New York Fashion Week (NYFW) is one of the four major fashion weeks in the world, alongside Paris, Milan, and London. This series is fashion’s biggest stage, yet not all fashionably talented designers and stylists have their fair chance to shine at the main shows.
Cosmopolitan New York Fashion Week (NYFW) held its first fashion show on Sunday, Feb. 12, at Stepping Out Studios Penthouse in midtown Manhattan during New York Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2023. Cosmopolitan NYFW showcased talented and innovative designers, including various nail/hair/makeup artists.
Fashion stylists Monique Obeze and Crystal Owens, friends and business partners for more than seven years, are the founders of Cosmopolitan NYFW. “I had a dream when we first started talking about this [five months ago],” said Owens. “I told Monique this show is going to be packed out; it happened…we did it.”
They combined their companies and created Cosmopolitan NYFW last September. Their many years in the fashion world influenced and encouraged them to create their own fashion show separate from the main New York fashion week shows.
About 300 people were in attendance at the sold-out show, which exceeded their expectations.
Brenika Banks photos
“We did this on a wing and a prayer,” said Obeze. The stylist duo shared their expertise, knowledge, and perspectives they’ve acquired over the years to fuel their fashion creativity.
Owens was a stylist at numerous fashion shows and envisioned doing things differently at her own show. She expressed her dislike of how her partner, Obeze, was treated during other fashion shows. “I had just produced another person’s show for Fashion Week and there were things Crystal didn’t appreciate that happened to me while producing their show,” said Obeze. She wasn’t fond of being treated as a rookie in the fashion world when she had 17 years of professional experience under her belt. Owens encouraged her friend to develop and execute their own fashion show last September.
The fashion duo strategically stayed behind the scenes for the majority of their fashion show debut. They are fully aware that people are judgmental, especially toward Black women, and smartly chose not to reveal themselves until the show’s end. The pair didn’t want to be prejudged because they are Black women in an industry that fails to give them proper respect. Both women displayed their distinctive style in the fashion, entertainment, and beauty industry during their show.
Owens and Obeze worked feverishly for months to produce the best show possible. They searched social media to find the best designers, particularly African-inspired and Black designers, whose fashions matched their views. They also gave opportunities to Latino, European, and Asian stylists and designers, as well as models, to be showcased. “We wanted an international look, because you get the same thing on the runway when you go to the bigger shows,” said Owens.
Owens and Obeze are aware of raw, uncut talents who aren’t accepted on the bigger stages at Fashion Week. They complement each other when it comes to areas where one is more of an expert than the other. They handpicked everyone who participated in their show, from fashion designers and stylists to entertainment acts and the host: New York comedian Stephanie Jonez. Obeze met Jonez at an NYC comedy club and immediately liked her personality. Obeze admired how personable Jonez was and thought she would be perfect to host their show.
“I couldn’t believe me being from Harlem and South Jamaica Queens while fulfilling my dream of stand-up comedy would lead to being discovered at a comedy show by Monique Obeze,” said Jonez. “I truly believe the doors begin to open when you discover your gift and keep your eye on God to lead you.”
Jonez hosted both the 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. shows. She was styled by Nafeesa Muqtasid, founder of The Straight NYC, for the later show. “I was treated like a real supermodel,” said Jonez. “The fact that she envisioned me in one of her styles was awesome.” Jonez credits Muqtasid as a true professional and a talented designer who “makes pencil skirts for queens.”
Muqtasid is a fashion designer who is also the CEO and creative director of The Straight NYC. She described working with Jonez as fun and called her sweet and considerate. “She’s a designer’s dream,” said Muqtasid. “Stephanie is an incredibly busy and hardworking comedian who is making her own dreams come true.”
Even with both having extremely busy schedules, they made time for fittings. Muqtasid said she walked away with a smile and a newfound sisterhood with Jonez. Muqtasid said how pleased she was with the professionalism and consideration of both Obeze and Owens.
“We could not have imagined the amount of love and support we received,” said Obeze. She was thrilled to receive so much support from her hometown in NYC, as well as from her family and friends in Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. She was overwhelmed by how thankful people in the audience were to see themselves being represented and considered in this fashion show.
One attendee was inspired and surprised to learn that two Black women ran this show.
“Just knowing the show was hosted by Black women was an inspiration itself, especially during Black History Month,” said fashion enthusiast Yani Reyes. She was impressed by the designers’ boldness throughout the show. “Their way of thinking outside the box and showing their uniqueness through their designs spoke volumes.” She said the creators of Cosmopolitan NYFW give young Black women the drive and courage to succeed.
Owens and Obeze worked to ensure they did everything to create the show they wanted. It was important for Obeze to give opportunities to Black women after witnessing how Black women were wrongfully second-guessed and listed as the underdog. Because she and Owens knew what being doubted felt like, they worked hard to create a company that doesn’t exclude anyone while uplifting Black and African-inspired talents.
Ciara “CCVant-Garde” Smith, a serial entrepreneur and owner of Hairtastique Mobile Salon Systems Inc., felt honored for her hairstyles to be showcased during the show. Smith said she received many compliments from the owners as well as the attendees. “The Cosmopolitan NYFW show was very important for me and my career,” said Smith. “I felt that it was time for me to fully represent myself and put on an amazing show!”
The Harlem native, a licensed hairstylist for the last 20 years, discovered a love of doing hair at a young age. Smith credits faith and creativity in her heart, as well as her son, as the driving force in her continued success. “I spent so much of my life taking care of everyone and everything,” said Smith. “Now, everything I’m doing is for me and my son; everything and everybody else is secondary.”
Obeze and Owens aimed to be unique with their show by including a hairstylist and makeup artist like Smith. The duo also wanted an entertainment segment, which the bigger shows don’t usually have. One artist who performed at the Cosmopolitan NYFW was Brooklyn R&B singer Daylite. Obeze found Daylite singing in a Brooklyn subway station. She was captivated by his voice and followed it in the station until she saw him. “I saw him dressed nice and kept watching him until my train came,” said Obeze. She informed Daylite about the fashion show and invited him to perform.
Daylite expressed gratitude to Obeze and Owens for the opportunity to sing. “My experience at the Cosmopolitan NYFW show was great,” said Daylite. “I’m blessed and honored to be a part of it.” The singer was fascinated by how well the show was put together and said the models did a fantastic job on the runway.
Despite how challenging and hectic it is to put on a fashion show, Owens and Obeze described the results of their first show as very gratifying. “The whole execution, from beginning to the end, was amazing, even with the sleepless nights and having to play various positions,” said Owens. “We had to do what we had to do because we were invested already, and we were determined to make it.”
“When people see it’s two women, let alone two Black women, they say, ‘No! It’s not going to work out,’” said Obeze. However, the resilient duo debunked and disproved that false narrative. Their combined passion for fashion was the key element in their show’s success.
Cosmopolitan NYFW will host their second fashion show this fall. “If you thought our February 2023 show was epic, just wait until September,” said Obeze.