“What I love about Mataano is that there is a youthful punctuation to their designs,” Corbett told theGrio. “The colors were similar to what many other designers were showing, but Ayaan and Idyl add ease along with chic silhouettes. Some of the models were literally floating down the runway. But with the return to body-conscious silhouettes, the clothes hit a sensual note while still being totally wearable.”
It was wonderful to take in such a show and sip cocktails with beautiful black people — drinks made with supplies provided by sponsors such as Belvedere. As important as it was to see designers of African decent receive such large-scale corporate support, it was more thrilling to witness the black arts and culture community come together for an impressive enterprise.
The Mataano show was not merely a commercial affair; it was also a celebration of black designers creating their own space within an industry that can often be segregated and disempowering. Fashion Week shows such as this, which succeed outside of the official tents at Lincoln Center, are a beacon of black creative confidence.
“I want to think that these independent presentations represent the empowerment of black designers,” Corbett elaborated about this fact. “By showing during this week, they remind us just how great and innovative they are, and that they deserve as much consideration as other designers. They are seizing power instead of waiting for it to be bestowed upon them.
“Why should they wait anyway?” the industry insider continued. “And by so doing they bring a breath of fresh air into the fashion industry, invigorating it. They remind us about how much more talent is out there waiting to be discovered. Like Omar Salam’s Sukeina line [presented] at Harlem’s Fashion Row. You couldn’t help but look at some of his pieces and say ‘wow’! But I feel the same way when I look at pieces from Korto Mormolu, LaQuan Smith, Sammie B. — and Mataano.”
Now preparing for international shows such as Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg, Mohallim and her twin sister Ayaan remain humble about their success. Born in America, but raised in Somalia until they were nine and had to flee the country due to civil war, they appreciate their early success and the devotion of the African-American artistic community, which rallies behind their brand.
“We feel very honored and blessed for all the positive support and recognition we have received to date. We could not have done it without the many sponsors and partners who help to make our shows better each year,” Mohallim said. “This year our sponsors included Iman Cosmetics and Nelson Vercher for Rita Hazan Salon, both of which helped bring our vision to life on the catwalk.”
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.