Williams’ dress graces the Emmys

Katie Dwyer

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Nnedi Okorafor seen in the Afrocentric dress designed by Ms. Williams and Therez Fleetwood.

Courtesy of Valerie Williams

Nnedi Okorafor seen in the Afrocentric dress designed by Ms. Williams and Therez Fleetwood.

The Emmys are where every fashion designer dreams their designs will go. On September 17, 2018, during this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards, fashion and art teacher V. Kottavei Williams in company with Therez Fleetwood, designed and made a dress modeled by science fiction author Nnedi Okorafor.
This colorful dress was made from hand-painted silk done by Williams. Once the paint on the silk was dried, the fabric was sewn into the body of the dress by Williams’ friend and fellow designer, Fleetwood. Fleetwood previously known for designing unique Afrocentric wedding dresses, dresses that incorporate traditional African patterns into the classic white wedding dress.
“I partnered with my friend and fellow designer Therez Fleetwood,” Williams said. “She cut the pieces for the dress, which I silk painted with my art.”
Originally, Williams had no idea the dress was going to the red carpet. Before the creation process had started, Fleetwood had contacted Okorafor asking if they could make it for her.  When creating the gown, Williams knew there was a small chance of Okorafor wearing it, but found out a few days before the Emmys that she would be modeling it.
“Therez reached out and asked if we could offer her this dress, and we agreed,” Williams said. “Nnedi loved the dress and chose it to wear.”
When Okorafor picked their dress out of many others, both Fleetwood and Williams were thrilled. Williams had been familiar with many of Okorafor’s previous works, however, what has made her most famous was that she wrote the part of Shuri for Marvel’s “Black Panther”.
“I was very excited. Nnedi Okorafor is one of my favorite science fiction writers,” Williams said. “It’s an honor to dress people but to have the opportunity to dress someone you already admire is wonderful.”
Both Williams and her students were thrilled after the dress’ debut. Williams’ success has left her students in awe.
“When we first came to class, she told us that she wasn’t an art teacher, but an artist who loves to teach,” fashion student and sophomore Tess O’Donnell said. “I thought that was really cool because she not only teaches art but also paints and designs outside of teaching us, but what’s even cooler is that fact that she was so successful. It’s not easy to design and create stuff. ”
From start to finish, this dress has made being recognized in the fashion community seem more achievable to her students. Williams’ continues to inspire her them by teaching them the reality of what it takes to make it to the top.
“Ms. Williams does a really good job of telling us what it takes to make it and always tells us that we can achieve our goals of making it in the fashion business,” O’Donnell said.
With the encouraging words of Williams echoing through the students’ ears, their dreams of success in the fashion industry are closer than they think.
“It is really inspiring how Ms. Williams’ dress made it to the Emmys,” fashion student and sophomore Madigan Duncan said. “I mean, at one point she was in our shoes and look where she is now, pursuing something she loves and designing for the stars.”