Friday, August 28, 2009

Vintage Photo of the Week

Portrait of a Lady c. 1930
James VanDerZee


Friday, August 21, 2009

Vintage Photo of the Week

African American Flapper with Fur Shawl
(Photo Source: Jazz Age Black Beauty)

I love, love, love 1920s fashion, so color me excited when I ran across this photo! You don't see a lot of Black flappers from this time period. She looks fabulous!


Monday, August 17, 2009

Desirée Rogers Featured in Michigan Avenue Magazine

(Photo: WWD/Michigan Avenue Magazine)

One of our favorite fashionistas, Desirée Rogers, is featured on the cover of the August issue of Michigan Avenue magazine.

While Ms. Rogers is known for her exquisite taste in fashion and her social activities, this particular article focuses on her philanthropic work in Chicago.

On why giving back is important to Ms. Rogers:
“As a young child in New Orleans raised by two teachers, giving back to one’s community was as important as reading, writing and arithmetic,” she recalls. “My father taught in the public school system and my mother ran the family day care business for children under five. I read to children at the day care centers and [my brother and I] helped my mother at Friday night bingo at the neighborhood church.”
You can read the full article at Michigan Avenue Magazine.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Vintage Photo of the Week

The One.

The Only.

Josephine Baker!


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Largest Private Collection of African American Art Destroyed By Fire

(l-r) Front view of Peggy Cooper Cafritz's home before the fire. Ms. Cafritz in her entry hall.
(Photo: Sang An/O, The Oprah Magazine)

For over two decades, Peggy Cooper Cafritz, the prominent D.C. political fund-raiser and art patron, amassed one of the largest private collections of African-American and African art in the country. Ms. Cafritz's home and art collection were recently featured in the August '09 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine. Sadly, on July 29th, a tragic fire claimed Ms. Cafritz's Northwest Washington mansion that housed her entire art collection.
From The New York Times:

In Collection’s Ashes, a Heritage’s Seeds

Published: August 7, 2009

WASHINGTON — Every morning Peggy Cooper Cafritz steps outside and confronts the wreckage: the acrid smell of her incinerated walls and furnishings, the police tape clinging to a chain-link fence surrounding her property, the rumbling backhoe hauling away the charred remains of her longtime home.

She has been living in the house of a friend across the street from this scene, which she matter-of-factly calls “the ruins.” And for the moment, at least, she is all business, filling out insurance forms, talking to fire investigators and real estate brokers, replying to scores of e-mail messages and letters of sympathy. She has not had time, she says, to weep or grieve.

So, when asked about her loss, Ms. Cafritz hesitates. Her $5.2 million mansion here in the Kent neighborhood of northwest Washington held one of the largest private collections of African-American and African art in the country, more than 300 sculptures, paintings, photographs and other pieces that she painstakingly accumulated over the past two decades, often from artists whose careers she had personally nurtured.

The works of 19th- and 20th-century painters like Edward Mitchell Bannister, Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden hung amid contemporary work by artists like Hank Willis Thomas, Nick Cave, Kara Walker and Kerry James Marshall. Virtually everything was destroyed in the blaze that gutted the house on July 29, while she and her son were on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard.

“I had a wonderful picture,” Ms. Cafritz began, on the verge of a reverie about one of her favorites, and then she paused. “It’s gone. It’s gone. No more pictures, you know.”

“I’m hoping I can be strong enough not to be hit by that ton of bricks, not to become dysfunctionally sad,” said Ms. Cafritz, 62, as she sat on a couch in her temporary home this week. “Right now my emotions are submerged, like under water.”


For 23 years her eight-bedroom mansion served as a meeting place for both the powerful and the unknown. She gave parties for John F. Kennedy Jr. and Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson and local Democrats. She raised thousands for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and was invited to the Stevie Wonder concert at the White House earlier this year.

