Spanning 75 years of fashion history, this must-see exhibition presents Newark as a center for the fashion industry from the 1950s to today.

Beginning in the ateliers and classrooms of Wesley Tann and Emily Miles, groundbreaking Black designers and mentors for the next generation, this survey features nine contemporary designers with Newark connections.



Melody Asherman

Born in 1988 and raised in Newark, Asherman studied at Fashion Design Training Studios in Newark and at Parsons School of Design. Asherman’s designs incorporating West African textiles are inspired by her Liberian heritage and center inclusive sizing for full figured bodies.

BrownMill Atelier

BrownMill is a New Jersey-based clothing brand founded in 2009, influenced by the work ethic of Founder and CEO Justis Pitt-Goodson’s grandparents. At the crosscurrent of bespoke tailoring and streetwear, BrownMill handcrafts garments including collared shirts, embroidered jackets, graphic t-shirts, and single-cut pants customized for every individual.

Stephen Burrows

Born in Newark in 1943, Burrows is recognized as one of the defining designers of disco era fashion. An alumnus of Newark Arts High School, he was one of five American designers—and the only African American—selected to present at the epic Battle of Versailles (1973), a fashion show at the Palace of Versaille in Paris,  in which American and French designers faced off.

Tyrone Chablis

Born in 1962, designer, modeling coach, and fashion show commentator Chablis attended Newark Arts High School and was a mentee of the Newark-based designer Wesley Tann. A frequent collaborator and documentarian of Newark’s fashion scene, Chablis is a mentor to many emerging designers and models.

Jerry Gant

(1961-2018) A beloved fixture in Newark’s local arts and culture scene for almost four decades, Gant was a multi-disciplinary fashion designer, visual artist, poet, and arts educator. His hand-painted found textiles and garments, feature patterns and symbols influenced by his love of Black diasporic cultures. Gant’s mentorship has impacted a generation of creatives in Newark.

Marco Hall

A self-taught fashion designer and Newark native, Hall runs his storefront boutique, MH302, on Halsey Street—in the heart of the city’s Downtown arts district, around the corner from the Museum. Born in 1970, Hall has designed signature fashions for acclaimed musicians, actors, and playwrights such as Rihanna, Vivica Fox, and Ntozake Shange.

Shavi Lewis

Born in 1985, Lewis garnered national acclaim during Season 18 of the Emmy award-winning TV series Project Runway. A mentee of Marco Hall, Lewis has long worked in and around Newark, presenting his designs at local fashion shows and underground ballroom pageants. He has dressed clients for the Daytime Emmys, The Mrs Earth Competitions, and The Cannes Film Festival.

Narciso Rodriguez

Rodriguez is a Cuban American designer born in 1961 and raised in Newark. After training at Parson’s School of Design in the 1990s, he freelanced in New York’s garment industry for designers Anne Klein, Donna Karan, and Calvin Klein. Rodriguez opened his atelier in NYC in 2001. His designs have been worn by Carolyn Bessette and Michelle Obama.

Douglas Says

Born in 1961, Says is a multi-faceted designer, make-up artist, and stylist who has worked in around Newark for nearly four decades.   His collaborators include fashion model Iman, Cuban singer Celia Cruz, and runway coach Miss J Alexander.  In the 1980s and 90s Says founded CMS Studio in Newark to help mentor young fashion models and designers.

With its rich history as an epicenter for the production and trade of garments, jewelry, and accessories, Newark has long been a site of creativity and innovation. A generation of inspiration has come out of the Brick City, influencing fashion designers globally. The Story of Newark Fashion: Atelier to Runway brings attention to the contributions of this thriving community.

Douglas Says, The Hole Dress, 1992/recreated 2022. 4‑way cotton Lycra. Collection of Douglas Says. Photo by James L. Hicks II 

Melody Asherman, Stephenie Johanne Gown, 2019. Tulle. Collection of Melody Asherman, Everrything Rrouge. Photo by Steven Jackson 

Stephen Burrows, Evening Two Piece Dress, 1973. Polyester. Collection of The Museum at FIT, Gift of Mrs. Savanna Clark | 99.15.1 © The Museum at FIT

Mickalene Thomas, Isn't She Lovely, Tracey Norman, 2022. Rhinestones, acrylic and oil paint on canvas mounted on wood panel. Purchase 2022 Collections Exchange Fund, Mr. and Mrs. William V. Griffin Fund, and Helen McMahon Brady Cutting Fund 2022.6 © Mickalene Thomas