Last Updated on 10th October 2006

“To be fashionable is to be uncompromising to the things you love… “

– Sistahs Harlem New York

What do Alicia Keys, Cody Chestnutt and Jada Pinkett Smith have in common with Common? Apart from all being very fine people they all share a love for the phenomenon that is Sistahs Harlem New York. With a passion for fashion and sheer determination, Carmia Marshall and Carmen Webber took it in to their own hands to make a name for themselves. Starting in 2001 they have already dressed some of the most prestigious entertainers, and their collections of street couture continue to creatively grow from strength to strength. Coming soon are a line of Accessories and a Brothers Harlem New York and it looks like these Sistahs are set to make a very chic mark in the world that is fashion.
collections/fall_2003 - Josephine Baker

MFL: How do you decide upon the theme for each collection?

Carmia: There are many things that inspire a collection. Music. Friends. Family. Colors. Laughter. Books. Politics. We love to empower women (but we are not limited to solely empowering woman (smile). We love to educate. Our collections always have an educational lesson about something or someone. Our last fall collection was entitle Le Femme Du Monde ( High Society Woman) Our muse were Margaret Sanger, Assata Shukar, Zora Neal Hurston, Amy Tan, Tina Turner, all these woman, so different yet so influential and magnificent. We wanted to celebrate them. Our latest spring collection Afro-Cuban: The Africa in Cuba. We wanted to explore the African heritage in Cuba. Very festive, very colorful . . . Sometimes we sit over coffee and brainstorm; other times I may have an idea and I’ll call Carmen and say, “hey what do you think about this idea or vice versa. We may be having a conversation about trees and a new idea may be born.

Carmen: Themes are usually chosen by what moves me or what’s important to me or us as a team. We also like to bring some great knowledge through clothing even more we like to bring awareness to the forefront without it being “in your face”.

MFL: Do you ever have creative disagreements, and if so how do you manage to settle them?
Carmen Webber & Carmia Marshall
Carmia: Strangely, we never have creative disagreements, we always manage to incorporate our ideas together. And, if we do have a disagreement, we will talk it out. We are like sistahs. We will find a way to make sure that we are both 150% happy with the design.

Carmen: Actually believe it or not we have had the wonderful fortune to not have those problems. Normally our disagreements pertain to the administration or business side of things.

MFL: One of the most famous quotes is “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know which one your’e gonna get.” If you had to choose a box of chocolates that represented your life best which would it be?
Miami Top
Carmia: Chocolate, sugar in general, is my weakness. My box of chocolates would consist of every chocolate known to man, even chocolates that I do not like or may be unfamiliar with. It best reflects that I take the good with the bad and I make the BEST out of it!!!

Carmen: Although I love chocolates I am not a huge fan of boxed chocolates, however to answer your question I would say Godiva Chocolates mixed with those cheap drug store chocolates that come in the little tacky heart shaped box that your grandfather or in my case with my Southern roots, that my Papa would buy. You know the ones with the rum jell cherry fillings.

MFL: What role do you each play in the design process of a collection?

Carmia: I am the business personality; however, I do research and communicate my design ideas to Carmen. Being a wardrobe stylist, I have designs in my head. We are always on the same page. It’s scary. We complete each other’s sentences. Once we know, the theme, have sketches etc, etc. We put them into action, determining the cost of each collection. I handle Sistahs Harlem New York finances.
Sassy Cuban Top & Habana Trousers
Carmen: As head designer I come up with design concepts that I like, however we collectively make the final decision on the line.

MFL: Which male and female celebrity would you crown best dressed?

Carmia: Gwen Stefani, Halle Berry, Erkah Badu, Oprah. Men: Lenny Kravitz, Common, Mos Def

Carmen: Actually we of course have celebrities that we have had the fortune to dress, however that is a hard question to answer because there are so very many celebrities that have great style. Tweet/Erykah Badu/N’dea Davenport/Gwen Stefani/Fatima Robinson/Nicole Kidman/ Angela Basset/Oprah/Mos Def/Commen/ Prince etc.

MFL: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Carmia: I love inspirational quotations. They motivate me. Cliché as it may sound never give up. Be fearless as you pursue your dream do not let the unknown deter you. There is no such thing as failure. Failure is synonymous for learning lesson, learn and keep moving forward.

Carmen: Like what you do because if you are doing something for money. It will not pay off in the long run, never work for money let the money work for you.

Pieces from the Sistahs Harlem NY collection are available from the following locations

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