Style Session: FTF Warm Weather Fall Look

Fall fashion is everyone’s favorite, me included. I love the layers and extra accessories, as well as the nude and earth toned colors. Simply put, fall fashion is my aesthetic, and I love it here.

Most of you know I have an ongoing partnership with one of my favorite plus exclusive brands, Fashion to Figure. Because of this, I decided to start better documenting the outfits I style with their pieces and get consistent with blogging the style details again, and what better time than Fall to start?

I wanted to do a cute & casual warm weather fall look, with semi basic pieces, so I started with the Black Ultra High Rise Self Tie Skinny Jeans. These pants are ultra-fitted with a good amount of stretch. I especially love the self-tie belt because it gives that extra detail to your outfit whether you do a crop top or a bodysuit.

I coupled the pants with the Naomi Animal Print Ruched Blouse. This is my favorite crop top of the season so far. I love the sleeves, the material, and the neckline. More than that, I love the crop tie strings that allow you to adjust the shirt’s length.
To style, I added a black wide brim hat with gold detail from forever 21, and these very comfy red strappys from Torrid, paired with a red lip. Because my shoes have the bow detail around the ankle, I cuffed my skinnys, and what do you know? A look!

This Blog was sponsored by Fashion to Figure and you can use my code, FTFARI, for money off on all of your orders from fashiontofigure.com.

Reves et Cauchemar: A Fashion Production

Fashion shows don’t happen often in Pittsburgh, especially black fashion shows, especially black fashion shows with French names. It’s just not Pittsburgh’s “thing,” if you will. However, last Saturday was the premiere of Reves et Cauchemar, or for the sake of this blogger and the French language, Dreams and Nightmares: A Fashion Production. Jeremey Johnson of JKansepts and Reesha Jackson of RLJDesigns teamed up to bring what I would describe as, the show that could take the city form Pittsburgh, home of the Stillers, to Pittsburgh, that city with the New York mixed with Atlanta, vibe.

Producers Jeremy Johnson and Reesha Jackson

“My goal was providing a platform for guests to experience a fusion of art and fashion,” says Reesha. “I wanted this to be more than just a  show, but an experience including shopping, a live artist, and networking opportunities.”

That’s exactly what the duo produced, an experience. Yes, it was that real. No, I’m not exaggerating. The show consisted of 2 runways, sold out VIP and standing room, a red carpet, an in house pop up shop called the Fashion Village, and 8 incredible designers. Among the showcased designers were Destination Royalty, Zaughn Collection, Ooh Baby, Groov Gang, Shop Sittoy, E Adonis, Cherish by Cherie, and of course, JKancepts opened and closed the show. Not only was the show itself amazing, but with the incorporated ballet dancing, flute performance, dancing, live art painting, and nods to Jordan Peele’s US, it truly lived up to its name as fashion production.

Now, I know folks are here for the photos, so let’s just get to it, shall we?

JKancepts by Jeremy Johnson

Destination: Royalty by Asia Monique

Zaughn Collection

Ooh Baby

Groov Gang

Shop Sittoy

E Adonis

Cherish by Cherie

JKancepts

Ari wearing a deep V, high double slit, yellow print romper from Kingz & Queenz Boutique

I thoroughly enjoyed the show and can’t wait to see how Pittsburgh continues to incorporate more cultural events amid the clash of our traditional steel. I would like to see more plus options in the future, but some the designs that were showcased in straight sizes are also available in plus, so I appreciate that. I got my romper and necklace from Kingz & Queenz Boutique. My shoes are from Ashley Stewart.

Shateesha Murphy and Voluptuous Lady Boutique: Changing the Pittsburgh Plus-Size Scene

Shateesha Murphy is changing the plus size game in Pittsburgh. Her plus size brand, Voluptuous Lady Boutique, is already a hot commodity among plus people in Pittsburgh due to the exclusive and unique styles offered, but now she’s ready to turn it up a few notches. Last Saturday, VLB held the third annual all plus size fashion show and experience, Curvy and Bold at The Hill House Center Kauffman Auditorium. As her name and boutique continue to grow, she wants people to know, this isn’t just a brand, it’s a movement. I had the privilege of sitting down and learn more about Shateesha, and everything she’s been working on.

