why he became involved with NOVA Fashion Week, set to happen some time in March 2010. The Lupus Foundation is one of the beneficiaries of the week's events. Cortez will be showing his Resort 2010 Collection during NOVA Fashion Week and will also be working feverishly on his Fall/Winter collection for a September debut. Cortez is also focused on styling some of the city's rising stars including Tameka Jones, Kyonte, and Fatso Skinny.

I was fortunate enough to attend his debut of his Spring/Summer 2010 Collection entitled "Capetown," inspired by the Janet Jackson video of the same name. The pictures included in this post are from his Capetown collection. The collection was fabulous. All of the clothes were impeccably finished and his fabric choices were superb. I loved how he mixed patterns - a total risk in this city. The yellow striped jacket is my favorite thing in the collection. Not for my man, but for myself! LOL. But I am a woman who loves a well-dressed man. In DC, that can sometimes be hard to find. So Cortez is focused on helping to change what defines a stylish man in D.C. Yeah! Please do.