2017 Runway finalist does dreamy fashions



Most of Kenya Freeman’s fashion-design ideas come to her while she’s sleeping … which makes for a bed full of notebooks, sticky notes and pencils.

“I wake up, sketch and fall back to sleep,” she says.

The result of those dreams and sketches: pieces that are classic, but feature jewel tones along with other bold colors and reflect Freeman’s willingness to mix and match just about any print or pattern.

The Atlanta-based, Project Runway Season 16 finalist will show her design magic as a special guest at Little Rock Full Figure Fashion Weekend, taking place June 21-23 and hosted by the Kurvy Kuties Modeling Group.

As the senior lead designer and chief executive officer of Sylvia Mollie Collections — a company named for her mother and grandmother respectively — Freeman dresses “anyone who wants to feel beautiful, classy and empowered.”

The Norfolk, Va., native studied fashion design at American Intercontinental University in Atlanta. She first made her mark on the fashion scene in 2013, where she showed a collection at WWD Magic in Las Vegas. In 2016 she won the Emerging Artist Award from the city of Atlanta.

She always knew she wanted to work in the fashion realm; she just had no idea how she’d go about it, Freeman says. “My inner designer didn’t show itself until midway through college. Even after college there was uncertainty of what I would do. Becoming a ‘brand’ came many years down the line.”

Of her creations, Freeman’s favorite is the petal-leaf dress she created during her time on Project Runway in 2017.

“This particular challenge was the Warrior Women challenge,” she recalls. “We got to hear stories from a lot of ladies [who] battled with breast cancer and are now survivors … After hearing their stories, I cried like a baby. I was uncertain of what I’d create to represent the strength and courage they have displayed. Literally, at the ninth hour, it came to me.” She made the dress with as many petals as she had fabric to create them. “Each petal to me represented what women have to carry on their shoulders each and every day.”

The dress made the pages of Marie Claire magazine “[To] this day, it’s a dress I still make often, and one I take the upmost pride in making,” Freeman says.

Right now, Freeman is working on two collections simultaneously. One, a Sylvia Mollie Signature collection, is a mix of classic design and athleisure comprised mostly of black-and-white pieces. “Black-and-white stripe is my favorite” among the prints, she says.

The other collection is Freeman’s plus-size line, Curved by Sylvia Mollie, which will offer “some beautiful shapes” — and, of course, prints.

“I am most passionate about this collection because it also represents me,” she says.


The 10th annual Little Rock Full Figure Fashion Weekend will welcome Keisha Richard Patterson back as host, along with DJ Choca Flood, also known as Derrty DJ Deja Blu. Events include:

• A Brows and Beards workshop, 6:30-7:30 p.m. June 21 at Studio 501, 6701 W. 12th St., No. 4; women will learn how to shape and groom their eyebrows; men will learn how to grow and maintain a beard. Drinks and appetizers will be served. Tickets: $10.

• Patio Day Party, 2-5 p.m. June 22 at The Rail Yard Little Rock — The Urban Beer Garden, 1212 E. Sixth St. Suite 1; meet-and-greet with models, food, a signature cocktail, games and dancing. Admission: free to VIP ticket holders; $10 otherwise.

• Its Fashion Metro Summer Show, 11 a.m June 22, 8824 Geyer Springs Road; free preview of the store’s latest fashions.

• VIP Day Soiree, 3-5 p.m. June 23, Big Whiskey’s American Bar & Grill, 225 E Markham St.; heavy hors d’oeuvres, drinks and a meet-and-greet with Freeman. Free for VIP ticket holders.

• The Main Show, 6 p.m. June 23, Statehouse Convention Center. Featured designers, labels and stores: Kimbie Akins (Kurvy Kuties Clothing); Plush Vagabonds; Culture Clothing; Jay Karriem, a ladies shoe designer; Figure 8 Curve of Memphis; Dolce Vita; and Off The Cranium, a hat brand. Returning will be the Men of Brawn segment — a showcase of big-and-tall men’s attire. VIP ticket holders will receive special seating and swag bags. Tickets prices: $30 in advance, $35 at the door; $50 VIP; children up to age 12, $10.

Partial proceeds from the fashion weekend will benefit One Thumbs Up, an organization dedicated to empowering youth with epilepsy and special needs; and the Central Arkansas Boys and Girls club. Tickets are available at Eventbrite.com.


You’ve got your warm-weather clothing wardrobe together. How about that jewelry wardrobe? Spring ’19 jewelry abounds with such trends as heavy hoops, enamel, chains, coins, charms, drop earrings, particularly crystal drop earrings, and heart designs, according to online fashion sources.

In the world of fine jewelry, trends also come and go. One of the biggest trends noted by Bill Jones, chief executive officer of Arkansas jewelry boutique chain Sissy’s Log Cabin: yellow gold. “We’re seeing so much more of that in necklaces and watches, engagement rings,” he says. “It’s been tremendous.”

Also popular has been rose gold — “fantastic with skin tones.” Jones credits luxury watch purveyor Rolex with having driven its popularity.

One trend is on point both with fine and costume jewelry: “Hoop earrings have always been fantastic,” Jones says.

“We’re seeing a big upsurge in color too, especially with rubies and emeralds — and tanzanite,” he adds.

Another big trend comes in a new cut of diamond: fire polish. When buying diamonds about a year ago, Jones says, he saw a cut of diamond he knew would revolutionize the diamond industry. “They’ve added 100,000 additional grooves to the bottom of this diamond, [which] improves the brilliance by 300 percent,” he says, adding that Sissy’s will take a customer’s existing round cut diamond and re-cut it into a fire polish.

Also, everything old is new again, including the resurgence of diamond baguette engagement rings. Other trends: the layering of necklaces of difference sizes, lengths and metals along with stackable rings and bracelets — specifically ones by labels such as Lagos or David Yurman. It’s “just fun, mod-looking jewelry,” Jones says.

Can’t afford gold, diamonds and Rolexes? Pandora has an extensive line of sterling jewelry for less than $100, as does Lagos … earrings, pearl bracelets, bangle bracelets, Jones says. The flagship Sissy’s store in Pine Bluff has a gift shop with costume and fashion jewelry by Kendra Scott and other labels.

For that special man on Father’s Day, Sissy’s awaits with men’s cuff links and necklaces, in which Jones has seen a big surge. “Yurman does a fantastic job in their men’s category.”

More from Jones in the next column.

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Designer Kenya Freeman, the Atlanta-based, Project Runway Season 16 finalist, will show her creations at Little Rock Full Figure Fashion Weekend.

High Profile on 06/09/2019


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