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FFFWEEK Industry Awards

DESIGNER OF THE YEAR
Kenneth Doswell (Betty Jean Couture)

Kenneth Doswell is the Owner and founder of Betty Jean Couture and Doswell Manufacturing and Design House (DMDH) located at 3537 N. Williams Ave in Portland, Oregon. He grew up in the apparel industry in Pasadena, California, starting at the age of 8 years old sweeping floors and cleaning the cutting rooms for several women and men’s clothing stores. After several years of being self taught he along with his father and brother opened Betty Jean Apparel Co., named after Kenneth’s mother.

In 1999 Kenneth bought property in a historically American area of Portland, Oregon and opened Betty Jean Couture. There he not only design for his collection but also offer contract sewing and pattern making services for local designers.

Kenneth believes the market for high fashion in sizes 14 and above is under served and unappreciated. Nevertheless, he spends countless hours creating collections that are classic, tailored and simply awe inspiring.

Kenneth is married to his wife of 22 years Michelle Doswell and has 10 year old daughter who reads, write and speak fluent Mandarin Chinese.

E-ZINE OF THE YEAR
Volup2

Velvet d’Amour (from Rochester, NY) is best known via the worldwide media coverage she received after her appearance as a plus-size model in Jean-Paul Gaultier’s 2007 Spring/Summer prêt-à-porter collection shown in Paris . She also took the runway for John Galliano’s prêt-à-porter show entitled “Everybody is Beautiful”, and in the associated French Vogue editorial by Nick Knight.

Velvet’s modeling career stemmed from her passion to open societies notion of beauty to be more inclusive/diverse, and as such her goal was to infiltrate mainstream high-end editorial fashion. Thus, she has been shot by fashion photographers such as Ellen Von Unwerth, DanieleIango, Christian Anwander, Stefan Rappo, Kourtney Roy, Christian Lartillot, Saima Altunkaya, Diego Indraccolo, and many more.

D’Amour also featured in the title role of Avida, the 2006 French film directed by Gustave de Kervern and Benoît Delépine, and produced by Matthieu Kassovitz, which was selected for the 2006 Cannes and 2007 Tribeca Film Festivals amongst others. In 2010, she participated in French TV show : “La Ferme Célébrités en Afrique” where she lived caring for wild animals on a nature reserve in South Africa, earning $72,000 for her chosen charity of Missing and Abused Children (SOS ENFANTS DISPARU) by remaining in 9 of the 10 weeks. She has made TV appearances in America such as MONIQUES FAT CHANCE and ET!, on variety programs in Japan, in documentaries in Switzerland, and worldwide and just this past January she was flown to China to appear in two popular Chinese TV shows.

D’Amour’s primary occupation is as a fashion photographer and she has a website that highlights her work at www.Velvetography.com.

Seeing a lack of genuine diversity within both Plus orientated and general Women’s fashion magazines, Velvet decided to create bilingual (French/English) VOLUP2 magazine (pronounced VOL UP TWO) which has a focus on plus sizes whilst being inclusive of Women from all sizes, ages, ethnicity’s, abilities and walks of life. As D’Amour experienced success as a plus model, she photographs many plus models for Vol-Up-2, such as rising plus model Clementine Desseaux. VOLUP2 is the only fashion magazine which highlights women from size 0 to ‘Super size’, the focus is edgy fashion editorials which showcases those that fashion often leaves behind, while celebrating and encouraging body and personal positivity. Thought provoking articles about interesting and unique people are included in each issue, as well as unique regular contributors like Tess Munster and Jes the Militant Baker, and fun features like plus size paper-dolls, Women in Film, or the popular Etsy treasury have added to VOLUP2′s growing popularity. Print copies of the magazine are available on the website www.volup2.com and you can join VOLUP2′s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Volup2.

PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR
Michelle Alexandra Photography

Michelle Alexandra is a fashion and portrait photographer residing in sunny California. She grew up in the small town of Salinas, CA and studied at San Jose State University, receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Photography and Advertising.

Michelle was first introduced to the plus modeling industry in 2008 when she photographed her first professional plus size model, with Ford Modeling agency. The striking images she captured made her a sought after photographer by other industry professionals. She presently travels from coast to coast shooting model portfolios of established top models with agencies such as Wilhelmina, Dorothy Combs, Muse, IPM and Heffner models, to name a few.

