When we imagine art, we usually think of watercolors or white marble statues in galleries. We rarely think of the clothes we see in clothing stores and in our own closets as art. However, the intricate layered fabrics and luxurious details that make up the garments say otherwise. Fashion designers are masterful artists who create wearable art with only the aid of a needle and thread. Their art is displayed, not in a stationary art gallery, but on living, sculpture-like models sliding down a track. On May 1, you can admire fine art for yourself at the Legacy Fashion Show in Omaha.
The exhibition will be led and operated by black and African minority groups who will proudly give the public a glimpse of the garments that best represent their different cultures.
This fashion show takes place at The Venue at Highlander Accelerator, a modern building made up of steel rods and numerous skylights. The show will present five collections consisting of 15 to 19 pieces that vary from traditional African dress to some American styles. All designs are created by Mourdjana Batcha, owner and founder of MJ Queen Beauty & Fashion, an Omaha boutique.
Batcha, who goes by the name MJ, began her textile career in her car, traveling to friends and family to alter their clothes by hand. She is self-taught and learned to sew by hand before using a sewing machine.
“The first real piece of clothing I made was a skirt for someone going to a church conference,” Batcha said. “I had never made a skirt before and I was so excited. I didn’t want to spend time learning how to use a machine, so I sewed everything by hand. It was such an eye-opening experience. I understood that I was made for this.”
After becoming better known for her sewing skills, Batcha moved her shop out of her car and opened MJ Queen Beauty & Fashion in 2011. The store originally focused on making African-style bespoke clothing. Customers would bring their own fabrics or choose from the selection of fabrics Batcha had in her store, and she would sew the desired garments. Since then, Batcha has expanded to include American-style clothing and now has an entire team to help create and modify clothing for Omaha residents.
According to Batcha, organizing a full fashion show is no small feat. Although this is the Legacy Fashion Show’s second year, making sure everything runs smoothly can still be difficult. Fortunately, Batcha has a whole team behind her.
“I’ve been to several other fashion shows, but this one is the most stressful because it’s all mine,” Batcha said. “It’s big, annoying and scary. The easiest thing for me was to decide to do it. I am also very grateful to the team that I have. Without them, this show would not be possible.
One such member of her team is Charity Williams, a model participating in the Legacy Fashion Show wearing three different Batcha looks. She explained that the opportunity to walk the show had just fallen in her lap after an entrepreneurship meeting from The Omaha Star.
“When I was leaving the meeting, MJ was handing out fliers about modeling on the show,” Williams said. “The deadline to register was like the next day too. It was really on a whim.”
Not only did the universe create the fashion show for Williams, but she is also passionate about the fashion show’s message of minority empowerment. She explained that the show is primarily created and run by black and African people.
“I love how minority groups drive the show. It conveys the deeper message that ‘Black girls can be beautiful too’ and the overall theme of African and Black empowerment,” Williams said. I’m also very honored that MJ trusts me to wear his clothes and represent his culture.”
Williams is very passionate about modeling and she hopes to express her love for clothes and modeling this weekend at the Legacy Fashion Show.
“To me, modeling is art. If you do it right, audience members should feel just as cool as the models, much like the feeling you get when looking at a piece of art, like you’re part of the art,” Williams said.
According to Batcha, the fashion show will express an important message about the clothes. For her, clothes are deeper than fabrics and threads, and she wants everyone to realize that too.
“Fashion has an absolute impact on our lives and how we feel on a daily basis,” Batcha said. “My hope is that after my show, people will see fashion differently in African textiles and in the fashion industry as a whole.”