On display as well will be a retrospective of 5001 Flavors, the custom-design team whose clients have included Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Lopez and Will Smith.
Reminiscing, Ms. Daniel, 40, acknowledged that the journey has been rocky at times. “I’ve been too focused on marketing and PR and getting press to see the designers,” she said. “It’s been heartbreaking because I’ve seen that not work.”
The lack of robust payoff impelled her to change tack. “We need to make sure that this event will be financially rewarding to the designers,” Ms. Daniel said.
To that end, she has announced that the designs people see on the runway, fall looks shown in season, will be immediately available at the website Harlemsfashionrow.com. There, people can purchase pieces by Kay Rashae, Kimberly Goldson (a Season 9 “Project Runway” finalist), Undra Duncan and Fe Noel, who will each sell items priced from about $150 to $300.
“I want to have people actually call me to buy,” Ms. Daniel said. “I’m laser focused on that.”
Ms. Daniel, whose sponsors this year include Nissan and Macy’s, is offering tickets to the public as well as to fashion press and buyers. Those tickets are a staggering $500, a price offset somewhat by the $200 intended to go toward the purchase of a runway look.
Through it all she is keeping an eye on her overarching objective, which in recent months has taken on a particular urgency. “I’d love to say that we’ve gotten to a place where we’re not talking about race,” she said. “But in this political climate it would be ridiculous to say that race is a nonissue.”
“We’re still fighting for a seat at the table,” she said.
Her resolve was tested from the start. With a mix of ruefulness and amusement Ms. Daniel recalled the challenges of mounting her first show in Harlem, with 15 volunteers. “I wanted to do it in a way that felt no different than any other fashion event,” she said. “The thought had come to me that if anything African-American is attached to fashion, then it’s somehow perceived as ‘less than.’ I thought, ‘I really want to do this in a way that feels like a premium experience.’”
What could have gone wrong? Plenty, as it happened. Ms. Daniel had dispatched a friend at the 11th hour to help her build a runway. Her small team had scarcely applied a fresh coat of paint to the hastily constructed catwalk when the guests began arriving. “They waited outside for nearly an hour,” she said. “They had no idea what was going on, that they were waiting for the paint to dry.”
At the time Ms. Daniel was unflappable. “Even then, I felt, ‘This is what I’m supposed to be doing,’” she said, eyes welling.
Her conviction is buoyed by a kind of sixth sense. “Fashion was never just about the clothes to me,” she said. “There was always a feeling in me that gravitated toward something that gives you butterflies, that makes you want to cry.”
Her passion has proved infectious. “The community Brandice has built up, it’s created a crowd that is rooting for us, and opening so many doors,” said Fe Noel, a Fashion Row alumna who will parade her designs at La Marina this week. Her Fashion Row debut two years ago changed the course of her business, Ms. Noel said. Her designs have since been featured in Essence magazine and Women’s Wear Daily.
The collection Ms. Noel will show on Wednesday will be infused, intermittently, with a message of uplift, one emphatically in tune with Ms. Daniel’s own outlook. She will pair her festively sequined and beaded skirts with a series of slogan T-shirts, at least one stamped with a quotation from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness,” it will read. “Only light can do that.”
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