Her work has been published and featured internationally in magazines such as Marie Claire Canada, People Magazine, Plus Model Magazine, Skorch and Evolve. Michelle also made two cameo appearances on the NuvoTV reality show Curvy Girls. Some of her most recent commercial clients include Jill Alexander Designs, SWAK Designs, Feminine Funk and Elsa’s Curves.

Being a curvy girl herself, Michelle Alexandra is very passionate about photographing women with curves recognizing that there is an immense lack of diversity in the popular fashion industry. She perseveres and hopes to change what is considered the “ideal image” of beauty.

MODEL OF THE YEAR
Wyinnetka Aaron

Wyinnetka Aaron, was born in St.Louis and raised in Chicago. She attended Loyola University for college before being signed to Wilhelmina Models in New York.

Aaron knew at an early age that she wanted to be a model. At the age of nine, her mother enrolled her in Cleo Johnson’s School Of Charm on the south side of Chicago where she learned the exact definition of a model: A man or a woman worthy of being imitated or followed and that definition became embedded in her mind ever since. She traveled to New York City with Cleo Johnson and found some work as a straight size model.

After spending some time in New York City and not finding much work coming her way, Aaron left and returned to Chicago. She stopped modeling for a bit and started working at a hair salon as a receptionist. During that time she was approached by a customer who asked if she had ever thought about plus-size modeling. This particular customer was good friends with Susan Georgette at Wilhelmina Models in New York. She gave Wyinnetka Aaron the phone number to call and set up an appointment with Susan. Wyinnetka went to Wilhelmina and signed a contract the same day, moved to New York, and began working immediately. Some of Aaron’s clients at that point included: Essence Magazine, Ebony, Mode Magazine, Grace Magazine, Kohls, Playtex, Walmart, Ulla Popkin, Dilliards, Stage Stores, Goody’s, Steinmart, Soft Sheen ( Pink Oil Moisturizer ) Glamour, JCPenny’s, Full Figured Fashion Week, and a host of others. Around the same time frame, Aaron was also signed with Dorothy Combs Models in Miami. After a few years into her career, Wyinnetka Aaron had the honor of being the first plus-size model to grace the cover of ESSENCE magazine. She also had the pleasure of meeting one of her role models, supermodel Iman. Iman even chose Wyinnetka to appear in her Beauty Book. Aaron found herself traveling from Chicago to New York and even abroad to Europe for clients like Evans and Marks and Spencer.

After some time in the business, Wyinnetka left Wilhelmina Models and signed with FORD Models and Heffner. During this time she had the opportunity to work with many more clients including: Ashley Stewart, Fashion Bug, Catherines, Cato, Macy’s, Target, Avenue, Kiyonna, TJMaxx, Dark & Lovely, Saks Fifth Avenue, HSN ( Tina Knowles ), and many more.

Wyinnetka’s biggest role model has always been her mother who sacrificed so much of herself to help Aaron get to where she is today.

Currently, Wyinnetka Aaron resides in Chicago but still travels for modeling jobs. She has four daughters, two of which are step daughters, which she raised from a young age. She carves out time in her schedule to speak at her neighborhood elementary school on her modeling career as well as body image. Wyinnetka aspires to on open her own charm school to help boys, girls, men and women develop charm and grace, and to build confidence in all facets of life.

ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
Erica Watson

Born and raised in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, with a BA and MA from Columbia College Chicago, Erica Watson is an actor, stand-up comedian, writer and film/television director. She appeared in the Oscar nominated film “Precious,” following starring in the feature film “Dirty Laundry.” She has also been featured on TLC’s Big Sexy, The Dr. Phil Show, The Oxygen Network, The WE Channel, Black Entertainment (BET), MSG-TV and is a recurring talking head for The TV Guide Network. Her critically acclaimed 1 woman show “Fat B!” is touring around the US, and is a funny, yet thought provoking look at America’s obsession with weight. Erica is also a blogger for the Huffington Post and a regular panelist on Chicago’s favorite morning show “Windy City Live”. Up next you can Erica in the film “Hammy The Bear” directed by Chris Rock and “Empire” a new FOX drama by Lee Daniels.

