When abstract expressionist paintings and a beautifully hand-stitched dress collide to find their way into the closets of fashion junkies, it must be the work of Jakia Handy. The young and zealous Harlem-based designer is the talent behind Ingram Talley, and at only 26, she is making a sure and steady rise on the local fashion scene. As the line is a combination of her grandmothers’ last names, Handy pays homage to geneaology through timeless style. “When I think about what I want to do with my clothes, I really want to have future vintage pieces. Pieces that my nieces and my nephews and my grandkids will still want to wear.” This kind of foresight enables Handy to channel her artistic interests of fine art, sculptures and music into all her designs. Her creations diverge from a pattern in contemporary fashion in which the disposable nature of clothes is too commonplace. “I think people take it for granted because we wear them everyday, but they’re really art pieces when done well. If you have a fabulous jacket that you really had a blast with in your twenties, why do you just have to get rid of it? I don’t like the fact that clothes die but art doesn’t.”
Taking her word literally, Handy picks out her favorite piece that exemplifies the Ingram Talley commitment to wearable art: The Mahogany Dress, which is a reprint of a Norman Lewis painting. Thus, art is taken from the museum walls and made street-savvy where it can be widely appreciated for its aesthetic qualities. Browsing through Handy’s spring collection will highlight just how creatively she can practice what she preaches. One of her most complicated, timely and elaborate pieces is The Josephine, tipping its lassoed look to the iconic songstress and dancer, Josephine Baker.
But while Ingram Talley tailors for the young, vibrant woman, Handy also designs for the fellas who equally love couture. She makes a line of bow ties out of Dutch wax print fabrics from her findings at the African market.
Though now a New Yorker, Handy spent countless summers with family in Memphis, and reveals that she continues to harbor a Southern spirit. This sentiment is gastronomically reflected as her personal food favorites include cornbread, red velvet cupcakes and shrimp and grits. Yet being a vegetarian forces her to get creative when venturing into the land of traditional soul food and to rely on fish and vegetables to satisfy her culinary cravings. “I always used to say that if I wasn’t a fashion designer I really think I would do something with cooking. I love to mix flavors like I love to mix clothes.” Her surefire potluck hit is a cornbread salad that stacks seven layers of crumbled cornbread, sour cream, tomatoes, onions, pinto beans, bell peppers, cheddar cheese and (fake) bacon.
And what would a fashionista offer as her summer tips for all price ranges? For the woman on a budget, Handy cannot overemphasize the importance of a good pair of flats with a dash of flair, allowing the intern or entry-level lady to zip around the city in style. Dressing up shorts is also an unexpected twist on a summer classic. For those with a little more cash to spend, she says to never skimp on a good bag. As for gentlemen, bold bow ties, of course.
If there’s one thing to be learned from the Ingram Talley philosophy, it would be to think twice about tossing that beautiful statement piece that holds sentimental value–no matter how many years have passed since it last debuted. Handy suggests making a shadowbox and hanging it up on the wall, like the art it was always meant to be.
Peruse the entire collection and read more about Handy’s vision here.