Meet our Jamaican Diva Delali Haligah. Born of Jamaican parents in London, Delali’s influential years were spent living in New York, with summers in Jamaica. The CEO of Osun Design, and founder of Queens Fashion Week took time out to chat with us.
How did Queens NY Fashion week come about?
Queens Fashion Week came about because there was a lack in the industry for new and fresh talents from Queens. I show all over the world, and in and out of New York City and in coming back, there was a low here as if nothing ever happens here, and I know it does because I have lived in Queens all of my live. So I thought it’s not going to happen unless I do something about it. I can complain or do something. Coming from a Jamaican background of doers, I’m a doer so I put up my own money, called people I knew and from there resources started coming in and people started reaching out.
What challenges did you face trying to implement your idea?
The first thing I did was to contact the Queen’s Borough President’s office and spoke to several people, the results wasn’t thoroughly positive, nor was it thoroughly negative. I believe Queens Fashion Week should have something to do with our Borough President’s office, but at the time they said they did not have any funds and they didn’t seem interested in the concept. I knew I was going to do this whether or not they were on board because it was something very close to my heart.
How do you choose the designers to invite to participate?
What we do is put out an open call to designers. Some of the designers are people I know from my years of showing and they get a special invite. We ask the designers to send photos and samples of their work and pick a package. We ask each designer to pay for a cost effect package to help with funding. We share showcases, meaning several designers will show many collections, around 20 pieces, and everyone gets a promotion. Over the years we have been blessed to be followed by New York 1, and we were featured in the Daily News, several blogs and local newspaper.
Is Queens Fashion Week held twice per year in conjunction with the Fall and Spring NYC Fashion week?
We used to do it bi-annually, but although we had some sponsorship some years it was just not conducive financially to do a Fall show in February. Also with February, it’s very funny, it always snow and this always affect it. If God is willing, we are planning to do February 2015.
When do you start planning Queens Fashion Week?
As soon as we stop one show, our show was the 18th & 20th of September, and even before the 20th finished we were planning for next season. For February we will be doing it much smaller, so we have been planning it already.
We know you are also a designer, has implementing Queens Fashion Week taken you away from designing?
No, I show at Queens Fashion week. I have been in business for 33 years; I started when I was very young.
What influences your designs, and your collection for spring 2015?
As far as the line for spring 2015, that was based on a tribute to my father who recently passed over. He created an initiative in Jamaican call PRIDE (People Really Interested In Dealing with Excellence ) about community, people getting together to beautify their neighborhood and basically old time principles of taking care of one another in your neighborhood. With his passing I wanted to continue the legacy and so what I did was a line called Wrap In Pride. All the pieces are wrap dresses which is a signature of mine, in bright colors, island themes like coral, pinks and purples, some African prints, very flowing and feminine, and it looks like I could just drop you somewhere in Jamaica and you would be just fine. So the line was really dedicated to my father.
What are the must haves you would recommend to every woman?
I think you should have a wrap dress in all honesty. The wrap dress, because of how I do specifically, can fit a myriad of sizes, shapes and heights. Depending on what it is for you, it could be black if that’s what you are into, I chose a bright color because I always like to have a pop of color especially with the beautiful brown skin tones. The thing about a wrap dress is you can wear it has a dress, you can put a jacket over it in the fall, put on a coat for the winter, summer time you can change it in many different ways – a halter, one shoulder, backless, strapless, pull it down and wear as a skirt with a blouse on top- it is just so versatile. I like versatility and I think it’s a wonderful piece for all sizes and shapes.
What do you like most and least about being an entrepreneur?
I think what I love the most is the freedom. The freedom to be your own boss, to make up your mind, and to move and do the things that inspire you. Sometime I believe when we work with or for other people your spirit can be indecisive because of some of the situations you end up in. As an entrepreneur you sink or swim on your own strength, and your mind has to be as sharp as a tack. The downside for me is sometimes the flow of the finances because we all have our seasons. It’s feast in the summertime, but maybe famine when the season changes. Everyone has their own formula of what works best for them
Would you be open to an invitation to participate in Caribbean Fashion Week in Jamaica?
Absolutely! Years ago I had spoken to Roger Gary who was working with Caribbean Fashion Week because I had wanted to do the show, but I had a young son at the time so it was impossible for me to travel. I am definitely open to it and a couple of other shows, such as Virgin Islands Fashion Week. The producer of that show actually participated in Queens Fashion Week this year. I have close ties to the Caribbean. I would love to do more work in Jamaica.
What advice do you have for other aspiring fashion designers?
I would say, and I have said this in another interview, if I could really give you one little piece of advice in a bottle that would be the spark, be you. A lot of people want to design and do their thing but they get sidetrack with the people who say why this don’t, or shorten, bright, stripes, or more skin outs. You have to be you. You have to design from a stand point where it feels like it’s coming from you. I was told to do shorter, not to many African, and all of that stuff. But over the years I have learned that being myself, and letting the spirit just flow for me so that I could create, people loved what I did. As long as I stayed authentic to who and what I was and what I believe. I was told to let go of the flowers and the things that are a part of my upbringing, floral fun in Jamaica I love all of those things that I grew up with and that’s how I design. People love me for that.
What is the one thing that very few people know about you?
I am multi-talented. I have studied acting. I have been on Broadway and television. I have worked with Wesley Snipes and Bill Cosby and I sing. I have sung on stage, did Mama I Want To Sing, and a few leads here and there. A lot of people don’t know this, they think ,oh she is just a designer, until someone from my past pops up and say, “she can sing and, or she can dance you know.” I have taught African dance. Most people only know me from one cosmos of my life.
What life lessons have you learned along the way?
Be true to yourself. Be true to yourself first and foremost is most high God. But, be true to who you are. Don’t try to change yourself because you think you will fit in better over here. Just be true to yourself and people will love you for who you are.