NEW HAVEN — Designer Bertha Angelo-Lambert happened to be working on a dress for her youngest daughter when CT Examiner caught up with her on the phone.
“I have three daughters and this is my last prom dress — at least for my daughters. Today is her prom and I’m just adding some finishing touches to her dress. Right now she wanted some gems on it so we’re just hot fixing some gems on her dress,” she said.
Angelo-Lambert owns La’Moo Designs and is one of five designers who will show their collections in the ICONIC Connections Fashion Expo, a runway show on June 18th that’s part of the 27th annual New Haven International Festival of Arts and Ideas.
“I’ll give a hint about my collection,” said Angelo-Lambert, a New Britain resident who grew up in St. Lucia. “It’s all for women — it’s basically leisure bathing suits … it’s very, I want to say, avant garde. I hope people get it, I hope it’s well received. I create for the fun, flirty, sexy woman, which I believe is every woman, that’s leaving nobody out — that’s plus size, skinny, every woman.”
Besides Angelo-Lambert, the list of designers will include Neville Wisdom, who is well-known in New Haven, as well as Prajjé Oscar of Project Runway, Ng2 Studios and Isalina Sanchez.
This year’s festival theme is “connect,” including all the ways art and identity intersect, said Juanita Austin, producer of the festival.
“Our new art [at the festival this year] is fashion, so it’s how we’re connecting fashion to art to culture,” she said. “It’s really about all the aspects of connecting — connecting to our community, connecting to ourselves, connecting to the lands.”
That theme is the focus of Neville Wisdom‘s pieces that he said he’s designing for the runway.
“I am working on having my own interpretation of that come through the show. This show is probably going to be a little bit more artistic in terms of my design aesthetic, it definitely is going to have a little bit of a difference from what I typically do in the past,” he said.
Wisdom said he custom-creates many of his designs for clients, plus he has an online shop where customers can buy pieces, but during the pandemic his studio made masks to stay afloat financially. This year he said he’s in a different place as a designer.
“I’m more into the idea of design from my own personal aesthetic without having to subject it to whether or not somebody likes it,” Wisdom said. “This year I’m tapping into, like, my wilder side, or my more creative side to see what I can stir up.”
He said he believes in sustainable design and finding ways to break the cycle of fast fashion.
“If you have something that’s really comfortable and you can wear it many times… I think it’s more the mentality of individuals that has to change for there to be a difference in this idea of fast fashion — it’s definitely one of the things that has corrupted many of us is the idea that we have to change our clothes.”
He said he was looking forward to seeing the other designers’ collections.
“We all have our own aesthetic and the presence that we’re going to bring to the show is very diverse. I think it will be pretty exciting,” said Wisdom.
The festival created the fashion show lineup to highlight designers who draw upon their global roots in their work, said Malakhi Eason, director of programming and community impact for the festival, in a release. The list includes Prajjé Oscar, who is Haitian-born and works out of Philadelphia, as well as Chinese-Dominican sisters Margarita and Cristina Ng of the New York Ng2 Studios. Also in the show will be Isalina Sánchez, who was born in the Dominican Republic, and produces “gender-affirming” clothing at her studio in New York City.
“Every garment has a story,” said Eason. “I’m excited to see the reaction to the fashion show from the community’s perspective.”
Shelley Quiala, executive director of the festival, said fashion provides a means of reflection and a link to the festival theme.
“We thought that it was a really great way to connect back to our theme and talk about and think about the way we express ourselves outwardly — how that connects to who we are internally in the way that we express and connect with other people around us,” she said.
The festival will also explore themes from Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower,” an opera by Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon, with a performance on June 22.
The festival lineup — 200 events, 85% of which are free — also features a number of renowned speakers, musicians and performances, including activist Dolores Huerta, MacArthur Fellow Dwayne Betts, comedian Michelle Buteau, and Grammy winners Gregory Porter & Alex Cuba. A number of performances will be given in Spanish with English translation.
“This festival is meant to draw connections between the folks in our lives that live next door to us and those living in other parts of the world.” said Quiala. “This is a global community. The East Coast is global, Connecticut’s global, New Haven is global.”
Find tickets for the fashion show here.
The full 2022 festival lineup is available at artidea.org.