Iconic African American Designer Stephen Burrows Opens ‘When Fashion Danced’ Exhibit To Packed House

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We had a discussion here in the office recently, about whether New Yorkers still dance. The answer is debatable, but in the days of disco, New York definitely danced and it wore Stephen Burrows.

Burrows’s designs were a combination of purposeful plays on color, and the cut and piecing together of patterns that was more artfully abstract than practical—the practicality lay in the fluidity of movement, the very sway, of the garments because they were designed for dancing. The dancing was done by blacks, whites, Hispanics, gays and straights, and everyone in between—a crowd not unlike the attendees of the opening of the “Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced” exhibit held last night, March 21, at The Museum of the City of New York.

 

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The MCNY was overflowing with fashion and art folk hustling and bumping against each other to maneuver the space decorated with colorful Burrow messenger bags hanging from above in the dim glow of rainbow colored fluorescent lights. We eventually hustled and bumped our way into the exhibit, which showcased the designer’s archival sketches, archival clothing, and a compilation video of the young energy of old New York.

The pieces outfitted on mannequins were appropriately displayed on circular platforms that dominated the floor space, and we commenced our dance around them, our eyes catching a concentration of colors ranging from vibrant brights to soulful rusts; asymmetrical cuts in flowing fabrics; abstract shapes that mimic the body’s proportions; signature stripes from the 70s; and a particular brown suede coat that could’ve done us due justice for these unseasonably cold New York Nights.

 

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In the milieu of the exhibit we overheard one man explain how “anti-social” Facebook can be, unintentionally attesting to the spirit of the decade on display when everyone really knew each other, creatives collaborated without notice of crossing any industry lines, and parties—for which Burrows remembers dressing his friends and families—that didn’t end at four because they were just starting.

On the way out we spotted Stephen Burrows personally signing copies of the exhibit’s accompanying book—the designer wearing his signature round framed sunglasses and writing intently while attendees waited closely around him.

 

-Tameika Lawrence

 

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