Shateesha and Ari, backstage at Curvy and Bold Fashion Show

Meet Shateesha.

Shateesha Murphy is a Pittsburgh native, mother of 2, entrepreneur, and lover of plus size fashion. She recalls always loving fashion but not always having cute clothes due to the lack of style typically offered for plus-size. Now in business for 5 years, she explains her sons are what keep her motivated to be the best mother, woman, and example she can be. Though it’s not always easy, Shateesha stays motivated by inspiring her sons and her clients to be their best.

Ari: You are one of the hottest plus brands in Pittsburgh!  What first inspired you to launch VLB? 

Shateesha: Wow thank you so much! I appreciate that because I’ve come along way.Voluptuous lady was inspired by both my love of fashion, and frustration with the lack of options available to plus-size, or as I like to be referred to as queen-size women like myself, in the fashion industry. Growing up I can remember having such a hard time finding clothes that weren’t like, moo-moos and frumpy with flowers. I vowed that one day I would have my own version of beautiful fashions for all my queen-size beauties to shop!

Ari: What are some of the struggles you’ve faced as a WOC business owner? 

Shateesha: To be honest , I haven’t had many as of yet. If had to say one thing, it would be the lack of funding and obtaining capital, especially when I first launched back in 2014. Since then, I’ve been blessed to be connected to some really dope entrepreneurs that have continuously dropped jewels on how to expand my brand and find funding resources. 

Shateesha in a custom gown by Destination: Royalty

Ari: What motivates you to keep going everyday + where do you draw inspiration from? 

Shateesha: My two little boys keep me motivated. Being able to show them the best, positive example of a woman and a mother is a really important to me. I’m also motivated by the fact that I’m inspring others. On hard day, or days when I want to fold, I go back and  read messages from people telling me how I helped them and inspired them. It really gives me a sense of purpose because I truly believe that the Most High blesses us so that can be a blessing to others.

Curvy and Bold.

Three years ago, Shateesha decided to take VLB to the next level and teamed up with local modeling agency, Pretty N Plus, as well as RLJDesigns, to bring Pittsburgh her first all plus fashion show experience. This year, the show was nothing short of spectacular, and I had the pleasure of not only getting the inside scoop and attending, but also scoring a front row seat to all the action on and off stage!

Body paint set

Ari: So let’s talk Curvy + Bold! What is it, what inspired  it, and what is your ultimate goal with this fashion experience? 

Shateesha: Curvy & Bold my baby! It is an all curvy aka queen-size fashion experience. I teamed up with Pretty N Plus modeling agency, and RLJDesigns to bring this vision  to life of putting queen-size woman on the platform they deserve! Our ultimate goal is to bring woman of all sizes out to show that style has no size and its totally ok to be comfortable in your own skin. Be true to you!

Lady in Red Set by Voluptuous Lady Boutique

And that’s exactly what she did, y’all!

Set by CayJor Boutique

The show was filled with beautiful, plus women who RIPPED the runway! The clothing was beautiful and unique. The atmosphere was was elegant yet fun, and the show was a whole vibe. It felt so magical to be up close and personal to something that has the potential to change the plus, fashion culture in Pittsburgh.

Carnival set by Pretty N Plus

Ari: What’s next for you and VLB?

Shateesha: Right now, I would say just continue to ride this wave, and expand my reach. Voluptuous Lady  is so much more than just clothing, she is turning into a movement of empowerment and encouragement to be exactly who you were created to be, we all are fearfully and wonderfully made. 

Looks by RLJDesigns

Ari: Give us one piece of advice for women who are shy or may need a little help feeling confident about their bodies? 

Shateesha: Man get out here and rock that shit!! Embrace it! We all only get one body, so love it, and cherish it. Your body is gold baby and so are you!

Set by Destination: Royalty

You can learn more about Shateesha and Voluptuous Lady Boutique online at www.voluptuousladyboutique.com. They are also on Instagram, (@vladyboutique) and on Facebook at Voluptuous Lady Boutique.

