Chicagoan Dionne Williams is the President of D. Williams Public Relations Group, which does public relations for large brands, organizations, and personalities. Her portfolio boasts a clientele, including Chicago’s own Oscar award-winning actor and singer, Jennifer Hudson, the legendary Chaka Khan, and Dwayne Wade’s Wade Foundation. The D. Williams Public Relations Group also produces events and large concerts, high-end galas, and productions. Williams is also the creator and producer of the fashion show, Emerge! The showcase is featured in New York’s fashion week and has been a significant part of fashion week for the past nine years.
Kelly Washington (KW) – I am so excited about this interview! I love it when people from our hometown are doing great things. Please tell your showcase, “Emerge” and me more about New York Fashion Week
Dionne Williams (DW) – Our Emerge! Fashion Show takes place during New York Fashion Week. We have been one of the top designer showcases. For the past nine years, we have featured designers from all over the globe, including Chicago designers. We created a Fashion Innovator Award, where we honored many fashion legends. We honored former Vogue editor Andre Leon Talley, and Diane Von Furstenberg presented it. We have also honored the creator of New York Fashion Week, Fern Mallis, and designer Bibhu Mohapatra presented the award to her. Mikki Taylor, Wendy Williams presented former Beauty Editor of Essence magazine, the award to her, and legendary model Pat Cleveland was presented an award by designer Stephen Burrows.
KW- You mentioned featuring designers from Chicago.
Dionne Williams- Yes! We had Chicago designers such as self-taught Barbara Bates of Bates Designs, Suzette Opara, fashion designer of the 828 Collection, Berny Martin founder, and designer of Catou, Michael Alan Stein of the Michael Alan Stein International, and Black-owned brand Chicago-based clothing brand PRSVR. We have a significant Chicago presence. We make sure to represent Chicago when doing the show.
KW- Thanks for repping our city in New York’s Fashion Week! I see that you are also the President of your own public relations and events management group. How did it go from that to being featured in New York’s fashion week?
Dionne Williams- When I attended NY fashion week for the first time ten years ago, I thought it would be great for me to use my skills in event planning and public relations to promote emerging designers who are very talented, and I wanted the world to see. My friend Terri Stevens is a designer on Project Runway, and I attended the show in Bryant Park during the official New York fashion week. That is when I got the buzz about fashion week. I love the whole production! I love the designers! To me, designers are creatives, and they are creating art on the runway. I was fascinated from that point on. I decided to create a show for talented and emerging designers to showcase during New York Fashion Week. I wanted to give these emerging designers a platform to get seen by the press and buyers. New York Fashion week is difficult to get into, so I used all of my skills and talent, and my team from D. Williams Public Relations Group to create the Emerge! Fashion Show.
KW- What goes into the production of an Emerge! Fashion showcase?
Dionne Williams- For the show, I have a huge backstage team, a front of House Company, and a public relations company that I hire. We have a casting agency that helps us select models, and we have a team of forty make-up artists and hairstylists.
KW- New York’s Fashion week was live in February, and this month it was virtual. How did you have to pivot to ensure that it was still engaging? Were there any challenges to abruptly pivot that way?
Dionne Williams- I started Emerge! Design Talk during COVID featuring iconic individuals in the fashion industry. We did not have any idea that this shutdown would happen when we did the show in February. September, we had to go virtual. We had to pivot quickly, and content was key. We started a virtual show, Emerge! Design Talk on Facebook Live. I am interviewing on FB Live. My first interview was Andre Leon Talley. I interviewed former Creative Director of Givenchy Ozwald Boateng,a designer out of London, who is a huge deal. I just recently interviewed Karl Kani.
February 2021 will more than likely be virtual, too, and it is our 10th anniversary. I was really looking forward to a large show with an audience of 500 people, invite-only. Now we have to make it virtual. We will be taping in New York, and we will have a small runway for the featured designers, but no audience. We will bring more virtual content and more interviews. Leading up to the show, we will showcase the designers. We are still looking forward to the show and to this creative way of showcasing the designers for fashion week.
KW- So do you think you would ever bring Emerge to Chicago’s fashion week?
Dionne Williams- Chicago is my home! We will start doing, Emerge! workshops that will take place in several cities, and Chicago will definitely be one of them! We would perform workshops with fashion designers and people who are in the creative field, but as of now, no fashion show. I rep Chicago hard, though!
Facebook: D. Williams Public Relations Group
Twitter: Dionne Williams
Kelly Washington is a freelance writer living on the Southside of Chicago. You can follow her on social media @ Sunrise and Sugar (Facebook) and BlackBFly7 (Twitter).