4 Models
Photograph of models Tuesday P. Brooks, Etta, an unidentified model, and Morgan (left to right) at a fashion show at the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building, wearing an unidentified designer, 1991.

Showing Out: Fashion in Harlem is open to all through September 30th, excluding Sundays. Exhibition hours are 10:30 AM until 5:30 PM. No reservation is needed.

As we remain mindful of each other’s safety, all visitors must continue to wear face masks onsite.

Showing Out: Fashion in Harlem is a pop-up exhibition in celebration of the 55th anniversary of the Harlem Institute of Fashion. The exhibition is curated and co-presented by Souleo and features archival images, papers, and video from the collections of Queen Bilquis a.k.a. Cynthia Harmon, Tuesday P. Brooks, Beau McCall, Hakim Mutlaq, Cedric Jose Washington, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Schomburg Center. Plus, costumes by Carolyn Adams, Queen Bilquis, Beau McCall, and Moshood. And a specially commissioned new media work by Dianne Smith including video footage by Kerwin DeVonish.

In its most positive interpretation, to “show out” is to display one’s talent and command attention. Fifty-five years ago, when Lois K. Alexander-Lane founded the Harlem Institute of Fashion (HIF) in 1966, there weren’t many opportunities for Black talent in the fashion industry to “show out” and gain greater visibility and opportunities. The institution was established during a critical turning point that saw the Civil Rights movement reaching its waning days with its calls for nonviolent protest, integration, and equality. Meanwhile, the Black Power movement was gaining popularity advocating for Black people to create and sustain their own economic, social, and political power “by any means necessary,” as famously proclaimed by Malcolm X. Through HIF, Lois was able to merge the best of both movements. 

Lois advocated for equality and integration across fashion fields, while simultaneously creating her own platform to advance the careers of Black people, and to educate the world about the contributions Blacks have made in the garment industry. To that end, as the umbrella organization, HIF branched off to include the National Association of Milliners, Dressmakers and Tailors (NAMDT) also founded in 1966 and the Black Fashion Museum (BFM) founded in 1979. Through these three organizations the HIF team provided courses, seminars, and workshops; workforce development; and the collection, documentation, display, and preservation of the work by Black creatives in fashion. 

One of the most impactful offerings by HIF were its legendary fashion shows--produced by Lois from 1979 to 1996--for the annual festival, HARLEM WEEK. With their eye-catching costumes, dramatic runway presentations, and embrace of the local community the shows became one of the most popular programs during the event. They provided an opportunity for emerging and mid-career Black designers, models, and administrators to “show out” and obtain recognition, economic empowerment, and professional development. Simultaneously, the shows allowed people to find pride and joy in the role Blacks have played throughout fashion history.  

Showing Out: Fashion in Harlem spotlights HIF’s fashion shows through archival images, papers, and video; costumes; and a specially commissioned new media work. Thereby, celebrating the organization’s efforts to amplify the contributions of Black people in fashion and to democratize the industry. The exhibition arrives when the topic of equity for Black people in fashion has received increased attention during the Black Lives Matter movement. Presenty, there are numerous calls-to-action to foster a more inclusive industry and support Black creatives in the fashion world. While some progress is being made, there is still a long catwalk ahead of us. By foregrounding the legacy of HIF, the exhibition honors the underrepresented trailblazers who were “showing out” decades ago--both on and off the runway--in the ongoing fight to advance social justice in fashion.

Historical information about the Harlem Institute of Fashion is still being unearthed by researchers.  If you have any information you wish to share please email: info@souleouniverse.com

Public Programs



w/ Carolyn Adams, Tuesday P. Brooks, Cedric Jose Washington and Souleo

Title: Showing Out: Fashion in Harlem

Date: Thursday, September 9, 2021 

Rewatch: https://livestream.com/schomburgcenter/showingout

This event and the pop-up exhibition is guest curated and co-presented by Souleo.


Curated by: Souleo

Consultants: Beau McCall, Cedric Jose Washington

Featured Designers: Carolyn Adams, Queen Bilquis a.k.a. Cynthia Harmon, Moshood, Beau McCall

Featured Artist: Dianne Smith

Featured Private Collections: Queen Bilquis a.k.a. Cynthia Harmon, Tuesday P. Brooks, Beau McCall, Hakim Mutlaq, Cedric Jose Washington

Featured Public Collections: National Museum of African American History and Culture, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Special Thanks:

Khalilah Bates, Shante' Cozier, Novella Ford, and The Schomburg Center team, Lisa Batitto, Donald Credle, Kerwin DeVonish, Hopeton G. Fisher, Jr., Monique Greenwood, Lisa Danielle Jenkins, Robert E. Knight, John W. Moyler (a.k.a. Jhonathon), Hakim Mutlaq, Elaine Nichols, Raymond Pizarro (a.k.a. Pizarro), Doug Remley, Inez Robinson, Iesha Sekou, Cosby Smiley, Tri Smith (a.k.a. Tri Hinds), Phyllis Spencer, Krystal Spriggs, Deborah Williams, Lloyd Williams, Michael Williams, All featured designers, models, administrators, collectors, and artist, The HARLEM WEEK team.

Dedicated to:

Lois K. Alexander-Lane and the Harlem Institute of Fashion team


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