Empowered and Runway Ready

The seventh annual Black Fashion Week Minnesota gave local designers the chance to tell stories through fashion.

Clothes can tell stories. With their individual design and how they can be paired and styled with other garments, clothes have the power to tell a narrative. At the seventh annual Black Fashion Week Minnesota (BFWMN) in Minneapolis, designers from throughout the Twin Cities had an opportunity to tell some of these stories. 

One of them was Gogo Nyadza Ndara, designer and creator of Ndara’s Jewels, a fashion boutique based out of Minneapolis. Her story begins with some back and forth between her and the piece.

“I put it on the mannequin, I take a photo of it, I stare at it, I walk away. I come back and look at it. I’ll go do something, come back, look at it,” Ndara says. “It just tells me, like we’re talking. We’re having a conversation the whole time.”

Ndara’s Jewels was a featured designer for BFWMN at their second annual Met Gala fashion show, which concluded the week of events. Originally, her designs were not on the Met Gala ticket, but for a different show earlier in the week. It wasn’t until three weeks before production that she found out her designs would be showcased at the finale instead. But when she got the news, she was also dealing with a family medical emergency. She spent several days and nights in the children’s hospital with her son leading up to the show, creating and finalizing garments to be showcased in less than 10 days. 

“I got no sleep in there, but I was pushing it because I knew I told [them] that I’d make the show,” Ndara says. “The purple gown [is] just completely inspired and created within the hospital.”

The title of her showcased collection is “After the Peace,” a commentary of what she wishes to see come of the world after social and environmental issues come to an end, and for beauty and empowerment to prevail.

Source Material 

BFWMN is an annual, weeklong event that highlights and emphasizes the work of Black and Brown creatives in the Twin Cities. Small, local designers from all levels of experience are invited to showcase and celebrate their work.

For their final show this year, they created their own version of the Met Gala, following the theme “Be Iconic,” a statement that allows designers to take their garments and brand identity to the next level.

Natoya Doulatt has made a name for herself in the Twin Cities fashion industry. Originally from Jamaica, Doulatt is the designer and creator of Natoya Collections. Her mixed use of color and fabrics is an homage to her home and beginnings as a designer.

“When [BFWMN] asked me, ‘Do you want to be a part of it?’ I immediately started thinking about the concept and about the idea,” Doulatt says. “I always wanted to do something with my country’s colors. So it was just the perfect opportunity for me.”

Doulatt was in Jamaica when she was invited to be on the Met Gala ticket, so she saw a chance to make this vision a reality. She purchased all of her fabric in Jamaica, bringing it back to the U.S. to create pieces for this show’s collection. 

She draws inspiration from the vibrant colors and tropical climate in Jamaica. But Doulatt also strives to integrate an empowered sense of womanhood into her designs.

“I want to accentuate the feminine aspects of a woman,” she says. “I want to draw on all of that femininity and bring it into the collection to make it sexy, to make anybody that wears one of my pieces feel good about wearing it.”

Stomp It Out

Fashion is all about self-expression and feeling comfortable and beautiful in your own skin. This is true for the designers as well as the models who display their work. 

“I [do] it as a way to just feel a more empowered form of self love for myself,” model Ebony Templeton says. “I’m always good at amping and hyping everybody else’s stuff, but when it comes to myself, I shy away…This is a way for me to actually empower and celebrate myself amongst celebrated women of all different varieties of beauty.”

Templeton started modeling in 2018 in Texas but moved to Minnesota last year. She says she’s not only found more confidence through modeling, but she’s also found a more sound support system in the fashion industry here.

Especially with events like BFWMN, emerging creatives have a chance to reach new audiences and connect with like-minded designers. Opportunities like this one help small, marginalized artists build their brand as well as their creative identities, says Fammetta Addae, a BFWMN intern. And as they share their creative identities, they also have a chance to tell their stories through fashion.

“It’s just really nice to know that there’s so many Black creatives and models out here,” Addae says. “Having an opportunity to showcase their talents and just show everybody that we’re here and finally taking up space and being proud of it…It’s amazing.”


  • Delaney Borja

    What an honor it is to be the Editor-in-Chief for Urban Plains. My background is in strategic communication through both written and visual content. Even from a young age, I’ve always had a knack for making meaningful connections with others and being a natural born leader. And my professional experiences through internships and coursework has allowed me to integrate these innate skills into my own practice. I am humbled to work alongside such incredible minds, and I am proud to be part of the robust and talented team that is Urban Plains.

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