Latrice Phoenix and Melanin Theory Apparel

Last week I got the chance to meet up with Latrice Phoenix, a business minded mommy from Pittsburgh who owns not one, not two, but three businesses BY HERSELF. In addition to her photography business, Latrice Phoenix Photography, and her non-profit, Melanin Mommies Pgh, Latrice’s newest endeavor is called Melanin Theory Apparel, which happens to be a pro-black fashion line designed to uplift and empower black folk through our biggest and brightest superpower, melanin. Naturally, when I found out about this dope brand, I had to learn more. I was able to catch up with Latrice and get the inside scoop on Melanin Theory Apparel and the direction she plans to take it.


Latrice in Got Melanin? Tee and Ari in Melanin Queen Tee

Ari: So, for those that don’t know, yes, you founded and own Melanin Theory but this endeavor is not second, but third to your photography business, Latrice Phoenix Photography, and your non-profit, Melanin Mommies Pgh. What inspired you to not only launch a third business, but also to create and supply pro-black fashion in Pittsburgh? 

Latrice: Melanin Theory has always been an idea of mine. I first designed the shirts a few years ago and went to my graphic designer with the idea. Unfortunately, I just had too much going on at the time to really launch the line, and it’s still not perfect. I eventually would like to add more apparel and accessories.

Ari: As a rising entrepreneur, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced with not only running multiple business, but also with being a double minority business owner?

Latrice: Financial support is always a struggle. I am juggling so many endeavors and I am a one woman show. Melanin Theory is fairly new, so it’s not perfect; I’m not perfect, but every day I strive to get better and put more into the brand.


Latrice in Melanin Theory Apparel


Ari: What motivates you to keep going every day? What is your “why?”

Latrice: My daughter is my why. I want her to always see her mom working and striving to accomplish her dreams. I want her to see me building towards wealth and financial freedom. Being an entrepreneur is hard, but I show her that it’s an option. When I was growing up I didn’t have anyone showing me other options. I knew going to school and going to college– even with that I’m the first in my family to graduate high school and college.

Latrice and her “why” in Melanin Theory Apparel


Ari: What can customers expect to see from Melanin Theory in the coming months?

Latrice: Great question. Customers can expect to see more apparel for kids. I’ll also be scouting for brand ambassadors and doing local photo shoots.

Ari: How would you explain your personal style?

Latrice: Honestly, at 29 I’m just coming into my “personal style”. I’ve done a lot of trial and error over the years trying to find my “style.” I’ve even hired a stylist a few times. I mostly wear what I’m comfortable with, I dress by my mood. If I’m feeling flirty and sexy I’ll look that way, if I’m feeling afro-centric I’ll look that way as well. Then sometimes, I want to look completely different and cater to my alter egos.


Ari in Melanin Theory Apparel


Ari: What is your overall goal with Melanin Theory Apparel? What is MTA’s legacy?

Latrice: My goal with Melanin Theory is to create apparel centered around the actual theory of the power in Melanin skin. Melanin Theory is an Afrocentric claim that the higher level of melanin in the skin the higher intellectual and physical ability ultimately creating supernatural powers. That is such a powerful theory and I want young black people to wear something that represents that–our magic.

Ari: What advice would you share with young WOC starting their own small business?

Latrice: Take the leap. Do it whatever it is. Just do it. Fight for your dreams and keep fighting. Yes, it’s hard, but no one said it would be easy so why not now?

Latrice and Ari for Melanin Theory Apparel

Special Thanks to Latrice Phoenix and Melanin Theory Apparel. Be sure to check out the Melanin Theory Apparel website here and keep up on social media through Facebook and Instagram as well.

Loving Your Reflection: Loving the Skin You’re in Fashion Show

Loving Your Reflection is a performance agency that hosts several body positive shows and events throughout Pittsburgh. This year, founder of Loving Your Reflection, Danielle Jackson Thorn, hosted an impeccable fashion show and performance called Loving the Skin You’re In, and it was filled with body love, shameless sexual expression, and the triumph that comes with finally loving and accepting the skin you’re in.

