Dressing the Manikyn

By Alexis Getscher, Sept. 11, 2014.

Her handiwork has graced the stages of Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance and MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew, and she’s about to lead her brand into battle a part of FAB Weekend’s Model Wars.

Manikyn Apparel creator Kyndel “Kyn-Shae” Shalae.

The brand is Manikyn Apparel and the creative force behind it is Kyndel “Kyn-Shae” Shalae.

After taking a little over a year off, Shalae has committed to re-launching her brand, beginning with a Fall/Winter 2014 collection, and taking it to even higher heights.

On manikynapparel.com, Shalae’s brand is described as “a combination of urban street, grunge, and prep punk” for “those who are fearless and expressive.”

“It’s somebody that likes to stand out, that’s confident in what they wear, it’s colorful, it’s different,” Shalae, who regularly rocks her own designs, added.

For her forthcoming line, “Taste of Africa,” she’s combined contemporary, urban looks for men and women, with a touch of subtle African prints and colors that will without-a-doubt pop on the runway.

“I was inspired by prints I found at the fabric store,” she said. “I feel yellow and red are bold colors that stand out. I make my own designs but use the print to give it the African feel. Then I looked into some of the traditional garments … that both males and females wear.”

But, according to Shalae, this collection is different than anything she’s ever done before.

“I chose this collection because I am at a point in my life were I’m ready to take my career to the next level and I feel this is some of my best work yet,” she said.

Needless to say, the bold, confident and assertive aspects of Shalae’s personality are visible in Manikyn Apparel as well.

The Come Up

Bri wearing a sweatshirt dress from the Fall/Winter 2014 collection.

Shalae describes her family as “crafty” and credits her aunt and older brother for sparking her interest in fashion and design.

At age 12 her aunt gave her boxes of fabric, which she didn’t know what to do with until her brother, Kamoni-Khem, began making screen-printed T-shirts and she saw the response they generated.

“I always wanted to be like my older brother so I started going to school for it, taking classes for sewing in high school,” Shalae said.

In 2010, she graduated from Mesa Community College with an associate degree in Fashion Design and Merchandising. Shortly thereafter, one of her best friends, Dricy, passed away.

Dricy and Shalae shared a love of hip-hop, dance and urban culture and, in dealing with the loss of her friend, Shalae was inspired her pursue her dream of designing custom clothing for dance crews and entertainers. And, in 2011, Manikyn Apparel was born.

“We did a memorial celebration and I just made a couple T-shirts and jeans dedicated to her and this was something people really took onto,” Shalae said. “They really were very supportive of what I was doing, so I tried to reach out to more people.”

She admits that her creative process doesn’t involve sketches or plans, just a combination of whatever the fabric inspires as she sews and different ideas she has along the way.

“I’ll go to the fabric store and I’ll be in there for three to four hours,” she said. “I’ll just pick out fabrics that stand out and design off of the fabric that I get.”

And that has worked in her favor. So well, in fact, it landed her creations on TV.

Word of mouth led Shalae to the Elektrolytes, and Arizona-based dance crew that became a household name after winning America’s Best Dance Crew Season 7 (in their custom-made Manikyn gear). Shalae also designed multiple pieces for Comfort Fedoke, a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance Season 4 and Season 10 All-Stars.

Today Shalae exudes confidence in herself as well as her work, but that hasn’t always been the case.

Throwback Thoughts

Rubix wearing a hoody jacket and pants set from the “Taste of Africa” line.

Shalae knew from a young age that she was gay, but was unsure of how to handle it and held it in as much as possible, which, she said, led to depression, suicidal thoughts, pressure to have boyfriends she didn’t want and apprehensions about discussing her sexuality with her family.

In the midst of all that, fashion was Shalae’s creative outlet. She recalls getting dressed in the morning for school, then sneak out and changing her clothes into “tomboy attire,” and switching back to something more “appropriate” before she got home.

“I got with my first girlfriend when I was about 17 or 18, she said, “she really helped open my family up to the lifestyle, and they saw that I was being loved by somebody.”

Shalae’s family now fully embraces her sexuality as well as her relationship with her partner, Cece Coleman, and their kids.

Although they met through mutual friends and have known of each other for five years, Shalae and Coleman didn’t become an item until April. Until then the timing has never been right, they agreed.

Coleman has twin boys, Caleb and Jeremiah, who Shalae co-parents. And, although her motherly instincts are strong, she admits the role of stepmom can be challenging.

“I want them to know that they’re loved by two moms, I want them to know that they can come to either one of us, I want them to have stability ... I just want to provide a better life, I want them to be happy,” she said.

Shalae and Coleman agree, they want their boys to do anything they want to do, without having to worry if the fact that they have “gay moms” will hold them back.

The world has changed a lot, even since I was a child, and I hope to raise the boys in a society that’s even more open and accepting, Shalae added.

Back into the Spotlight

Paris wearing a chained, fitted jacket by Manikyn Apparel

For the past year, however, Manikyn has taken a backseat to other aspects of Shalae’s life. But her recent commitment to re-launch her brand is already noticeable.

She didn’t waste any time finding a concept or platform for Manikyn’s next look. Shalae has been preparing her Fall/Winter line for its debut as part of FAB Weekend’s Model Wars competition — an event that brings together creatives in the worlds of fashion, art and beauty (FAB) to compete for prizes in three different competitions, while showcasing vendors and entertainers and benefitting local nonprofits.

This will be Shalae’s first showing since re-launching her brand. It’s also the first fashion show she’s been a part of in which all of the designers actually sew and create their own work.

Following FAB Weekend, Shalae will switch gears and begin working on a Mini Manikyn, a new clothing line for children ages 2 to 10. Shalae is planning to host a spring fashion show to launch the new line and says Coleman will be helping with the designs.

“She sews and she’s very creative, she’s an artsy person like I am,” Shalae said. “We have a very similar design aesthetic, so I thought working together would be really cool to do.”

The proceeds from the spring show will benefit various local efforts, including child abuse awareness.

The event will also feature other fashion designers, multiple dance crews and local artists who support the cause.

The Future is Bright

Eventually, Shalae plans to attend Arizona State University to obtain a degree in business and gain knowledge that will help her to open a combination boutique and dance studio one day.

Because I work strictly in custom designs, currently out of my home, I envision the boutique as both a working space and dance studio for local hip-hop crews.

“I’d have fashion and dance and music,” she said. “The best of both worlds for me.”

But first, the humble designer admitted, comes promoting. And Shalae knows getting her name into the entertainment world, as a designer of menswear, is the key.

“I want to be able to get my brand out there more,” she said. “Just trying to get my name in the dance community as the go-to stylist.”

To Shalae, “making it” would entail landing a lead designer gig behind a world tour for entertainers like Chris Brown and Rihanna, or she seeing her designs at the Grammys. And, considering she’s already been featured on TV, it’s safe to say anything is possible.

She’s come a long way from the teenage girl who secretly changed her clothes after leaving the house, and she’s is now a seasoned veteran — in life and fashion design — and that shows through her work.

“It’s ok to be different, it’s ok that I am a lesbian woman, it’s ok that I am a female designer doing menswear. It’s ok to be who I am as an individual,” she said. “I’ve struggled a lot and I’m just now to the point where I’m comfortable and confident in my work and myself.” –E

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