Designer You Should Know: Chicago’s Blake Martin gives a Front Row Experience at The Secret Garden

By Roy Delano

When you think about the world of fashion and some of the key power players that have changed the landscape of how the world sees themselves, you couldn’t have this conversation without mentioning powerhouses such as the late Virgil Abloh, Kanye West, and legendary stylist, Law Roach. It’s no coincidence that all of these men hail from one of the greatest cities in the world, Chicago, Illinois. Locally, there is one more Chicago raised fashion powerhouse that is quickly climbing his way into the list of fashion icons, Blake Martin. 

Blake Martin began his fashion production journey back in 2006, producing over 150 fashion shows nationwide and becoming a leader amongst fashion show producers within the US. During the pandemic, Martin put his fashion show aspirations on hold, and ventured into a new space, and quickly became a world renowned fashion photographer, capturing some of the industries biggest celebrities and rising model talent. While it’s clear the world loves his photography work, it is no doubt that the fanbase of his fashion events span even larger, with his most recent runway show, The Secret Garden, selling out within 48 hours. 

The Secret Garden Fashion Show was Blake Martin’s first in-person, public fashion showcase since global lockdowns would render virtual showings the norm, and Blake did not disappoint. While this show was not amongst the high-brow elite of New York fashion week, we can undoubtedly say that the presentation of Blake Martin was the identical twin of the most high fashion runway shows in Paris, Milan and New York. 

The Secret Garden was held at Chicago’s historic Garfield Park Conservatory, one of the largest and most stunning botanical conservatories in the nation. Often referred to as “landscape art under glass,” the Conservatory showcases thousands of plant species from around the world throughout eight indoor display gardens. This venue seamlessly tied together the title and theme of the show and the experience that the audience would embark upon. 

With a line outside of the venue that started two and a half hours before showtime, the doors opened at 6:00 p.m., and guests dashed to get the best seats next to the runway. The FROW Media team structured the attendees’ chairs to face the runway from both sides, creating an immersive and intimate experience. Amongst the nearly 600 guests, were celebrity guests that included Gospel Legend Donald Lawrence, Hip Hop icon Shawnna, actress and producer Ta’Rhonda Jones, rapper Mikey Everything and midwest marketing director of CHANEL, Angela Clemons. Adorned on every seat of the venue were gift bags from CHANEL, Mielle Organics, MCM and Blake Martin. 

The show, which started promptly on time at 7:03pm, opened with a high-energy dance number by The Pynk Playhaus and choreographed by Chicago staple, Pagan McClure. The youth of this dance empire performed to hits from artists such as Lizzo, Beyonce, Britney Spears, and Kendrick Lamar. The dance routine was the perfect pallet warm up for what was coming next. Model Joshua Corney opened the show in a rust colored two piece suit with lace embellishment and matching full face mask by Blake Martin and BJC Couture, and accessorized with gorgeous jewelry by Coco and Peach. Look after look of this opening collection was bold, colorful, and pushed the envelope of traditional menswear. The versatility of the models enhanced the presentation of the entire experience. No two models walked down the runway with the same poses, speed or facial expressions. It was the definition of what inclusion looks like. 

The second collection by Knotty Loop Designs made just as big of an impact as the first. These handmade crochet designs were the epitome of craftsmanship and beautiful designs. The female models stormed the runway like lionesses, further bringing the audience into this jungle like atmosphere. 

The Secret Garden was spearheaded by Mielle Organics, one of the country’s leading hair care brands. The Mielle Organics brand identity was evident as model after model entered the runway with perfectly manicured hair with an ethnic, edgy, and high fashion point of view, done by the team of AJ Knows Hair. The tribal under eye makeup, by the team of Bold Personality Beauty, was the perfect match for not only the hair but the scenery, making the models feel like predators walking down the runway after their vulnerable fashion prey.

Between the 158 looks shown on the runway, the color palette incorporated tropical hues purple, orange-red, turquoise and peach with earthy green tones contrasted against black and white neutrals. It was all in the details for the designers featured in The Secret Garden, showcasing a wide range of collections of high fashion from Omari’s Closet, Xclusive Habit and Jae Amour. To streetwear by Erick Locke and Ravaugn Crowley, and even jaw dropping underwear and lingerie of Beefy Boy underwear and Savage X Fenty.  Each designer’s theme interpretation generated a unique product. Every outfit was different, highlighting just how exceptional the team behind Blake Martin is. Many diverse and wonderful perspectives that exist within the association is a clear brand messaging of Blake Martin and his team. 

Ultimately, this fashion experience can be summed up into one word, BRAVO!! It is very rare that a local production can display the professionalism, entertainment, and high fashion aesthetic that was shown by Blake Martin. In everything he does, it goes without saying that Blake Martin is a one of a kind.  One runway experience  after another, he never fails to go all out—giving us a spectacle of breathtaking pieces complemented by a beguiling runway show. Thousands know his name today, millions will be aware tomorrow. 

Producer Social: @MrBlakeMartin

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Article Photos Credit: Jimmie Buckner