AAs a longtime U.S. mailman at the State Supreme Court Building in Mineola, Stanley Covington Jr.’s everyday wardrobe is as constant as a forever stamp—a blue and gray uniform that’s neat, standard, and predictable.
But as an aspiring fashion designer, the 59-year-old Hempstead resident always pushes the envelope when it comes to colour, fabrics and exuberant optimism.
“The clothes I design are so far removed from my work,” Covington said. That was immediately apparent as the models strutted and posed in his New York Fashion Week window on September 10 at Lavan 541, a Manhattan venue.
Covington was part of a group of independent designers showing new collections at 7pm, which of course started with a fashion delay of about an hour. He calls his brand IMOYA – an acronym for “in memory of you always”. It is an affectionate reference to family members.
In total, he showed 19 looks – for women and men – without a specific overriding motif. Some glittered. Some flapped. Some, actually several, showed skin flashes. A two-piece set with sequined green shorts and a matching hooded halter top was a standout look.
There was more. A sparkling silver cocktail dress that exuded a Chrysler Building vibe caught everyone’s attention. Also unisex jackets with eye-catching painted backs and semi-formal dresses with playful peekaboo necklines. At the end of the 7½-minute show, there was no trace of blue-grey uniformity.
About four hours earlier, Covington arrived at the venue in tattered cargo shorts and sneakers while hauling suitcases and garment bags full of clothes for presentation.
“It’s my passion,” said Covington as he made last-minute decisions and adjustments down at the venue. The prep room was lined wall to wall with fellow designers, models in various states of undress, makeup pros busily painting eyes and lips, and hair stylists perfecting ponytails. The thermostat seemed to have been set to “Swelter”.
Amidst the heat, chaos and noise, Covington was in his element as he matched outfits with models selected the previous day at a casting in Brooklyn. He’s done that before. “So far, so good,” he said.
“The chaos is a good distraction,” added Covington. “The confusion doesn’t bother me because it forces me to concentrate. I’m so nervous before a show because anything can go wrong. All that buzz and energy works for me.”
Focus and go with the flow are Covington hallmarks. These qualities have come in handy during his 36 years in the postal service, where he is affectionately known as “Stan the Postman.”
Covington’s colleagues describe him as “dedicated and reliable,” said Lucien Chalfen, public information director for the court system. He added that Covington is a “familiar and oncular presence in the public and the courts — the very best that public service is meant to represent.”
While nearly four decades at the US Postal Service have ensured a steady routine and steady income, it doesn’t necessarily nurture the creative soul. For Covington, who grew up with four sisters and two sons, art is a means of self-expression.
Covington’s self-taught artistic pursuits have evolved over time. He was originally inspired by his older sister, Lillian, and encouraged by his mother, both of whom died in 1997.
“It was devastating,” he said. Eventually, the grief gave way to a deeper exploration of art and expansion into design.
“My interest in art and drawing came first,” says Covington, who counts Norman Rockwell as one of his favorite painters. “There’s a caricatural element to my drawing,” he said. His artwork was exhibited as part of Black History Month celebrations on Long Island.
Covington’s favorite designers range from trendy to luxurious and include Marc Jacobs and Balmain. Unlike the contestants who spice up dresses and other clothing items on Project Runway — a TV reality show he quit because “the reviews got too picky” — Covington doesn’t sew. “It looks too boring,” he said.
He relies instead on his artistic skills. He sketches his garments in pencil, occasionally adding color with paint, and provides drawings to Moussa Sow, a Brooklyn seamstress, who brings them to life stitch by stitch.
“I sketch everything in great detail so he knows exactly what to do,” Covington said. “He’s able to capture clothes from what I draw.” Covington rarely uses color at this stage because the hues change as he chooses fabrics.
Covington and Sow have worked together for about seven years, a collaboration that began with small jobs and grew over time. “I was impressed,” said the designer. “We stayed together.”
While Covington sources fabrics, trimmings, buttons and zippers himself, there is a constant back-and-forth between the two during the making of garments.
“He sews them as close to the sketch as possible,” Covington said. Depending on how intricate the designs are, each piece can take two to three weeks to complete. During that time, Covington added, “I see him every week.”
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Before the show at Lavan 541, they fiddled with uncooperative zippers, adjusted ill-fitting pieces and worked together like a finely tuned machine. “Everything is under control,” Sow told Newsday.
“The models love what they wear,” said Covington. These included Amaya Johnson, a 15-year-old from Detroit, who was assigned the green shorts and halter top after another model didn’t fit her. “I like the sparkle,” Johnson said. “It’s a fun look.”
Covington has previously shown his collections at New York Fashion Week. Every time he walks a collection down a catwalk, he learns something new. “I kind of have an idea of what works,” he said, adding that his last show reminded him of the importance of having patience and listening to an audience.
The pieces that have garnered the most attention, he says, will help shape his designs across the board. “I’m willing to build on that and do others with similar styles.”
“My clothes don’t sit on shelves in big stores,” he continued. “I made sketches for people and they took it from there.”
Arty a few years ago.
“I let Stanley use his imagination,” she said. “It’s such a unique piece. It looks like two parts, but it really is one. You can dress it up or dress it up. I’ve worn it at least twice since the party.” It’s France’s birthday soon and they’re considering another Covington creation – this time in red. She said she’ll let him handle the other details of the look.
Melissa Covington, the designer’s niece, who lives in Brooklyn and works in finance, has several of her uncle’s outfits that she treasures because they are as unique as they are flattering.
“They were all for special occasions,” she said, “and very detailed and expressive.” The same goes for her uncle. “He’s been making art since I’ve known him to this day, and he’s always been very stylish.”
Like other shows, his 2022 fashion show was a family affair. It was dedicated to his sister Ruth, who died in June. A peachy dress with a cheeky waist, which was the last look to come down the runway, was a nod to her — though she may not have worn it, he said.
Covington described the garment, which was complemented by a fancy fascinator: “Sequined, stretchy, sexy and a little conservative all rolled into one.”
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Fashion shows are not free. “I’m paying for this out of my own pocket,” Covington said. Along with the admission fee, fabric, cuts and materials, sewing and construction costs, and other incidental expenses, he estimated the cost of the show to be around $7,500.
“It’s in the stadium,” he said. What’s worth it? “I like doing it.”
It was clear from the approving cheers at the end of the presentation that the feeling was mutual. Covington, dressed in a smart plaid suit, strutted down the runway sandwiched between two models. He beamed with every step.
After the show, he took stock. “It went well,” he said. Like Stan the postman, the IMOYA designer delivered.