RAW: natural born artists RADIATE

Syreeta on the Scene / August 5, 2012

I’ll start with a disclaimer regarding art and fashion: First, I am not artistic.  However, I appreciate art in all forms–especially when it catches my eye. I love that you can fall madly in love with a piece and know precisely why, or fail to have the slightest clue. It’s transcendent.

Second, I am not a “fashionista” but I do know how to dress with style. I know when a person has nailed a look, and I also know when they’ve nailed their stylish coffin closed. That’s pretty much where my styling abilities stops.


For those of you who may not know what RAW: natural born artists is, in short it’s an “independent arts organization, for artists, by artists.” For a more detailed explanation, check out the SS interview with Fred Calalang, RAW City Director for Philadelphia. 

Now that we have that cleared up we can move forward.

This was my first time attending both the RAW monthly showcase and G Lounge. The insight that I was able to gain from my interview with Fred heightened my curiosity and excitement about attending.

Once I arrived, I immediately liked the venue; it was spacious with three bars, multiple lounge and VIP sections, a stage area and a special area with a vault entrance. There were vendors everywhere; jewelers, painters, clothing designers, photographers and more located at every turn. People indulged in all that the showcase offered; some enjoyed drinks at the bar, some checked out the vendor stations while others networked. Attendees ranged in all colors, shapes, sizes and social circles; apparently I dove headfirst into an artistic melting pot.

I was drawn to an area that had been overrun with bananas–the couches, the

Created by Sean Edward Brown.

walls and the glass that separated the area from the entrance, all covered with pictures of bananas. Sean Edward Brown had got the bright idea to create artwork using the inspiration from a banana and candy wrappers. Yes, candy wrappers: Payday, Skittles, Whatchamacallit’s, Frooties–you name it and he most likely used it.

I couldn’t help but to think: who in the hell would think to make art from candy wrappers and bananas?  

Then I thought of Fred’s words, “there is art in all forms around every turn in our venue.”

Oh he’s good. 

I chuckled a little and went on in my exploration. I end up running into D.J. Stokes, CEO and Founder of Debonaire Models near the bar. We originally met some time ago at another fashion event and instantly reconnected. After some catching up he welcomed me to the backstage area which was a stark contrast from the showcase environment.

Models were scattered throughout getting hair and make-up done, some were fixed on their phones while others socialized and relaxed. I got the chance to sit down with a few of the Debonaire Models and chat about their entrance into the modeling world, working with D.J. and their excitement for the night.


Pink shirt: Antywon Wright; Neon Yellow: Sean Wynes; Teal: Zack Taylor

Breaking into the industry:

Karon A. Byers: “I started modeling a year ago at Charlie Mack’s fashion show–that’s where I met D.J.”

Antywon Wright: “Through school–D.J. just found me. I had applied for fashion and design club at CCP…; it’s not the path [I had in mind] but it’s now my passion.”

Sean Wynes: “I’m the first signed model of Debonaire and I got into it the same way as Antywon–at CCP. I wanted it as a joke first and then they showed me something different.”

Zack Taylor: “I did one RAW show before this, about a month ago–this is the second [show] I’ve ever done. Orlando, a designer and [member] of RAW–I lived in his building and he saw me and approached me and said, ‘you’d be a good model,

Top left: Tiara Demetrius; Top right: Karon Byers; Bottom: Karon, Sean, D.J. Stokes, Tiara and Ismail)

you have a good look’. So a month or two later he asked me to do RAW and that was the first thing I ever did. Now I’m back for a second time.”

Working with D.J.

Karon A. Byer: He opened my eyes to the fashion industry and I just fell in love with it.

Sean Wynes: “He’s been a mentor, a friend and just all around good person.”

Experience thus far in the industry

Karon A. Byers: “It’s been a learning experience but as of now I really enjoy modeling.”

Antywon Wright: “I love traveling [and] networking–meeting new people and branding myself.”

Sean Wynes: “Eye opening. I thought modeling was just a bunch of snobby people walking down the run way but now that I see the creativity, the hard work and the passion, I have a new-found respect.”

Backstage with D.J. Stokes.

Zack Taylor: “[My first experience] was fun! You kind of get exhilarated to go out [on the runway]–I haven’t had that since playing sports. It’s nice to have a little blood flowing. I use to play football. Before the game with the team, you get hyped up to go out…it’s nice to have [something similar].”

Highlight of RADIATE

Karon A. Byers: “I see a lot of nice designers out here…just expecting a great show!”

Antywon Wright: “ATE 11 is going to do the thing baby! For those who don’t know, ATE 11 is Mary Ashanti’s line–beautiful, artistic…it’s just a movement, so look for it!”

Sean Wynes: “The Debonaire models and the runway!”

Backstage with D.J. Stokes.

Zack Taylor: “I’m actually modeling jewlery this time so that’s a little bit different. I’m also modeling tee shirts so it’ll be a little more relaxed than the formal wear I did last time. I’m excited.”


I got so lost in the excitement of mingling with the models, I nearly missed the start of the first runway show. After racing out to the lounge and finding a spot along the main walkway which doubled as the runway, I prepared to see all of the models in action.

Clothing and jewelry from designers such as Mary Ashanti’s ATE 11, Monika Marie’s Rokika and Laura Glaindo all graced the runway.

Looks ranged from the casual sweat shirts and jeans, to the more sophisticated and sexy. The models owned their looks and enticed the audience with mischievous, playful and fierce looks.

Despite the varying degrees of experience found among the models, they did a great job. The clothes looked well on them, they looked comfortable with the runway. A small note to models: please recognize the importance of taking a moment to stop and strike your pose; for those of us taking pictures, it is crucial to the production of quality photographs that capture your hard work and fierceness!

Now on to the art and jewelry.

Extremely talented vendors were in abundance but a few did stand out to me:

DCS Photography.

Bullet Babe, DCS Photography, Claudia K., D.J. Decker and TJD. I made a few purchases and snapped a few shots in the process. Be sure to check out the gallery below for the artists work.

We were entertained by bands such as Market East and The Parachuting Apostles in the midst of all of this excitement. They totally rocked out and made the host, Maria Papadakis, job all the more entertaining, I’m sure. Speaking of Maria, she’s a doll!  She did a great job of hosting and keeping us informed on the many happenings of the night. Thanks, Maria!

I had a great time at RADIATE and although I had to leave a little early to head to my next event, I enjoyed every part of the showcase. From what I witnessed, RAW is doing a phenomenal job of fulfilling its mission and serving Philadelphia’s artistic community. Not only did I have the opportunity to network, I also enjoyed great fashion, people, drinks, art and music–in no particular order.

Thank you to RAW: natural born artists, the artists, patrons and G Lounge staff. You all did a wonderful job with the production!

If you get the chance one month, I’d definitely encourage you to attend a showcase. Come with an open mind though; some of the art is truly consists of things that you might not think of, like candy wrappers, animal bones, boobies and bullets.

All the more to catch an eye with my dear!

– Sincerely Syreeta

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