Isys McGhee walking the runway during the Atlanta Art Awards Fashion Gala. Photo by Noah Washington/The Atlanta Voice

Attendees of the Atlanta Art Awards Fashion Gala were dressed in their best for the annual fundraising event. Taking place at New Black Wall Street in Stonecrest, Georgia, the fashion show and award-ceremony served as a fundraiser with a silent auction of curated art for the Burghàlie non-profit Fashion House to support program expenses, as well as cover other costs of operation.

The event consisted of a runway show and silent auction featuring five different fashion houses: Burghàlie, Felicia Dietrich, Humble Sole, Karim Richie, and Love Allie.

Rashad Burghàlie, founder of Burghàlie and the Atlanta Art Awards, emphasized that the awards are not solely about personal achievements but rather about celebrating the collective talent and creativity that Atlanta has to offer.

Regarding the selection process for nominees and winners, Burghàlie highlighted the importance of public involvement. The nomination process is open to the public, allowing individuals to put forward deserving candidates. A voting committee, composed of professionals in the field, evaluates the nominees based on their accomplishments over the past year. Ultimately, the winners are determined through a combination of public votes, the committee’s decision, and the achievements of the nominees.

Rahmere Williams Saint, a 24-year-old Gucci change maker and artist of the year winner, first fell in love with art via sketching/drawing and knew he wanted to be a designer at seven years old and sought to master his craft of design from that point on. Originally from New Jersey, Saint moved to Atlanta in January of 2023 after securing a job as a designer from the NBA. “It doesn’t feel real right now winning artist of the year. This is my second time being nominated and this is something I am trying to still sink in with. I can put this on my resume and say, ‘I am the Atlanta artist of the year for 2023,'” Saint said.

Male model Justyn Burgest-Graham walking the runway. Photo by Noah Washington/The Atlanta Voice

This year the Atlanta Art Awards also garnered support from various partners and sponsors, including long-term collaborator MAC Cosmetics, who generously donated products for gift bags. Other notable sponsors included Home Depot, BJ’s, Trader Joe’s, Kupcakerie, and New Black Wall Street Market. This year’s event boasted the highest number of sponsors to date.

Sharryn Hinchliffe, the global executive director of artistry for M.A.C Cosmetics, expressed her excitement about being in partnership with Burghàlie Academy when she saw their fashion show for New York Fashion Week, further highlighting the significance of their partnership.

Drawing parallels to MAC Cosmetics’ early involvement with renowned designer Lee McQueen and Burghàlie Academy while expressing admiration for the passion and energy exhibited by the young individuals involved in the show, “We at MAC cosmetics, we’re 40 years old next year and it’s really important that we support emerging talent, you know, and we want to be there right at the start,” Hinchliffe said.

A night filled with spontaneity throughout the 3-hour program, attendees were given the opportunity to “strut their stuff” by walking the runway for prizes.

“There was nothing strategic about me modeling. It was in my nature and who I was growing up – it became a natural thing,” said 20-year-old Gwendoline “Gwen” Days, who won the runway competition and began professionally modeling only a few months ago.

Modeling is a job, and building a sustainable fashion industry in Atlanta means learning the skills necessary. Male model of the year winner, Georgia State student, and Infinite Appeal (Georgia State University modeling community organization) president Justyn Burgest-Graham cites this as the foundation for success in the fashion world. Graham believes that modeling is not just about striking poses and walking the runway; it’s about understanding the entire ecosystem of the industry.

“Walking down the catwalk is super great, and we are in the best place in Atlanta at New Black Wall Street supporting Black businesses and ultimately showing support to creatives,” Graham told The Atlanta Voice.

With a blossoming Fashion community, young models took to the stage to show off their skills and their best strut. Models came from all over the nation to get in on Atlanta’s fashion scene. This includes 26-year-old Khaleah Mallory from Chicago, Illinois. While in school at Virginia State University, she discovered her love for modeling but graduated with a degree in computer engineering before moving to Austin, Texas, where she subsequently decided to move to Atlanta seeking more diversity, as well as follow her passion for modeling. “I was yearning for culture, I was yearning to be around my people,” Mallory told The Atlanta Voice.

When asked about the desired impact of the event, Burghàlie expressed the hope that attendees would leave with a renewed sense of motivation and perseverance. Wanting to create a space for creatives to be inspired Burghàlie left a statement for anybody wanting to pursue a similar path. “I would just rather you keep pushing, hurt for a little bit, and then succeed,” Burghàlie said.