Jaury Jean-Enard recently launched a successful African Wardrobe Festival in Fort Lauderdale.
Hosted by the African-American Research Library & Cultural Center, the event celebrated African fashion, arts and crafts, and literature. Featuring a star studded cast of models, artists and scholars, the event consisted of panel discussion; a screening of the documentary “Africa Straight Up”; a runway show of designer Hollande’s line of African couture; and a networking event with vendors of African food, clothing and art.
We caught up with the FIU graduate student and alumnus to learn what drives him and how he put together such a successful event.
What was the genesis of the African Wardrobe Festival, and your role in its conception? The African Wardrobe Festival was my realization of an influx of people on social media posting pictures of African prints and styles. African styles are unmistakably eye-catching and beautiful by their bright and vibrant colors. They also come in various patterns and colors based on the region in Africa where they are made.
My role in the conception of the festival was both the creative and business side. I came up with the name, theme and sub-categories of the festival (African fashion, arts & craft plus speakers). I secured the venue, speakers and vendors. And I handled the publicity (NBC, Sun Sentinel, Hot 105) for the festival.
How did you assemble the lineup of stars, such as Prince Emmanuel Aderele, Vernet Pegues, and others? Prince Aderele was one of three artists whose artwork was on display for the festival. I reached out to a number of galleries and museums in the planning stages of the festival and I sent them a “Call To Artist/Art Submission” description for the kind of art work I wanted. They were kind enough to circulate it to their network of artists. I was looking for authentically African art and I selected three artists from the multiple submissions I received.
As for Vernet Pegues, she was one of four speakers on the panel. Pegues is the VP of CatWalk Pros, a full-production fashion show company that organizes fashion shows in Miami. I’d heard of her company in the past and simply placed a call to her. African Wardrobe Festival is an African fashion festival, and with Pegues’ background in fashion she was a great fit for the festival. Plus she traveled to Africa plenty of times.
What was your goal in putting on this production? My first goal was to have people – especially African Americans – wear clothing from their Mother Land and have a good time at the festival ( food, music, gallery, etc…). My second goal was to educate the attendees on the conditions – especially the good ones – of Africa. The latter was accomplished by the documentary we screened plus by the speakers who gave their insights on the documentary.
My speakers included: Dr. Yinka Tella, president of the Nigerian American Foundation; Derrick Ashong, musician, artist, activist, entrepreneur and international speaker on media and technology as means for human development (known for the creation of the app amp.it and his role in the movie Amistad); Vernet Pegues, VP of CatWalk Pros; and Dr. AK Tosu, author and founder of MISSK ( Maruge International School of Self Knowledge).
I am grateful to have achieved both goals.
Your event enjoyed considerable news coverage. What was your approach to promoting it, and what lessons did you learn from the experience? To promote the festival I made it more about the community and the people. As such, I reached out to the various art galleries, creating a partnership with the Nigerian American Foundation, and I associated myself with like minded individuals.
I learned that so many organizations share similar missions and objectives. And when we come together, instead of always competing, great things happen.
What advice do you have for other public relations and communications graduates who are looking to organize and promote their own events in the South Florida area? Networking is key. Nurturing and developing those networks is more important. One of my best media hits was the Sun Sentinel. I received front page coverage, plus the reporter also made a video interview of my fashion designer in her store. That video was on the Sun Sentinel‘s website for about three days. The reporter is actually a former classmate who I ran into at a journalism conference I attended few weeks prior to the festival. That is a great example of networking and developing the relationship.
With this successful event behind you, what’s next? Well, the realization of a large-scale event like this one requires multiple other fields such as website management, graphic design, promotions, public relations, and sales and marketing. For the moment, I am focused on professional development in the field of PR. I am pursuing my master’s in Global Strategic Communications at FIU while simultaneously working with various Sales & Marketing companies.