By  on February 23, 2005

NEW YORK — Saturday night, in an unassuming brownstone on West 141st Street here, a bevy of buxom beauties strutted, swaggered, sashayed — you name it — dressed in nothing but frighteningly titillating underthings: an overly feathered bra, medieval chain-swinging corsetry and beaucoup sequins on barely there innerwear. The cause? Charity, as if there were any doubt.

The cause for celebration — and perhaps one too many Sir Mix-A-Lot-bearing rumps — was the first Hamilton Heights Benefit Fashion Show, serving an inner-city youth scholarship fund, held by the New York Alumni Foundation of Kappa Alpha Psi. The event itself was held in the organization’s fraternity house, which, granted, added to the overall sense this was a rather green fashion production but made for a telling choice, given the affair’s roots. The seven designer showcase was the brainchild of 29-year-old Sean Carswell, a current Kappa Alpha Psi member, and is just one of a number of fund-raisers the group holds each year. (Others include a masquerade ball in the fall and a benefit basketball game in March.)

“I wanted to help out the Harlem community,” Carswell said, “because the designers are out there, but nobody is there to push them to the public. They just aren’t very publicized.”

Inspired by a fashion show he attended last year in New Jersey, Carswell decided to bring the concept to his fraternity — but with a few improvements, he said. This was not going to be your run-of-the-mill fashion show, which the slightly off-kilter fraternity banner at the entrance already made clear. For one, he did away with row seating. “I wanted to create a cozy environment,” he said, and to that end, attendees crowded around the red-carpet runway, leaning against the stairwell, the wall, the in-house bar, finding what few seats they could. He also brought in R&B artist Tanishia McIntosh and saxophonist Lamarr “Saxycool” Edwards to perform, making for an intimate setting that was more Saturday night gathering than a full-out fashion affair.

But this was, as the program read, a fashion show, and after rounds of hors d’oeuvres and wine, the models descended the stairs and flaunted the designer wares. They ranged from Madgik of New York’s church-going Sunday bests to Downtown Pat Brown’s more revealing (and did we mention frightening?) lingerie numbers. Rounding out the group were poncho-centric Simply Greta at the Brownstone, urban streetwear designers Many Milez Traveled and AlMightyE, and accessories from Hats by Bunn. Nigerian Fabrics and Fashions closed the show with an odd juxtaposition of camouflage army get-ups and more subdued traditional African dress.

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