Meet the NYFW hiTechMODA Designer whose love for Fashion molded her into the Female Black Entrepreneur who took charge
This September, Phyllis Emelda will show five collections during NYFW on hiTechMODA Season 8 runways. The Phyllis Emelda Collection spans the generations, from a tasteful Streetwear Collection to an all-new Wardrobe in a Box—designed for women who work and travel—to Drama Dressing composed of contemporary styles for the more fashionable, and then the Coature Collection (Just Coats by Phyllis Emelda).
The Coature collection features fabrics from faux fur to silk, tapestry, and chiffon. Phyllis Emelda will be finishing with The Signature Collection, a couture line of dresses and suits.
Phyllis is a designer whose work has spanned the past 4 decades and whose life and work will be heralded in her biography, 45 Eldridge, written by Dr. Morissa Schwartz, owner of DrRissysWriting.com with an exclusive reception being held during NYFW at the prestigious Hotel Edison, NYC.
Phyllis 4 decades-long career will be heralded in her biography, 45 Eldridge
Phyllis Emelda grew up in the inner-city of Oakland, California. surrounded by an enormous extended family that gathered every Sunday to share and feel blessed to be together. Even at a young age, she was never one to play games or act like a silly child. Instead, she saved her money to buy potato chips which she used to reward her cousins when they came to her “classroom” to learn. Even then, Phyllis took charge.
Though the times were turbulent, there was always family love and protection. It was the height of the Civil Rights Movement, and Phyllis saw firsthand the development of the Black Panther Party just down the street. She began to understand their concept because, at a young age, she had witnessed her brothers, cousins, and uncles being dropped on her Mama’s porch by police after being badly beaten. Despite all this unrest, Phyllis was able to begin her lifelong journey in fashion at age 12. Out of necessity, she learned to make patterns and sew clothing from her mother, utilizing techniques passed down through generations, which she still uses today.
Phyllis was never a calm or patient child and found herself having problems and getting in trouble in school. Finally, her Aunt Nina took Phyllis under her wing. Nina put Phyllis under the tutelage of Eric Watson, who was the highest regarded teacher of modeling instruction in the Bay Area at that time. Modeling became very important to Phyllis, and by the age of 17, she started Designs Flair Modeling Academy. At Designs Flair, she taught etiquette, fashion, and photographic modeling to young hopefuls in the area. At 18, Phyllis signed her first major modeling contract with I Magnum & Company. She was traveling and modeling herself and soon was chosen to represent one of the world’s most significant international fashion lines – but tragedy struck and derailed her journey.
After years of uncertainty, guilt, and pain Phyllis set out again on her path with fashion. She took courses and received certificates in all facets of fashion design. Phyllis began to create her fashion line with sewing and selling clothing in her front yard. She found she was pretty good with it and her clientele grew immediately. She eventually came to have five stores of her own around the Bay area, selling her own designs exclusively. Then once again, times turned.
By this time, Phyllis’s mother was elderly with diabetes, bone degeneration, and the onset of dementia. Phyliss and her brothers decided it should be Phyllis who should become their beloved mother’s caregiver. So, she closed her stores and began caring for her mother and her own two children, yet still found time to create her line of fashion.
After years of illness, Phyllis’s mother passed away in 2001. It was heartbreaking to Phyllis, her immediate family, and her siblings. Her mother taught her to sew and design, so Phyllis was devastated by her mother’s loss; it was ten years before Phyllis could get back on the runway. During that time, she studied and developed her collections. She wanted to develop collections that all women could wear, which would address all women’s sizes and physical needs. Phyllis wanted to help women feel good about themselves. She specialized in tall and large women’s styles but also designed for specialized needs, such as for women who had a mastectomy.
During this time, Phyllis had produced fashion shows and trained models and became recognized for extravagant performances with choreography, special effects, theatrics, and her beautiful clothing lines. In 2011 Phyllis had her first Mother’s Day Fashion Show and Luncheon in honor of her mother. Her Mother’s Day Fashion Show Luncheons became a well-recognized and sought-after event in the area. She then did Northern California’s Costco Road Show and had her line in Sam’s Club, Walmart, and even at San Francisco Opera and Thunder Valley Casino and Resort. Finally, she began doing the California circuit of the annual Harvest Festival and many of California’s Art & Wine Festivals, where her line was considered art.
Phyllis has had many ups and downs throughout her fashion career, but one thing has always been consistent: her enthusiasm and her need to create always brought her back fighting and stronger than before. She is one of the few fashion designers whose work and business are vertically integrated. Her creations are Phyllis, from conception thru creation to the consumer; she does it all. As a result, her clothes are easy to wear, comfortable, fashionable, and fit every “body,” making her designs one of few to span all body types and sizes.
As a black female entrepreneur, the road has been long and filled with detours, wrong turns, and dead ends where opportunities and financial assistance should have been. There has been a significant lack of exposure. Those who see her work are blown away by what Phyllis Emelda has done. She is looking forward to this next chapter in her life as a fashion designer. Sharing her art with the world is her greatest desire and wildest fantasy of how incredibly wonderful it will be.