But Ms. Cafritz — who in the 1970s had helped to found the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, a public high school here for talented and often underprivileged teenagers — also opened her home to foster children, poor students and struggling artists. And she regularly championed minority artists, buying their work, calling them with words of encouragement and haunting art galleries, art shows and auctions in Washington and New York to find young people with promise.

“When do artists need you the most?” asked Ms. Cafritz, who also collected some works by Latin American artists. “When they’re young. There is greater representation of African-American and Latino artists in these great art galleries and museums now, but it’s not enough. Too many people are unfamiliar with these young people’s work.”

Read More:

NY Times: In Collection's Ashes, A Heritage's Seeds

The Washington Post: Fire Scorches the City's Cultural Landscape, Too

O, The Oprah Magazine: Inside the Home of Art Patron Peggy Cooper Cafritz

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The First Couple Has International Style!

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have made the annual Vanity Fair International Best-Dressed List!

This is President Obama's first time making the list, while Mrs. Obama makes her third consecutive appearance, receiving a record number of nominations. Others who made the list include singer, Alicia Keys, former NFL star and current NBC correspondent, Tiki Barber, Kelly Ripa, France's First Lady Carla Bruni, designer Rachel Roy and actor/philanthropist, Brad Pitt. For the full list, click here.

Noticeably absent from the list is Mrs. Obama's sister in Divadom, White House social secretary, Desirée Rogers. Why the snub? The Black Socialite TM spills the tea: In an interview with The Washington Times, Amy Fine Collins, special correspondent for Vanity Fair, said that although Ms. Rogers received "a significant number of nominations", "I don't think she is known enough. She is not that high-profile outside New York and Washington yet". I'm calling bs on this excuse. Ms. Rogers practically owns Chi-Town, and is well-known in New Orleans. She was featured in Vogue magazine in 2004 (wearing a fabulous black and white Jil Sander trench coat), which is where I first learned about her. I've been a fan ever since. Ms. Collins' excuse sounds like Caucasianese for "We can't have too many negroes on the list".

We Shall Overcome lies...In Couture!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Vintage Photo of the Week

Singer/Actress, Dorothy Dandridge
(Photo: LIFE magazine/Ed Clark)

Ms. Dandridge's face tells the tale, doesn't it?


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

LEGENDARY: Fashion Pioneer, Naomi Sims (1948 - 2009)

Naomi Sims at Oprah's Legends Ball
(Photo: Kwaku Alston)

The fashion industry has lost one of its legends.

The NY Times reports that Naomi Sims, considered by some to be the first Black supermodel, passed away at the age of 61 from cancer.

As the first Black model to appear on the cover of Ladies' Home Journal in 1968, Ms. Sims was not only a pioneer, but a trailblazer helping to usher in the "Black Is Beautiful" movement. As the late designer, Halston, correctly noted, Ms. Sims was the "great ambassador for all Black people".

And Ms. Sims took this responsibility seriously. In 1972, she was offered the title role in the "blaxploitation" movie "Cleopatra Jones", but turned it down because she felt it was a racist portrayal of Black people.

Ms. Sims was more than a beautiful face. Her ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit provided fashion models with the blueprint for maneuvering one's career beyond the runway. In 1973, Ms. Sims went from runway diva to business woman, creating the Naomi Sims Collection, a line of wigs and cosmetics designed specifically for Black women. The line was extremely successful, with annual sales of $5 million. Ms. Sims went on to write several books, as well as an advice column in Right On! magazine. In a 1969 interview with the NY Times, Ms. Sims said:
“There is nothing sadder than an old, broke model, and there are many models who have nothing at the end of their career.”
Ms. Sims' success in the fashion industry was a victory for all Black women. Every magazine cover, every editorial spread helped to redefine society's concept of beauty, as well as strengthen our self-esteem. As Ms. Sims overcame in couture, she took us along for the ride.

“It’s ‘in’ to use me...and maybe some people do it when they don’t really like me. But even if they are prejudiced, they have to be tactful if they want a good picture.” -- Naomi Sims