Couture Comes to Town With First-Ever Jersey City Fashion Week

Move over, New York. JC is getting in on the fashion game too with the first-ever Jersey City Fashion Week kicking off Friday.

Founder Desha Jackson was inspired to start the event when she saw Jersey City’s potential and cultural growth.

“Jersey City has great connections and people,” says the Ocean County resident. “Downtown is an up-and-coming area with a lot of restaurants and boutiques. There’s a lot of culture there… It’s a great community.”

Jackson fell in love with Jersey City while working as a lawyer first for the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office and now as a sports and entertainment attorney in town. One day, she and one of her colleagues were discussing New York Fashion Week, which recently ended, and New Jersey’s answer to the event, which was held in Hoboken last year. As they spoke, she realized Jersey City could host its own fashion-centric event.

“My friend said, ‘Well, you have a sports and entertainment agency, you can actually do this.’ And I’ve helped to plan several fashion shows before because I was president of several organizations and nonprofits dealing with women and the law that would hold these shows as fundraisers,” says Jackson, who also runs the DLJ (Desha L. Jackson) Give to Live Community Foundation, which helps children, women and the elderly through fashion, entertainment and sporting events.

With her long history of planning and running big productions for nonprofit organizations, Jackson says it was a no-brainer to make JC’s fashion week not only promote local designers and boost the local economy but also benefit local charities. While Jersey City Fashion Week has a slew of events scheduled, Jackson says there are four main ticketed shows that will benefit Dress for Success Hudson County, Boys and Girls Clubs of Hudson County, York Street Project, and Stages, Art House Productions’ youth theater program.

Jackson also wants to highlight local and New Jersey designers alongside others she recruited from places like New York and even India.

“One of the designers has more high fashion dresses and we also have an urban designer from Brooklyn, two student designers — one from Parsons and another from LA — and we have some swimwear as well as some couture gowns,” she says. “We have a little bit of high fashion and also some urban wear — we want to mix it up.”

Some of the participating designers and businesses include Diane and Co. of Jersey Couture fame (Two stars of the Oxygen network show, Kimberly Gambale and Christina Scali, will host JCFW events) as well as Jersey City’s Chrome Apparel and KC Kids’ Consignment in Hoboken, both of which will outfit kids at a benefit event for the Boys and Girls Club.

Jersey City will be represented on the JCFW runway as well. JC resident and participating designer Stephanie “Jack” Jacquez (shown at left), for example, will be showing eveningwear inspired by her mother’s homeland, the Dominican Republic.

The 22-year-old Parsons student says her most recent designs are a departure from the whimsical, brightly colored, costume-like looks she tends to create. Her instructors told her to try toning things down and making items for young women that were more wearable.

“These dresses are a lot more reserved than normal stuff I usually draw. I usually use a lot of bright colors but this time I’m using beiges, pinks and browns,” she says.

Jacquez has showed in numerous fashion shows for charity before and is happy to be able to do it again, especially on her turf. “It’s just an honor to get a way to put my work out there in my hometown,” she says. “I love giving back through fashion, so this is great for me.”

Jackson hopes that JCFW will be a boon for not just local charities or designers, but the entire city.

“I want everyone who’s working for and who’s given money to this effort to see that it actually has substance, that it raises money for charities, that people enjoyed it and that businesses in Jersey City benefiting from people coming into the city,” she says, adding that the event will only succeed with community support. “Someday I would love to say that we have 1,500 people in the city during that week. I want to get there and also be able to write good checks for these charities.”

Here’s a list of events planned for JCFW:

Friday, Sept. 21: An opening night reception hosted by Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise and the Board of Freeholders featuring Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy. There will be musical performances and more at this event, which will benefit Art House Productions’ kids theater program Stages. (Michael Anthony’s, 502 Washington Blvd., 6 pm, $35).

Saturday, Sept. 22: JCFW Night of Lights, when participating shops and restaurants offer discounts to patrons to showcase fashion, dining and fun in historic Downtown Jersey City. Guests should mention JCFW to receive discounts. Participants include: Sanai’s, The Pointe, Azucar, Micheal Anthony’s, N’joyable Hair Design, Dressed to A T Boutique, Monique Technic, Skylark on the Hudson, Exotik Fashion Boutique and Brightside Tavern.

There will also be a Flash on Runway Art Night at fish with braids gallery featuring works by designers Uta Brauser and Mark Tauriello as well as music by DJ Pastiche and Bill McCamie (fish with braids gallery, 190 Columbus Dr., 8 pm, $15).

Sunday, Sept. 23: Style Tips hosted by Rayshawna Fraser, founder of GLAAM and celebrity jewelry designer. Fraser will give tips on hair, makeup and style (Brightside Tavern, 141 Bright St., 5 pm).

Monday, Sept. 24: Children’s Fashion Show benefiting and featuring kids from the Boys and Girls Club of Hudson County and Images Just4UModels wearing clothes from KC Kids’ Consignment and Chrome Apparel. The event will be hosted by Melissa Chaile of nonprofit The Sorority of Hip-Hop and all-female hip-hop blog Christopher Beavens will speak to the kids about the fashion industry. Michael Anthony’s will provide food. (Boys and Girls Club, 1 Canal St., 5:30 pm, $20).

Tuesday, Sept. 25: Find Your Style presented by Old Navy, where customers will have the opportunity to be outfitted by a stylist and can enter to win a $250 shopping spree. (Old Navy, 701 Rt. 440, 5 pm).

Wednesday, Sept. 26: Women of Influence Show benefiting York Street Project, featuring prominent New Jersey women in business, media and government like My9 news anchor Brenda Blackmon, ABC correspondent Linsey Davis, Two River Times publisher Diane Gooch and former South Orange mayor Joyce Harley. The ladies will wear clothes and accessories from Closet in Englewood. (Liberty National Golf Club, 100 Caven Point Rd., 7 pm, $75).

Thursday, Sept. 27: The Model and Designer Meet and Greet offers locals a chance to rub elbows with the fashionistas who will be featured in Friday’s Emerging Designer show (VB3 Restaurant, 475 Washington Blvd., 6 pm).

Friday, Sept. 28: Emerging Designer Fashion Show hosted by Kimberly Gambale and Christina Scali of Jersey Couture. Their brother Anthony Scali will DJ the event. Proceeds will benefit Dress for Success. There will also be performances by local talent, including a special appearance from one of Jersey City’s most famous ukulele players, Mayor Healy (Liberty State Park concourse terminal building, 1 Audrey Zapp Dr., 6 pm, $20).

Navegante for the Loud Music Benefit Concert, presented by Soar Nation, follows the fashion show with performances from acts like electro-funk band Navegante, reggae band Judah Tribe, hip-hop/soul-rock group The Band Called Fuse, and MC Silent Knight. Jersey City R&B and hip-hop artist M. Josephine will host. Proceeds will benefit all four of JCFW’s charities. (Liberty State Park concourse terminal building, 1 Audrey Zapp Dr., 8 pm, $9.28 on

For more information, visit the JCFW website.

Top photo courtesy JCFW; middle photo courtesy of Jack Jaquez

Summer Dawn Hortillosa

is a freelance arts and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in the Jersey City Independent, The Jersey Journal, the International and other publications. She is also a creative writer and theatrical director.