By Amira Wazeer
NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. – The New York Fashion Week (NYFW), held in February and September of each year, is a semi-annual series of events in Manhattan typically spanning seven to nine days when international fashion collections are shown to buyers, the press, and the general public.
It is one of four major fashion weeks in the world. NYFW is based on a much older series of events called “Press Week,” founded in 1943. On a global scale, most business and sales-oriented shows and some couture shows take place in New York City in various venues around the city.
Sisters from around the country braved travel disruptions and more to travel to New York this past September 8 – 10 to support one of our own more than talented designer on the Runway 7 stage at Sony Hall.
Sis. Nefertari Hazziez absolutely stole the show. In my opinion, she had the most creative and elegant fashions of the many that were shown.
As the show unfolded in Sony Hall, sisters held viewing parties in Atlanta and Florida, where they witnessed up close and in living color the beautiful and brilliant fabrics floating down the runway on talented and graceful models.
To be honest, Sis. Hazziez’s creations inspired by elegance and excellence took my breath away, I put down my pen and stared. I relished the spectacular audio-visual display; it looked like the Academy Awards. It was the perfect backdrop for a Queen to unveil modesty onto a backdrop of absolute perfection. I was awed.
I could not wait until I had the opportunity to speak with her about her NYFW experience and managed to get a phone interview with her. She was still full of passion and excitement, so much so that it is near impossible to convey it. However, I will do my best to share her words and unbridled energy.
Q and A with Nefetari Hazziez:
Amira: First, let me say how proud we the community are of you. Your show fulfilled my dream of Muslim designers being on the world stage. As I told you, it brought tears to my eyes.
So how did you get interested in fashion design, and how long have you been designing clothes?
Nefetari: I had tried several creative paths with cosmetology being one. In 2002-2003, I went back to school to pursue my education, and I heard Imam W.D. Mohammed urging us to serve with our talents.
I wanted to serve humanity; I realized designing modest dress was a vehicle to serve. I loved styling, and I realized it was hard to find garments for us. My first show was at one of the conventions. I entered with the peacock dress, as I wanted to be remembered. And it worked. To this day, I am known as the designer of the peacock dress.
Amira: What has influenced you the most?
Nefetari: My sisters ,the sisterhood, and the community and Imam Mohammed speaking about the need for us to provide our own food, clothing and shelter.
But at first, I could not even work on a sewing machine. I created a doll exhibition and sisters wanted the doll fashions for themselves. I was sewing the clothes by hand and knew I could not deliver, but creativity is my bloodline.
Amira: We all want to know, how did you find out about Runway 7 and become a featured designer?
Nefetari: I saw a social media ad, and I felt the need to check it out. And they responded; they sent me an information package with the cost, and I did not know if I could financially respond. After viewing my website, they actively pursued me, stating they wanted diversity in their show.
They called and called and called. Finally, I reached out to those I thought would invest. My family helped make it possible, especially my mother; she was one of the first to support me. But money goes fast.
Once the contract was signed, I had a lot of weight on my shoulders and I thought about those I was representing. My fear was I had no design team. Some designers have a complete team to handle all the facets of doing a major show and bringing a collection to the stage. I was doing it all myself.
I was concerned about everything being cohesive. The feeling I had when I was doing the collection was: “Is it good enough?” I did not want to hear negative comments. I unveiled the collection to models in segments.
When I unveiled a portion to mom, she did not have words. She was like “wow” – but did not see it at first. My mom is my backbone, my foundation.
Amira: How did it feel to see dozens of sisters in the audience?
Nefetari: Amazing. I can’t explain it. Just Al-humdulillah (all praises due to Allah). I love giving praises to Allah. I am still at a loss for words. Sumiyaa Ali spoke to me and showed me this was bigger than me.
Amira: Do you see yourself designing for all women or just Muslim women?
Nefetari: All women! I want to design modest fashions that women can mix or match. I want to invite all women to grace the runway for the world to see.
Amira: Earlier, you spoke about the entrance fee. What type of investment does it take to participate?
Nefetari: If you look at travel expenses, food, ground transportation, tips, hotels, labor, marketing, printing, materials, and fabrics – that’s just a part. I factor in the cost of excellence and elegance in all that we do.
The two “EEs” in Queens stand for Excellence and Elegance. Some designers know what they are going to create from the beginning. I do things differently. I work backwards. I first looked at fabrics. I visited the fabric stores and took note of what was available.
Then I was inspired and began to create and put ideas together in my head. I wanted to unleash color and excitement. I wanted to invoke Khalil’s song about shaking up the world. I was thinking about the principles of modesty and how we can be innovative.
Amira: Well all I can say is it worked for me, and my passion is fashion. I confessed to Nefertari that the day after I got home from her show, I had a big meeting to go to and I was late. But I made an entrance and held my head high. I felt empowered and forceful. “The meeting can start, I’m here!”
My interview with Nefetaria lasted two and one-half hours; this is just the beginning of what we discussed. The best part is yet to come. Insha Allah, I will complete the interview in Muslim Journal very soon. (Stay in touch!)
COMING SOON: A discussion with Nefetaria on manufacturing, distribution, marketing, the project runway and lots more – in the business of fashion designing/Muslim fashions. Aspiring designers will want to hear her comments on how to advance their business. Keep reading.
(Amira Wazeer’s passion is fashion. She also is a state licensed health and life insurance agent specializing in Medicare plans. Got questions? Call 404-202-1926. Don’t turn 65 without me! Follow links to free wills: https://bit.ly/getfreewills)