You can sit with us: CISE brings empowering pieces to the NYFW showroom

At the Black In Fashion Council’s Fall/Winter 2022 showroom, CISE and other designers provided both artistry and community support.


Justin Park

(Photo by Justin Park)

Con Xie, Contributing Writer

On the sleek, minimalistic fifth floor of Soho’s Spring Studios, up-and-coming clothing and accessories brand CISE joined three other brands for the second half of the Black In Fashion Council’s New York Fashion Week showroom event. Each season, BIFC invites 16 Black designers with cohesive portfolios and design approaches to showcase their work at an intimate NYFW exposition. This initiative, in addition to other BIFC programming, allows lesser-known designers to realize their potential by giving them publicity and networking opportunities. Notable alumni of the BIFC showroom event include House of Aama and Chuks Collins.

(Photo by Justin Park)

Upon entry, an array of shoes designed by Salone Monet for her eponymous brand greeted the viewer. With her palette of skin tone-inclusive shades intended for any occasion, Monet aims to encourage consumers to buy better, not more. Her designs, while simple, are also thoughtful, promoting inclusivity. A pair of brown mules, embellished only with a satin-like beige bow upon first glance, sported a cutout design without the removable ribbon. 

“I want to celebrate the wearer’s natural nude,” said Monet, emphasizing that “nude is not a color.”

The designer also voiced her gratitude for BIFC as it had helped her focus on her work in a way that providing shoes for NYFW runways had not.

Directly beside Monet, Claude Kameni of Lavie by CK displayed her African-inspired prints featuring colorful geometric designs.

(Photo by Justin Park)

“The traditional prints do not come in elastic,” she said, although her own works do. “I want to create something that will fit everyone.” 

In the room adjacent to the Monet and Kameni exhibits, Eugene Taylor proudly introduced her “I AM DIANA” collection. Featuring bold pieces made of satin and sequins, Taylor aims to make her wearer feel like a star.

“I like the showroom style.” she said regarding the event. “It is so much more intimate because you can feel the clothes.”

Taylor also noted that being invited to BIFC’s showroom this season offered her the chance to “be seen.”

Blake Van Putten launched CISE from his house in 2010 as a fundraising effort to donate to Black-led nonprofits. Through grassroots marketing on social media, CISE became a viral sensation and has since sold out multiple collections with its “Protect Black People” message. Since then, the goal of the brand has been to use fashion to support the Black community — it uses affirming messages as the focus of its designs, and donates to organizations like Justice for Black Girls. 

“Our focus is to give back,” Van Putten said. Regarding his selection by BIFC for this event, he said he had gained “a family” and connections with people who understood his experiences as a Black designer. As mentioned by the other designers present, he also secured the press access needed to reach a broader audience. 

(Photo by Justin Park)

At first glance, Van Putten’s dedication to his philosophy of practicality is evident. His minimalistic signature tote bags, embossed with the words “Protect Black Women” in celebration of Women’s History Month, feature three different strap options. Solid-colored sweatshirts incorporated numerous pockets. The sweatpants were also designed with adequate pocket depth. 

Despite their relative simplicity, Van Putten’s designs this season are innovative and almost surreal. 

“This season’s theme is escapism,’’ he said. “After the pandemic, we want things to be dreamlike.”

Van Putten’s creative style blurs the lines between garments. An architectural mini-bag would otherwise have been a simple two-toned bucket clutch if it hadn’t been for its handle — a length of leather protruding from its lip blended seamlessly into the bag’s woven, ribbon-like pattern.

“It’s like Balenciaga,” said Van Putten, likening his desire to play with garment prototypes to the futuristic interpretations of the Spanish designer label.

Overall, all of CISE’s designs this season were wearable and made a statement. Van Putten told me that he wants his designs to be relatable — viewers should be able to see others wearing CISE and imagine themselves wearing the brand’s pieces.

“Everyone is welcome at the table,” Van Putten stated in accordance with the brand’s slogan: “Stronger threads for a stronger community.” The bold and unapologetic nature of his messages, combined with the simplicity and sheer functionality of his pieces, make it easy to agree.

Contact Con Xie at [email protected].