A quote that I read in a past interview with Constance White always stays with me she said,

“There’s still a prejudice and a lack of sophistication about seeing a black person as a gatekeeper of style.”

I can’t write the exact words that come to mind when I think about that but, let’s just say it both disappoints and enrages me because the fact is we are indeed arbiters of style, trendsetters and influencers. We continue to fly and be fly in face of adversity. We are the mothers of re-invention. Our swag is often imitated but never (successfully) duplicated. Need I go on. The tastemakers we highlight in this feature do it all and do it well; If no one else will Clutch will continue to highlight those who are ripping the runway, stopping the presses and stealing the show.

The Publicist: Bonnie Morrison
As a fashion publicist, the PR Director for KCD worldwide to be exact, it’s Bonnie Morrison’s job to create good press for her clients, but more often than not we find that the her stellar style ends up taking the starring role. Described by Paper mag as one of the most popular girls in NYC, Bonnie’s brand of polished yet quirky Bea Arthur (yes, Bea Arthur) inspired fashion sense, always catches our style stalking eyes as she makes the rounds on the fashion scene. She’ll rock a fitted black blazer with a floral printed dress, a dark Victorian-esque brocade jacket with a bright colored tee, or the classic little black dress with statement making accessories all without looking like she’s trying to too hard. Unlike some insiders who can sometimes appear to take themselves too seriously, we couldn’t help but notice Bonnie is always pictured with a smile which, we think is the best fashion accessory there is.

55257096clutchmag731200874317pmThe Fashionista: Rihanna
What tastemaker list would be complete without the fashion plate celeb that’s been on every best dressed for the past 2 years. Yes, it would be hard to deny that the Rihanna has firmly established her place as an influencer in fashion history. Always one step ahead of the curve, we never get tired of watching and wondering what style tricks the chanteuse has up her sleeve. The Barbados beauty first came onto the radar in 2005 when her infectious hit, S.O.S. took over the radio, we weren’t sure how long she’d be around, but several chart toppers and style transformations later, Rihanna continues to make waves on and off the stage. In 2007, her defining style moment came when she took control of her image, refusing to simply be labeled as Beyonce jr., by trading in her straight caramel hued tresses and girly- girl ensembles for her signature bad girl asymmetric bob and edgy glam style. Since then, we’ve followed her every fashion move-from couture clad vixen to laid back chic and back again- as inspires the fearless fashionista in all of us.

kathymisickportraitThe Designer: Kathy Misick
She’s only on her second collection, but we predict a bright future for designer Kathy Misick. Her debut effort was an impressive showing of a precisely executed, feminine fab design. Seven pieces in pearly white hues, luxe fabrics, and refined shapes accented with chunky silk rope trim were the foundation of the capsule collection comprised of dresses and jumpsuits.

One part nautical and one part Grecian influenced, Misick’s Spring/Summer ’08 line is the perfect complement to a summer glow. We’re sure Kathy, daughter of a former Turks and Caicos chief minister, knows all about keeping it stylish when the weather gets warm. We can’t imagine greater inspiration for a summer line than warm breezes and sandy beaches. She attributes her love of art and sewing to her grandmother and says her mother’s Vogue magazine were her window into the fashion world.

Proving that she’s more than a one season wonder, Kathy does a creative 360 for Fall with bold waist cinching and “want to wear them now” designs in silks, knits, sumptuous leather and wool that create a heady mix of fashion drama. It seems a bit early to pinpoint this tastemaker’s signature style, but eye-catching details and attention to craftsmanship, undoubtedly a reflection of her training of the prestigious Central St. Martin College of Art and Design in London, are the common threads that make it hard to believe that this is only the start of her career.

chanelimanThe Models: Chanel Iman/Jourdan Dunn
Model citizens Chanel Iman (18) and Jourdan Dunn (17) have been somewhat of an anomaly during the model black out. It would seem as though the two of them are far from hurting for work as one would be hard pressed to find a magazine without a print ad or a major runway show that doesn’t feature one of these pretty young things.

Jourdan was plucked from obscurity by a model scout at the tender age of 14 in her hometown of London and has gone on to model for the fashion behemoths like Valentino and Ralph Lauren. If her striking features look familiar, they should, she landed the cover of the much anticipated issue of Italian Vogue featuring all black models. Kate Moss chose Dunn to be the face of her Topshop campaign and if that weren’t impressive enough, she’s the first black model to grace a show at Prada since the nineties. Even though her star is on the rise, Jourdan is already thinking ahead to what her life will be like when the flashing lights dim. She told Vogue “I’d love to go back to school and take some business and acting courses….I’d love to open up my own performing arts school.”

With a moniker inspired by one of the most influential designers and models of our time, Chanel Iman was destined to achieve fashion stardom. Her resume boasts countless fashion shows, cover girl status, campaigns for the Gap, Victoria Secret and Ralph Lauren, acting muse to designer Phillip Lim and mentee of model-entrepreneur Tyra Banks. Not bad for the young girl from Atlanta, Georgia who dressed as a model every year for Halloween. All of that model exposure seems to be having a profound effect on Chanel’s personal style as well; she was picture perfect in a Phillip Lim chartreuse ruffled gown at the Met gala earlier this year.

Despite her “It girl” status, Chanel proclaims that she’s just a normal teenager, “But I’m still a regular girl. I go to basketball and football games. I want to go to prom.” We love to see young women defying the odds to achieve greatness. These model mavens further exemplify the fact that Black is indeed beautiful.

16mThe Socialite: Genevieve Jones
Whether she’s supporting her designer friends by attending their latest runway show or making the rounds at high brow industry events, the social diva’s fashion prowess is always on full display. From Zac Posen to YSL to Marc Jacobs, she rocks their highly coveted creations with her own brand of charming poise. Ms. Jones is now putting her innate sense of style and passion for fashion to good use for an eponymous diamond and gem encrusted jewelry collection. In a recent interview with Nylon magazine Genevieve describes her personal style as “classic taken to the edge” and gives one of the most endearing quotes we’ve heard in a while, “I may wear the same outfit four days in a row, but at least I’m confident that it’s a really chic outfit.” She also confesses that Lil Wayne and Pharell are among her favorite artists to listen to while she’s working and names Donyale Luna as one of her fashion icons.

While she waxes poetic about her style icons and music preferences, Much less is known about how the girl-about-town turned designer appeared from virtually nowhere to become a fixture on the social circuit. It’s also a bit of a mystery as to how exactly she supports her fabulous lifestyle. As rumor has it, her father works as a chemical engineer and her mom as a homemaker back in her hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Genevieve seems to revel in the fact that her persona and rise to style stardom is wrapped in a veil of secrecy. She was reported as saying, “It’s more mysterious if people don’t know so much about me other than that I’m black.”

dblanks_cropped_a273The Photographer: Derek Blanks
We can’t forget about the visionaries who work their magic behind the camera to precisely capture life’s intricate moments. Images have the power to move and inspire us and the one’s taken by Atlanta based photographer Derek Blanks are a prime example. He’s the man behind some our favorite snapshots including the hot new promotional pics of Amerie. Sanaa Lathan, Usher, Boris Kodjoe, Kim Porter, Keyshia Cole and Brandy have all entrusted their famous faces to artist Derek Blanks. His recent exhibit, Alter Ego, gave us a whole new perspective on a few other choice celebrities. Who could forget the picture of Monica on the red carpet as a singing sensation, mom and homegirl or the image depicting Chrisette Michelle meeting one of her fans? To find out more about the “Connoisseur of Imagery” stay tuned for our interview with Derek Blanks in next month’s edition of The Questions.

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