Antoinne one of only 3 Black menswear designers at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

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(Part four in a four-part series)

It’s not unusual for artists in any creative genre to have a muse, a larger-than-life figure who uniquely inspires.

Pop artist Andy Warhol had actress Edie Sedgwick. Later, Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld had Kimora Lee. And for nearly a quarter-century, designer Azzedine Alaia has been captivated by the irrepressible Naomi Campbell.

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MIGUEL ANTOINNE

But for emerging New York menswear designer Miguel Antoinne, there is no one who stirs his creative juices more than that intangible force called necessity. His muse is the deafening silence of empty clothes hangers. That silence speaks volumes, causing him to see with his naked eye what is not and to perceive with his creative eye what ought to be.

“I design based upon what I feel is missing and is next,” he said. “Fashion is such a fantasy for me that if I did have a muse, it would probably be a superhero or some extraterrestrial life form.”

The fall 2010 sportswear line he debuted at the recent Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City seemed to channel both, sort of a “Star Trek” meets “Matrix” with a shot of “Mad Max.” The collection, heavy on dark neutrals with an infusion of bone and stone for contrast, is for the bad boy-gentleman with urban edge, an adventurous spirit, and a sense of effortless, manly elegance.

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SKETCHES OF DRESSIER STYLES BY MIGUEL ANTOINNE

Antoinne designs for men who take care of their bodies and project strength and confidence rather than loudness and false bravado. His garments are tailored, and he cuts them slightly away from the body in a way that makes them look and feel fitted but not tight. Pieces easily can be worn as ensembles or integrated individually into an existing wardrobe: elongated, military-inspired shirts; raw-edged knit sweaters; tapered pants and calf-length shorts with ingeniously cut pockets; cropped jackets of coated linen and soft matte leather.

“Modernity was the canvas on which the collection was created,” he said. “My design aesthetic is forward but timeless.”

It’s a style that has caught the fancy of more than a few celebrities. Comedian-actor Marlon Wayans has been spotted wearing Antoinne designs, and singer Trey Songz rocked clothes by Antoinne in his “Yesterday” music video last year. Antoinne’s popularity is growing in Asia, which is sure to please his investors.

Fashion critics who went to his off-site presentation in February during fashion week—he introduced his spring 2010 collection inside the legendary Bryant Park tents last September—noted a distinctive point of view.

“There’s a sleek sophistication to Miguel Antoinne’s designs that is very refreshing and exciting,” said style editor Karyn Collins, who writes for Jet, 40-74 Magazine and other publications. “Men’s sportswear doesn’t always have such a fine sense of tailoring and detail, but I find these qualities in Antoinne’s collection. I think his line will do very well, and it won’t be long before his line is picked up by a major retailer who can give the line the exposure it deserves.”

That might be considered full circle for Antoinne, who strategically went to work at Bloomingdale’s before moving into professional fashion design just two years ago.

A Florida native, Miguel Antoinne Wright grew up with an interest in fashion and what he described as “the fantasy of piecing outfits together.” He moved to the Big Apple with the intent of becoming a designer. After graduating from the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology, he took a job at Bloomingdale’s as a buyer.

“I wanted to shatter the intimidation I had of dealing with buyers by becoming a buyer myself,” he recalled. “Since a great part of my job relies heavily on instincts and intuition, I wanted to learn something more concrete like how fashion businesses are profitable.”

Armed with that knowledge, he revised the business plan he had written at F.I.T. and launched his design company. His studio is in midtown Manhattan’s garment district.

Antoinne emerges at a time when there are relatively few Black American designers and even fewer Black menswear designers. Discounting a handful of African-American celebrities who own menswear labels such as Sean Combs and LL Cool J, Antoinne is one of only three Black menswear designers to show collections during New York fashion week in the last decade. The other two were London’s Ozwald Boateng and Everett Hall of Washington, D.C., who have not participated in years.

Antoinne’s line is carried at select boutiques. The fall collection will be available online in August at miguelantoinne.com.

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