Photo courtesy of Kish Faison

September is meant for cooler weather, pumpkin spice-flavored everything, and the four major fashion weeks in New York, London, Milan, and Paris. Since 2010, local fashion enthusiasts and industry professionals have flocked to Charlotte Fashion Week hosted by Charlotte Seen. This year, attendees will be immersed in five days of fashion and style beginning Sept. 25.

Among the talented models, makeup artists (MUAs) and designers, be sure to check out Jennifer Michelle (model brand ambassador and model coach), Kish Faison (designer) and Akilah Collins (makeup artist). I had the opportunity to catch up with these ladies before the kickoff.

Jennifer Michelle

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Michelle

Jennifer Michelle is a model-turned-runway coach. She’s walked in countless shows including the inaugural Charlotte fashion week 10 years ago with Anthony Simons.

QCM: As a seasoned model and runway coach who has walked many runways, including New York Fashion Week, what makes Charlotte Fashion Week special?

Jennifer: Charlotte Fashion Week grows in every way possible, so each year is a great opportunity for models to gain exposure. It’s a win-win for talent looking to get images for their portfolio and unlimited potential exposure from social media.

Fashion week is special because it gives aspiring models and designers the opportunity to showcase their talent. I tell all of my clients, Charlotte is where you learn and get the “on-the-job training” you need before you head off to bigger markets. Charlotte’s fashion community is growing tremendously and there are plenty of opportunities available. I love seeing models I’ve trained walking in the shows and getting a glimpse of the new models coming into the industry.

QCM: From your perspective, how has the fashion industry changed for models/MUAs/designers/stylists/photographers of color since you started in the industry?

Jennifer: I started in this business over 20 years ago and one of the biggest industry changes is the resources available to models. When I started, I didn’t have a coach and was never signed to an agency. Now, I coach and provide development training for the runway, and business off the runway, so models, designers and everyone else in the industry can be prepared. That’s the key to getting more diversity in shows and the paying jobs. Models of all sizes and shapes can work if they are prepared. Designers, stylists, and photographers can book events if they know their audience, design aesthetic and how this fashion game works. In this world run by social media, industry professionals can post an image, mention a brand and follow a tag to get booked.


Photo courtesy of Kish Faison

Kish is a fashion designer who studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. She’s launching her Fall 2018 collection during Charlotte Fashion Week. Her line will include a collection of dresses and stylish separates.

QCM: You’ve been in the fashion industry for years and have designed several pieces. Why did you choose to officially debut your line at Charlotte Fashion Week?

Kish: I am fairly new to the area and recently decided to re-commit myself to design work. Charlotte Fashion Week is the perfect launch pad to reveal my vision of style.

QCM: Complete this sentence: I’d love to design a piece for __ because __…

Kish: I’d love to design a piece for Rihanna because her style is unique and ever-evolving. No matter if she is wearing a t-shirt or a gem-encrusted Dior suit, her essence remains the same. That’s the woman I design for. She’s powerful and self-aware, and she injects herself into the clothing.

Akilah Collins

Akilah is a singer, dancer, model, makeup artist and CEO of ACBarbieArtistry.

Photo courtesy of Akilah Collins

QCM: With the bright lights on the runway and being photographed from all angles, what staple products do you use on models of color to keep them picture-perfect for hours?

Akilah: With all the bright lights of the runway, it is easy to lose the beautiful facial expressions of the models. I make it a point to focus on aspects such as the cheekbones, nose, and eyebrows by using Mica Beauty Minerals bronzers to contour and leave a glow that gives life to the models. The bronzers can be used as a highlighter and contour to bring out the skin tone.

QCM: What makeup tricks can you share to help everyday women look and feel runway-ready?

Akilah: Models are constantly having to put on makeup. What I want to do is care for their skin. I use makeup products that are safe and good for long-lasting wear. I want to take care of those who have sensitive skin like I do. One of my favorite products to use on my models is the Cover FX setting powders and a spritz of MAC lavender-scent finishing spray to leave the finished product looking flawless. It helps to hold back oils and keeps the finishing product smooth and intact for hours. Not only is it a great finishing spray, but the calming effects of lavender prepare my models for the runway! These are tips that anyone can use!

Whether you plan to attend one of the kickoff events or runway shows this week, you’ll definitely find models trained by Jennifer, view pieces from Kish’s debut collection and may even photograph a model’s “beat” by Akilah.

Click here to view the full list of Charlotte Fashion Week events and purchase tickets.

Nakisha Washington is a style contributor who mixes prints and professionals. She’s a millennial development coach, content creator and lover of all things stylish!

Nakisha is a millennial career coach, content creator and fashion insider. She shares highs, lows and lessons learned from her 10+ year career in corporate America on her blog,