Korto Momolu, renowned for her curve-friendly, African-inspired designs on season five of Project Runway, hadn't planned on showing a new collection during New York Fashion Week this season. But right at the tail end of the Fall 2009 Fashion Week at Nikki Beach Midtown, models outfitted in Momolu's designs strutted down the runway at a Fashion Week after-party to benefit the MacDella Cooper Foundation, a charity devoted to empowering Liberian youth.
It's understandable that NYFW wasn't on the agenda this season — the Liberian-born designer is gearing up for her first trip back in 18 years, after being commissioned to design a dress for Liberia's president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. So when she learned about the MacDella Cooper Foundation, she jumped at the chance to help out at the Fashion Week event. "I couldn't say no," the designer said. "I think the cause is much bigger than all of us and it was my honor to be a part of it."
The cause on this night was the construction of the MacDella Cooper Foundation Academy, the first tuition-free school in war-torn Liberia. The school, designed by esteemed architect Winka Dubbeldam, principal of the world-renowned firm Archi-Tectonics, NYC, is set to open its doors in 2010.
In the few short years since humanitarian and Liberian refugee MacDella Cooper [pictured above with Korto Momolu] founded MCF in 2004, the foundation has assisted foster homes and five orphanages in Liberia, reunited families, and brought Christmas spirit to more than 500 orphans during their annual children's Christmas party at the Susie Gunther Orphanage in Monrovia. And during Fall Fashion Week, MCF brought style and substance to New York City.
Korto Momolu sent her models down the runway in three mini-collections: a sea of acid greens, fuchsias, teals, and purples in rich textures like brocade, raw silk, damask, and linen. The ensembles were accented with African beads and pleating details.
"I wanted a bronze-goddess look for these items," Momolu said of the first mini collection, which included a tailored, long gold brocade coatdress, followed by another flash of gold in a short silk bubble dress, and a linen jumper.
Event attendees cheered and clapped as bright, figure-flattering jersey pieces made their way down the runway. Momolu said the collection "came about as simple, chic Grecian goddess ensembles," wearable by women of all shapes and sizes.
The finale piece, a cream taffeta dress with embroidered brown leaves and a touch of hot pink, was Momolu's favorite. "Talk about nature!" The silhouette was simple and elegant, with the beaded neckline and mix of patterns and colors giving the piece some vivid, exciting detail.
"If my presence helped the foundation in any way to meet their financial goals, that makes me proud," Momolu said. And MCF did just that, raising almost $50,000 with their Fashion Week after-party. Tammy Tibbetts, director of the MacDella Cooper Foundation, said the MCF team was thrilled with the event's success. "It was the most stylish and successful event we could have imagined to kick off fund-raising for the MCF Academy. Even in a troublesome economy, it's redeeming to see how much people will open their hearts to help these children in Liberia who are struggling even more."
To learn more about designer Korto Momolu, go to kortomomolu.com.
[Photos by Marc Hall, marchallphotography.com