In style
Jersey City Fashion Week debuts this weekend
by E. Assata Wright
Reporter staff writer
Sep 20, 2012 | 7386 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jersey City fashion designer Deanna Ellis will show five contemporary looks from her spring/summer 2013 women’s wear line. Pictured here: one of Ellis’ swimsuit designs.
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New York Fashion Week – which debuted the spring/summer 2013 offerings from some of the world’s top designers – recently wrapped in Manhattan and drew the likes of Kim Kardashian, Amy Adams, David Beckham, Alicia Keys, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Anna Wintour’s icy glare.

As is typical, there were glitzy parties, beautiful models, and stilettos. (For anyone who cares, the trends for next season seem to include lace, seriously plunged necklines, cutouts, and wedged platform heels.)

And it all seems like a fitting warmup for the inaugural Jersey City Fashion Week, which will get underway this weekend. The eight-day event will open Friday, Sept. 21 with a VIP reception at Michael Anthony’s Restaurant and continue with soirees at various venues across the city. In a twist on the official Fashion Week shows held each spring and fall in Paris, Milan, and New York, Jersey City Fashion Week is specifically designed to raise money for local charity and arts organizations.

The event is the brainchild of Desha Jackson, founder of the DLJ Give to Live Foundation. Jersey City Fashion Week, she said, “will bring people out to support emerging designers while at the same time raising money for local charities. It allows people to support [four organizations] while doing something fun and entertaining.”


‘Emerging designers are the ones who are actually doing the more interesting, avant-garde designs.’ – Engie Hassan


The Jersey City-based DLJ Give to Live Foundation, the lead sponsor of Jersey City Fashion Week, typically uses sports and entertainment events to raise money for small community-based charities, Jackson said.

Designated events throughout Fashion Week will benefit Art House Productions, Dress for Success, the Boys and Girls Club of Hudson County, and York Street Project. Event venues include Liberty National Golf Club, the Historic CRRNJ Terminal in Liberty State Park, and VB3.

The marriage of fashion and charity fundraising is not new. For many years the mainstream fashion industry has raised money for African AIDS organizations, hurricane relief, earthquake victims, hunger relief, the homeless, and other charities.

Emerging, on the cutting edge

Fashion-wise, each day will be dedicated to designated style-themes. There will be the featured emerging designers fashion show, a children’s fashion show, a “meet and greet” opportunity with the designers, and an awards ceremony, among other events.

“The theme for Fashion Week is emerging designers,” said Engie Hassan, a professional stylist who is producing Jersey City Fashion Week. “But we’re trying to show fashions that celebrate the femme fatal, but the femme fatal who has some strength to her. We want the models and fashions to put across [the image of] a strong woman.”

The emerging designers show will include five spring/summer 2013 looks from 10 designers.

“I just finished doing a couple shows for New York Fashion Week. I wanted to be a part of this show because I think it’s very important to show the work of emerging designers,” said Hassan. “They’re the ones who are actually doing the more interesting, avant-garde designs.”

Hassan explained that top designers whose fashions are sold commercially in department stores receive millions of dollars in investment backing to keep their fashion houses open and running. Thus, the items they produce must be marketable to enough customers that they generate a profit for their investors. Emerging designers, she said, can create without such constrains and, thus, sometimes produce more interesting work.

Still, the competition to break into the industry is stiff. Hassan, the official stylist for, said she sees the work of dozens of new designers each year, only about 12 to 15 of whom she thinks are good enough to make it long-term in the industry.

Getting there

Tickets for the opening night VIP reception on Friday, Sept. 21 are $35, plus a $2.92 online transaction fee. Tickets for the emerging designers fashion show on Friday, Sept. 28 are $20, plus a $2.09 transaction fee. To see the full line up of events during Fashion Week, or to buy tickets, visit

E-mail E. Assata Wright at


One designer gives back

For designer Deanna Ellis, Jersey City Fashion Week has special significance because of its tie to the York Street Project. Based downtown, the York Street Project provides childcare, job skills, education, and shelter to homeless women and children. The organization currently assists about 300 women and children each year. Twenty years ago, Ellis and her mother were among those the organization helped.

When she was 5, Ellis and her mother lived at York Street for several months while her mother struggled to get her life on track. Their time living at York Street allowed her mother to eventually further her education. Today her mother is a schoolteacher who holds a master’s degree in early childhood development. She is now working towards a doctorate degree.

Since leaving York Street, Ellis, now 25, has periodically returned to give back to the organization that had a major impact on the direction of her life. Now an emerging fashion designer, Ellis said Jersey City Fashion Week was an excellent opportunity for her to feed two birds with one seed: She could help raise money for the York Street Project, while also getting some exposure for her contemporary women’s wear line, Dee-Mai.

“I got into fashion kind of out of necessity,” said Ellis. “In high school I had a lot of old jeans that I would recommission by painting on them. Eventually, I started designing things for my friends and other people I knew in high school. Things just kind of evolved from there.”

Ellis, who taught herself how to sew, said her goal now is to get some of her designs picked up by a small boutique that will commit to selling the Dee-Mai line. – EAW

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