Steve Madden Selects Winner of Harlem Festival of Culture Design Challenge

Steve Madden and the Harlem Festival of Culture (HFC) unveiled the winner of their co-branded design challenge at an event at the Harlem School of the Arts on Wednesday.

Chosen by a judge’s panel, which included Mr. Steve Madden and HFC co-founder Musa Jackson, finalist DaQuane Cherry was named the grand prize winner and will receive a cash prize of $10,000 as well as a paid fellowship with Steve Madden.

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Cherry’s winning design, which included his reinterpretation of the teddy bear, will be featured on the official co-branded Harlem Festival of Culture x Steve Madden merchandise that will be sold at the festival this summer. The exclusive, limited-edition collection, which is scheduled to drop in June 2023, includes a custom Steve Madden Bettyy Boot, belt bag, and denim jacket.

“I’m so excited that I was able to be in the same creative space as the other talented artists, as well as all of the culture and artistry that is in Harlem,” said Cherry as he accepted the award. “I wish the best for the other finalists as I know they’re going to continue to do amazing work.”

In addition to Cherry’s award, finalist Sherifa Gayle won the “Audience Favorite Design” award and received a $5,000 award.

Steve Madden, founder and creative and design chief of his eponymous company, added at the event that he chose to highlight the Harlem community with this partnership because he wanted to do something meaningful for the Black community in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in 2020.

Steve Madden - Credit: Emerald Knox
Steve Madden - Credit: Emerald Knox

Emerald Knox

“We were profoundly disturbed by the events of 2020 and we wanted to do something that didn’t come off as pandering to a specific audience,” Madden said. “Our company is so inspired by music and culture, it made perfect sense to be a part of this new iteration, and what better way to maximize it than with a design challenge to co-create product with Harlem-based talent.”

First launched in January, the design initiative was created to provide applicants access to mentorship, industry knowledge and career pathways in the fashion industry. Last month, the five finalists were invited to the Steve Madden headquarters in Long Island City to meet Mr. Madden as well as the design team.

In addition to the design challenge, the partnership between HFC and Steve Madden will extend beyond the festival to include developing initiatives with HFC’s social impact arm – the Harlem Festival of Culture Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit focused on areas of health equity, youth development and economic development.

The Harlem Festival of Culture will be held across Harlem from July 28-30 in the spirit of the historic 1969 festival captured in Questlove’s Oscar-winning documentary “Summer of Soul.”

The design challenge finalists with Steve Madden - Credit: Emerald Knox
The design challenge finalists with Steve Madden - Credit: Emerald Knox

Emerald Knox

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