Facebook: Loving Your Reflection
Instagram: @loving_your_reflection

“The mission of Loving Your Reflection is to create a safe space for individuals to explore the relationships they have with their bodies and encourage them to change their inner narrative and learn to love the skin they’re in,” said Danielle. The show consisted of several different acts including performance art, belly dancing, spoken word, and of course, a fashion show. Danielle went on to say, “This event was necessary to bring together communities that may not have the chance to work together otherwise and highlight body diversity.” I had the privilege of taking part in this beautiful experience and not only got to meet some of the models and performers, but also got to observe backstage life, and walk in the show for one of my favorite brands, Fat Mermaids.

Above photos: Ari and Danielle rocking Fat Mermaids Tees during the show. Ari’s photo was taken by PJ Sage and Danielle’s was taken by Sarah Rose


Backstage

The air of a backstage right before and during the show is unlike any other. Yes, there are several performance people frantically running around and trying to contour the shit out of their faces, but more than that it is a community; a likeminded group of individuals, working collectively, and enhancing  the experience of the show and ultimately the perspective of the community. It’s similar to the magic you feel while dancing and singing to your favorite song in the mirror, but this time there’s a bunch of people dancing and singing with you and hyping you up! Honestly, it’s just one of those invigorating environments that will have you feeling anxious, fearless, nervous, brave, and empowered. Of course now I’m obsessed with recreating that atmosphere everywhere I go because it was such a good vibe.

Photo on the right was taken by Sarah Rose

What I wore and who I rocked on the runway

Ok, let’s talk outfit details. For the VIP meet and greet reception, we were required to wear black and change into runway attire once we were backstage before and during the show. I wore a fun and flirty off the shoulder LDB from Forever 21+. I paired it with yellow ruffle 2-inch heels and minimal jewelry.

As mentioned before, I rocked Fat Mermaids on the runway which was literally perfect because if you don’t know, Fat Mermaids is a body positive brand that mixes fashion with magic and it’s owned by a Black woman!  I was so hype to rock their “IDGAF About Your Diet, Susan” shirt. We styled the shirt tied up in the back with black swim bottoms, and a donut (yes, I literally ate a donut on the runway). It worked out beautifully.

Above pictures were taken by PJ Sage

Takeaways

One of the main takeaways from this experience was always keep growing. I know I say that a lot, but that’s because it is an ever evolving process and to be honest, I’m really reminding myself more so than preaching at y’all. Another takeaway I gained is to trust your creativity, and find people that believe in it just as much as you do. As mentioned before, the energy backstage was off the charts, but that’s because everyone was spawning positive vibes due to believing in each other’s individuality (now, imagine if America operated like this!). Finally, I was reminded to stop taking myself so seriously. So many times we get caught up in making sure our ideal image is the one we portray, and we literally miss the moment we are living through. Being in the company of so many beautifully different people encouraged me to harness my me and let her be great; hence, the donut on the runway.

Photo by Sarah Rose

I had such an amazing time at the show. I would like to send a special thank you to Danielle Jackson Thorn and her team for inviting me to take part in this epic experience and believing in my mission enough to showcase it in this production. I’m so grateful for this space, and look forward to seeing what Loving Your Reflection has in store for the future. I’d also like to thank Fat Mermaids for trusting me to rock their brand and helping facilitate body diversity.

Why I am STILL Boycotting the NFL

2b00f405-b1d9-4662-a0e1-de788cb41c0bIt’s been a full two seasons since I’ve watched my beloved Steelers play. Ben is nearing retirement, Antonio Brown was apparently uninvited to the Pro Bowl, and I guess now the Kardashians have something to do with it? As much as it breaks my heart to miss them Burgh boys barely miss the playoffs and listen to Coach Tomlin’s answer as to why without mever really giving an answer, I can’t help but feel good about my continued boycott of the racist as ever National Football League.

Continue reading “Why I am STILL Boycotting the NFL”

Pittsburgh Fashion Week 2018

Last week Pittsburgh had the pleasure of hosting its very own fashion week to highlight and set new standards for the city’s fashion scene. The celebration consisted of three fashion forward events throughout downtown Pittsburgh. Ya girl was able to attend two of the three events and get all the info about Pittsburgh’s up and coming fashion elite. I won’t lie, this blog is a lot of pictures, but its fashion week…I mean what other way should I go about this?

Continue reading “Pittsburgh Fashion Week 2018”