Deep in the garment district of the Manhattan, the city’s design birthplace, an abundance of workshops and studios line the streets, teeming with clothing and jewelry, and countless nondescript designers. Here, trends are either followed or set. Fashion visionary, former model and steadfast individualist Zulema Griffin prefers to do the latter.
The native New Yorker first came into her fashion personae in front of the lens, enjoying a fruitful run as a Ford model when the sewing machines and mannequins beckoned. When a costume designing opportunity emerged, Zulema entered swiftly and her signature style, edgy but elegant modernism, accelerated with her. Since 2002, Griffin’s done fashion work on 11 films and had a short-lived appearance on Project Runway in 2006. “It was interesting to say the least,” Griffin remarks of her time on the hit Bravo reality series. “It was a good way to get my name out but…you have to deal with editors and TV producers with an agenda and script.”
Unsightly TV editing aside, Runway was publicity Griffin didn’t really need. Her number one fan, wife Sherrie became the financial backer for Griffin’s first couture line, named, what else? Zulema. “She said, ‘I just have this feeling if I give you a year that you could really get something going,’” says Griffin. “Then I knew I couldn’t squander my time.”
Zulema’s spring 2008 collection radiates Griffin’s penchant for daring color, inspired by what Griffin describes as “African-American concepts and the black diaspora,” and of course, comfort. “Living in clothing should not be uncomfortable,” Griffin says resolutely. “Nor should it be sinful.”