BLOG OF THE YEAR
Stylish Curves

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Alissa Wilson, the creator of Stylish Curves, is a body positive crusader and influential fashion blogger in the plus size industry. Stylish Curves offers daily fashion articles on fashion trends, plus size celebrity style, plus size designers and retail brands. Alissa even offers her own personal fashion style and guidance for plus size women.

With over five years of blogging under her belt, Alissa has turned Stylish Curves into a fashion website with a small staff of writers. In July of 2013, Stylish Curves hit over 1 million unique monthly visitors and is still growing. It is Stylish Curves’ mission to change the antiquated ideas and perceptions of plus size women with her blog. While Stylish Curves prominently focuses on fashion, Alissa also writes body positive articles to help uplift the spirits of plus size women. It’s so important for her to let young women know that no matter their size, they are beautiful and should live their lives brazenly and boldly.

ICON OF THE YEAR
Audrey Smaltz

In the fast-paced world of fashion, few have the power to adapt to meet the ever- changing trends. Yet, with remarkable foresight and inventiveness, Audrey Smaltz has not only endured but thrived. After more than 50 years in the fashion industry, she has created a niche that secures her place as one of fashion’s most innovative entrepreneurs.

A proud New York native, Smaltz was born in 1937 and grew up in Harlem River Houses, a promising urban enclave that was also the childhood residence of the prominent psychiatrist Dr. Alvin Poussaint and the civil right leader Bob Moses. After attending the Harriet Beecher Stowe Girls Junior High School, Smaltz entered New York City’s High School of Music and Art. At age 15, she was offered her first modeling job with the then- New York Giants as one of Willie Mays’s “Say Hey” girls, booked by he late Mrs. Ophelia Devore of the Del Marco Model Agency. She later earned her B.A. from City College of New York and worked for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, she but continued to pursue her career as a model and fashion commentator.
Smaltz began to find her true footing in the fashion world when she was hired as a model and spokeswoman at Bloomingdale’s in 1962, and then two years later became an assistant fashion coordinator. In 1965, she accepted a position with Lane Bryant, working as a model, buyer, and fashion coordinator.

In 1970 Smaltz was hired as the Fashion Editor for the Ebony Magazine and commentator the Ebony Fashion Fair in Chicago. Her exquisite style, irresistible charm, and down- to earth humor made her an instant hit on the fashion show circuit. Furthermore, Smaltz had a keen eye for clothes, something she honed on her trips to Europe with Fashion Fair’s founder, Eunice Johnson.
She also had a knack for turning adversity into opportunity. As Ebony magazine’s fashion reporter, she was often stuck in bad seats- or offered no seat at all- at European fashion shows. Undaunted, she went backstage to inspect the clothes, and seeing the chaos behind the scenes, she recognized an immediate need in the fashion industry. In 1977 she started the Ground Crew, a management team that handles every detail of backstage operations, including dressing the models to perfection. The name, “The Ground Crew”, is inspired by an1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech from Martin Luther King in which he states: “Every time I take a flight, I am always reminded of the people who make a successful journey possible- the known pilots and the unknown ground crew….You honor the ground crew without whose labor and sacrifices the jets flights to freedom could never have left the earth.”

Since its first show in 1982, the Ground Crew has worked for some of fashion’s top designers, including Giorgio Armani, Jason Wu, Donna Karan, Victoria’s Secret, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Stephen Burrows, and Vera Wang, among others. Celebrities such as Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, and Jackie Joyner Kersey have also enlisted the outfit’s talents.

Smaltz herself has worked with numerous major corporations, among them, Macy’s, Sak’s Fifth Avenue, Vogue, Black Entertainment Television and Target. She was a contributing editor to Vogue, Mirabella, and Mode magazines and a board member of the Black Fashion Museum, Dress for Success Worldwide, the Gracie Mansion Conservancy, and Fashion Group International, and BRAG. She has also appeared on QVC, Oprah Winfrey and the Today Show, just to name a few.

In the fickle world of fashion, Smaltz has proven her staying power time and time again. More than a polished fashionista, she possesses business acumen and adaptability that are as sharp as her style. Her revolutionary approach paves the way for other enterprising fashion entrepreneurs, as well as giving inspiring makeup artists and stylist invaluable exposure. Equally important, it brings much –needed order and grace to an often- chaotic industry. After all, as Smaltz and her indispensable Ground Crew have demonstrated, beauty begins “behind the seams.”

RETAILER OF THE YEAR
Simply Be

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