The worlds of “high” fashion and cannabis will merge at New York Fashion Week with a show by designer Korto Momolu, who’s teamed with Women Grow, the largest network of women in the cannabis and hemp industries.
The show is slated for Sept. 7 at 8 p.m. at Pier 59 Studios, stage C.
Momolu will showcase a collection of largely hemp-based designs that incorporate aspects of health and wellness to bring awareness to the power of women in the cannabis industry. The Korto Momolu for Women Grow line is geared for anyone to wear, not just stoner types.
In a telephone interview Friday from her home in Little Rock, Ark., Momolu explained, “When the opportunity first came up, I liked the idea that they [Women Grow] were about women’s empowerment. They wanted a female designer and they had been watching me.” As a fashion designer, Momolu has included women of all shapes and sizes, and catered her own ready-to-wear line to the woman who never had a voice. Her line is sized from small to 2X and 4 to 18.
In June, Momolu did a capsule collection, which she showed on the runway at a Women Grow summit in Washington, D.C. “We literally sold out within an hour. We sold out before the fashion show even happened,” she said. That capsule was an ath-leisure line, with a splash of glitter. It was geared to women in the cannabis industry who wanted to wear something fashionable. Now, they are continuing their collaboration with a full Korto Momolu for Women Grow collection, featuring 30 looks on the runway.
“The idea is to change the idea of what the cannabis industry is. Most people don’t understand it, and have a one-way thinking about it from movies they watched in the Nineties. We’re trying to change that whole conversation about what the vision is of what the cannabis industry looks like right now and this is how we rock what we wear,” said Momolu.
Momolu doesn’t feel there’s any downside with aligning herself with a cannabis organization. “No, I don’t because it’s medical. The truth is I am somebody who can benefit from it. I have arthritis, and right now my right arm is on fire. There’s nothing I can do for the pain. You’re dealing with pain daily that medicine can’t help and you need to take care of your kids. I have two kids and a husband, and I can’t stop because my arthritis isn’t letting me be great. This industry is helping those people. We have to change the thought and the view of it. You’re not just getting together and getting high every day and watching movies. It’s people being helped where they can’t be helped otherwise.”
“While the intersection of fashion and cannabis industries may not seem obvious at first, the collaboration was created to amplify the message of Women Grow — Empowerment, Inspiration and Education,” said Chanda Macias, chief executive officer of Women Grow, a for-profit entity founded in Denver in 2014. “Through Korto’s innovative and elegant collection, our goal is to break through the stigma of cannabis culture and bring to light the health benefits of the plant and value of women leaders in the industry.”
The collection will feature fabrics like hemp, jute, cork and linen that are sustainable. She has designed a mix of high-fashion and leisure. There might be a jacket with brocade and hemp accents on it, or a jacket completely made of jute. “I want people to see how it’s styled and maybe understand how they can wear it, without it being, ‘Oh my God, you’re wearing a shirt that has a cannabis leaf, what’s that?’ I think when they see it, it’ll be ‘that’s a great jacket, where did you get that?’”
The Korto Momolu for Women Grow leisure line retails from $24 to $240 and consists of athletic leisure separates in copper tones and black and white. The high fashion line, which retails from $120 to $420, includes a range of casual and dressy looks that include separates, caftans, cardigans, joggers and harem pants in sequins.
Some of the styles will have cannabis symbols on it. There’s even one shirt that has the top five cannabis strains most people come in for, depending on what their illness is. “It’ll create a conversation. At the end of the day, we want to change conversations that create the outlook. The industry is changing and moving quickly, and not everybody is going to be on it, and that’s fine. But I think that for those who are, it’s not about what it’s been about,” she said.
She hopes that the collaboration is ongoing, especially based on the momentum from the June summit. “The industry’s there. You have dispensaries, and so many outlets now for this cannabis industry. Why not add another element of it?” The business has been largely focused on the beauty and wellness industries.
She will continue to do her ready-to-wear and eveningwear collection, but is not showing that on the runway this season. The Women Grow collection will operate separately.
Before she started this, Momolu admitted she didn’t really know a lot about the cannabis industry. But once she went to the summit in June, she changed her perspective. “You start thinking differently. This is something that can help me. It wasn’t even on my radar, I was just going to suffer for a while.”
The marketing efforts for the collaboration include a hashtag #ForWomenByWomen. “We’re pushing that. Women supporting other women in the business of cannabis,” she said.
The line will be carried on the Women Grow web site and be sold to dispensaries. She said some of the athleticwear is adaptable for the cannabis user. They’re developing outerwear looks where one can carry their devises so they’re not so visible and is not detectable by smell. “You don’t have to feel everyone’s looking you. The stigma still isn’t gone. You want to be discreet,” she said.
She said every state can carry the fashion looks. “The good thing about the clothing is it goes beyond the barriers of which states are legal or not. It’s a great way to cross those barriers, without it being an issue for everyone,” she said.
The Liberian-born Momolu designs women’s wear and accessories, incorporating traditional and luxury fabrics. A graduate of the L’Academies des Couturiers Design Institute in Ottawa, Ontario, Momolu relocated to Canada in 1990 following the coup in Liberia in 1989. She launched her custom-based line working as an independent fashion designer in 2006. She earned a spot on the fifth season of “Project Runway,” and developed a reputation for color and diversity in style and presentation. She earned “fan favorite,” and ultimately was first runner-up at the season’s close.
Donors to Women Grow have the chance to attend the fashion show. Guests will also have the opportunity to preorder the health and leisure collections immediately after the show, which has such sponsors as Brand Joint, 1+1 Botanicals and National Holistic Healing Center.
Women Grow was created to connect, education, inspire and empower the next generation of cannabis industry leaders by creating programs, community and events for business executives. The organization serves as a catalyst for women to influence and succeed in the cannabis industry as the end of marijuana prohibition occurs on a national scale.
There have been scores of CBD (a non-psychoactive cannabis compound used for a range of medicinal uses) brands and products to come out in the last two years or so. In 2018, sales of CBD products grew nearly 60 percent to $238 million, according to research from New Hope Network, a Colorado-based natural products company.
Business has been booming around the country for beauty and wellness products infused with CBD that many retailers also sell. CBD also had higher visibility during last season’s New York Fashion Week. There were Sakara Hemp chocolates on the seats at Jeremy Scott and Grassroots CBD goodies in Kitchen Toke gift bags at the Prabal Gurung postshow dinner. The smell of weed was heavy in the front rows at Palm Angels, and other fashion shows. In February, MedMen launched its first clothing collection with eight pieces, priced at $15 to $129, including a varsity jacket with custom pot-leaf-print silk lining, a fleece hoodie, graphic T-shirts, a yoga mat, pins and key chains, all incorporating the signature red MedMen logo that has become its own status symbol.
More from WWD.com:
WATCH: Blue Ivy’s Stylist Takes Us Inside His World