The Black Friday Political Thread

Terina Hill shows a handbag she made from reclaimed leather. She is one of the organizers and designers for a fashion show and pop up shop on Black Friday.(Photo: Phaedra Trethan)

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CAMDEN – They are busy women: mothers, wives, entrepreneurs, professionals.

But they're also fashion designers. And they're in Camden.

On Black Friday, they want people in the city and beyond to know about them and their work — to know that they are open for business, and like any small businesses just getting started, they need support from their community.

Terina Hill, Nicole Muhammad and Ajeenah "AJ" Riggs met the Courier-Post at Riggs' shop in Camden's Parkside neighborhood. The Camden Store not only offers Riggs' city-inspired active wear, it also serves as a community gathering space where Riggs and her husband, Troy, host open-mic nights, pop-up shops and other gatherings.

The three are among the five designers — all but one from Camden — who'll show and sell their work at the Independent Designer Showcase, a fashion show and pop-up shop on Black Friday at Camden FireWorks, a gallery in Waterfront South.

Doors open at 12:30 p.m. with a runway show at 1, and Hill hopes to catch shoppers who want handmade, unique designs at prices they won't find in malls or even from giant online retailers.

Hill's Jypsea Leathergoods features one-of-a-kind accessories from up-cycled leather, while Riggs plans to debut a new line called "Unbreakable." Riggs' line is a tribute to the women she's come to know in Camden who've overcome challenges to lead productive lives and who give back to their community, like her friend and Camden Sophisticated Sisters founder Tawanda Green-Jones.

Muhammad, a striking figure in a blue brocade blouse, long skirt and hijab, designs clothing not only for her fellow Muslims, but any woman who wants to sport a more modest look without sacrificing style.

Each has their own unique story to go with their designs: Hill and Muhammad are natives of Irvington, Essex County, who settled in Camden. Hill graduated from New York City's Fashion Institute of Technology, went on to a career as a jewelry and accessory designer, then later opened a boutique in North Brunswick. She married and had children, and now teaches design around Philadelphia and South Jersey. 

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Nicole Muhammad shows two of her designs. She makes clothing for Muslim women and anyone who opts for a more modest but still vibrant look. (Photo: Phaedra Trethan)

Muhammad learned to sew as a member of the Nation of Islam, but she's also a licensed psychologist who works primarily in nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities.

"I wanted to bring style to modest women," she said. While there are a lot of choices available, she realized that there was some uniformity to what was out there.

"I try to use a lot of different textures and fabrics," she said. "Modest clothing doesn't have to be drab or just one style; it can have flair and color."

She designed the luxurious brocade she wore on this snowy November day, but she also works with velvet and knit fabrics, and sells her creations online and locally.

"We had this vision, that on the one day that the whole country is focused on shopping at department stores and big box stores, no one would think about their neighborhood store, let alone local designers," said Hill. 

She and Erin Johnson, a friend and Camden native, put out a call on social media and then whittled their list to those who were ready not only to participate in a fashion show, but would also be ready to quickly fulfill any orders they received.

Camden, said Hill, is ripe for more fashion, and more female entrepreneurs.

"In New York, fashion is everywhere and there's this sense that everything's been said and done and seen," she noted. 

All three, as transplants to the city, see great potential, but also a place caught between its future and its past.

"I live downtown," said Muhammad. "My neighbors are doctors and lawyers and professionals, and they see a different Camden than the one I see."

Camden FireWorks, they believe, is a good bridge between downtown and the neighborhoods, between the city's natives and its newcomers, between the entrepreneurs and the small businesses that have formed its backbone for decades, in good times and bad.

"There may be two Camdens, but it's important for them to get to know and respect each other," said Hill.

The three feel like their fresh eyes are trained on a city that has more going for it than many who live here believe.

"There's so much perseverance in the people here," said Hill. "People have been working so hard for so long just to maintain what they have, they may not have the energy to do much more."

"But it's a jewel," said Riggs.

The gallery "says Camden is capable of standing on its history, and saying that society can still exist in Camden if we don't price out our artists and the people who are pulling the city forward," Hill added.

"There are opportunities in fashion here you'd never see in New York," said Riggs, who lived in Harlem before coming to Camden.

IF YOU GO

Phaedra Trethan: @CP_Phaedra; 856-486-2417; [email protected]

Also in Camden

 

 

 

Source : https://www.courierpostonline.com/story/news/local/south-jersey/2018/11/19/fashion-fireworks-camden-nj-designers-show-off-their-threads-black-friday-small-business/2053955002/

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