Like most African American households in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s clothes were often acquired as “hand-me-downs” from a sibling, or the skillset of sewing was taught by the family matriarchs; the mother and grandmother.
Such was the case for veteran designer, Gwen Hawkins. Her journey as a fashion designer started at the young age of 8, when her grandmother placed her behind a sewing machine and taught her the basics of sewing as a necessity. Later as a teenager she began to take note of models like Grace Jones and Twiggy admiring their poise and style as she thumbed through fashion magazines. However, it wasn’t just the models that caught Ms. Hawkins attention, the fashions spoke to her as well; fueling her interest to design fashion. One of Ms. Hawkins fondest memories is a time in high school when she was suspended from school and told not to come back until she learned how to dress. Ms. Hawkins didn’t take this as a negative but rather a positive message that her fashion style was not cookie cutter.
Today she not only mentors and teaches sewing to high school students but also has an impressive list of accolades. That doesn’t mean the work came easily. As a successful entrepreneur, sustaining her brick and mortar boutique (Gwen’s Bridal Boutique), for over 20 years and then evolving her own fashion brand; (Designs by G), she is the first to say it was not an easy feat. Pointing out that there’s been many hiccups in her journey, but none has stopped her from forging ahead. Ms. Hawkins says, “without the failures there can be no success”.
Ms. Hawkins has enjoyed many fashion moments over the years; from appearing in J.E.T. Magazine as a swimsuit model; to dressing Mardi Gras and Beauty Queens to showcasing her collection at New Orleans Fashion Week (2017-2019), and adding to that list is the honor and privilege of designing Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s dress for her swearing-in as well as her inaugural ballgown. This was her Ann Lowe moment.
Fashion Stylist: Tracee Dundas | @fashionablyyoursnola PHOTO CREDIT: PHOTOGRAPHER Eduardo Benitez | New Orleans Fashion Week Runway Photos Mayor LaToya Cantrell Photos Courtesy of Gwen Hawkins
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell address supporters at Inaugural Ball wearing gown designed by Gwen Hawkins.
Mayor Cantrell at Swearing-In Ceremony wearing dress designed by Gwen Hawkins.
Designer Gwen Hawkins finale’ walk at NOFW9 with model Niricha WIlliams.