Model legends walk Sergio Hudson’s NY Fashion Week runway

NEW YORK (AP) — With model legends Beverly Johnson, Veronica Webb and Gisele Zelauy on his runway, Sergio Hudson took New York Fashion Week on a vibrant, outlandish safari Sunday inspired in part by the blues, yellows and oranges favored by the Ndebele of southern Africa.

But attitude was just as important as color to Hudson’s latest collection, some of which went on sale immediately.

“If Whitley Gilbert from ‘Different World’ or Cher Horowitz and Dionne from ‘Clueless’ were to go on safari, what would they wear? It’s just really fun, really cheeky, and clothes that girls can really, really wear and women can really, really wear,” he told The Associated Press.

There were mini dresses with bouncy ruffle hems, tiny shorts sets and delicious trouser suits in bright greens, purples, sunset orange and sunny yellow. He played with a brown animal print fit for safari, using it for a range of looks, from a lighter-than-air coat worn with a simple brown dress to a sleeveless evening sparkler.

And when Hudson spoke of girls and women, he meant it.

Webb, the first Black model to land a long-term contract with a major cosmetics company (Revlon in 1992), walked in a jewel-tone purple mini skirt and zip jacket with large, safari-worthy front pockets. Zelauy, the ‘80s and ’90s icon from Brazil known for her emotive modeling style, showed off one of Hudson’s slinky slip gowns in bright green. Johnson, the first African American model to appear on the cover of American Vogue in 1974, donned a sexy, soft pink tea length dress with a wide ruffle hem.

“I just believe in inclusivity,” Hudson said. “Like, it’s not all about 25-year-old or 22-year-old or some of these girls. These girls don’t buy my clothes. Women over 30 buy my clothes. So why not look at the runway and see, OK, this woman is wearing what you could be wearing? It just makes sense to me. Women don’t stop being beautiful, sexy, smart. They’re even smarter at that age, so why not?”

And some of Hudson’s women care about sun protection. He gave a few huge, wide-brim hats to top off mini sets in sunset colors.

Hudson has been an outspoken critic of the lack of racial diversity in the industry he loves.

“I think it’s changing. I’m very proud of the fashion industry because doors have been opening and people are becoming more open to the conversation,” he said. “There wasn’t a place for us and I feel like they opened the door. We are designers just like everybody else.”

Hudson’s career was launched in 2013, when Rihanna chose his black ball gown on Bravo’s “Styled to Rock” fashion competition show. He launched his namesake ready-to-wear brand the following year. Since then, he’s dressed everyone from former first lady Michelle Obama (those tailored burgundy pants and belt at the 2021 inauguration) to Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez.

“There are a few people I’m dying to dress but there’s one event I really want and that’s the Academy Awards,” the 36-year-old South Carolina native said with the gentle drawl. “I’m not shy about wanting to be that designer that everybody wants to wear. I’m trying to create a legacy for people to be able to look to and say, ‘OK, this Black man did this. Now I can do it.’ I didn’t have anyone that looked like me who I could look to.”