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People gathered at MERGE on the afternoon of Oct. 21 to view a documentary of two eastern Iowa fashion designers as they maneuvered their way through New York Fashion Week. This event was held as a Witching Hour event put on by the Englert, 221 E. Washington St., and Little Village.

“I wanted to show that it is possible for people from Iowa to do this type of thing,” said Andre Wright, the founder of Born Leaders United. “We wanted to capture the story of what actually happened and have a conversation about it.”

“For me in particular, the energy of New York Fashion was very inspiring, but it kind of put things in perspective,” said Emily Carlson, the founder of Written Apparel. “So I am doing what I can with fashion here, and I pretty much want to do everything I can to get Iowa on the map.”

The documentary focuses on Wright and Carlson behind the scenes of their individual businesses before the camera pans to taxi cabs, skyscrapers, busy streets, and individuals dressed in high-fashion — the world that is New York City.

While crashing New York Fashion Week, Carlson and Wright set out to promote their individual brands and their messaging.

Carlson creates high-quality pencil skirts, and she has recently expanded her Written Apparel to include T-shirts as well. The documentary follows her as she fumbles with more suitcases than she can carry.

“When you go to New York, there are lots of people interested in fashion,” Carlson said. “We were standing there, and there were people rolling racks of clothes down the sidewalk, so it’s not as big of deal there [as it is in Iowa.”

Carlson and her team arrived in New York prepared to compete with such competition, which involved her meeting with Allure magazine editorial assistant Shammara Lawrence.

“I am not getting my hopes up,” Carlson said about the event and the brutal competition in New York’s fashion industry.

Wright, in addition to promoting Born Leaders United, used his street-style fashion brand as a platform to voice social-justice concerns.

“I want to stand up for people who don’t have a voice,” Wright said.

The camera followed him as he sported sweatshirts that read, “HUMANIZE MY HOODIE,” which is a nod to his “Humanize My Hoodie” campaign.

Wright wants to vocalize the injustice and stigma that black individuals receive when they wear hoodies. Wright purposefully wore his Humanize My Hoodie Sweatshirt in New York during Fashion Week to spur interest in the movement, which is exactly what happened. People began asking him about the sweatshirt and the movement, sparking conversations that he wanted to have.

Unfortunately, the documentary did not show footage of Carlson and Wright together as they tried to collaborate on a new fashion collection, titled “New Perspective.”

During a discussion following the documentary screening, Carlson and Wright stressed that they were both focused and busy with promoting their individual fashion brands that the collaboration did not develop as they had anticipated.

Wright compared the collaboration attempt to music collaborations that also fall through, noting that even though their collaboration did not work out, the professional friendship between him and Carlson remains intact.

People can look forward to more to come with Written Apparel and Born Leaders United as the brands expand and make their individual marks in the fashion industry.

“I want to empower women to feel amazing and be unapologetic about what they are doing and what they are wearing,” Carlson said. “You can still be professional and look and feel amazing.”

“Fashion is not looking like everyone else. It’s just being ‘you,’ ” said Wright. “Being authentic is the best style you can have.”

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