Harley Morgan, a.k.a. “Legendary H&M,” is the CEO and creative force behind ROE: The Agency, LLC (http://www.roetheagency.com/), a model, talent and marketing agency in the Washington, DC area that specializes in introducing “Creative Entrepreneurs” to a mainstream audience in unforgettable ways.
He discovered fashion in high school and his love of style and creative design has helped shape a larger-than-life persona that now fans the flames of creativity in others. He’s served the local entertainment and style scene as model, stylist, photographer, then mentor, model coach and, yes, cultural creative director and curator of cool.
The self-description that pops from his bio is “eccentric imagination.” Now a talent agent, the origin of his agency started as a modeling troupe, more importantly, the first uniformed modeling troupe in Washington, DC, which behaves somewhat like an acting ensemble. Think of it as the evolving cast Harley used to help stage shows and events that call attention to the start-ups he markets. His most effective attention getter, this month entering its 12th season, is Indie Fashion Week, a semi-annual, week-long festival that kind of defies description.
Of its inspiration, he explains, “Fashion and beauty brands in Washington. DC, and its surrounding areas weren't getting enough shine or opportunity to be spotlighted during DC Fashion Week, or as much as I thought they should be. There are so many different designers from the full spectrum of fashion from street wear to ready-to-wear to haute couture to avant garde that just don’t get the credit they deserve. So, through my modeling agency and working with so many boutiques and designers, I thought it would be a great idea to develop a platform specifically for them.”
“It's never too late. Fashion is like its own religion. It’s never too late to get involved.”
He allows that “DC style is hard to pinpoint because of its reserved and conservative stigma.” Harley, and all the emerging designers behind Indie Fashion Week, look to change all that with a combined appeal to individuality, vibrancy and affordability. The overriding feeling Indie creates is one of fearlessness with just a touch of fantasy.
Deep down Harley senses that everyone has a need to express themselves and play with color and patterns to make something both different and attractive. “That's what we're here for, to let people know they don't have to be stuffy; they can do orange and green and do it your way. We just want to start the conversation about what it means to create their own style that makes them comfortable in their own skin.”
Peeling away inhibitions doesn’t come without a shock to the system. Harley unveils emerging fashion, music and beauty brands and even causes to consumers with the same energy you might imagine SEAL Team Six taking a room with a chorus of flash-bangs.
“Something different happens every day of Indie Fashion Week,” Harley says, “but little of it resembles a traditional runway show. The fashion is brought in close to the crowd; it’s an intimate way of making people feel what it would be like to attend an event and see someone they know wearing the clothes.” He adds, “You'll see designers like Calvin Klein and Roberto Cavalli do runway shows in the forest or on the beach, just on a smaller scale to help their buyers feel like participants in the brand experience.”
By invading iconic local landmarks, parks, rooftops and roadways his flash mobs force observers to see things differently.
Observers “experience” the brands, and so catapult them into popular culture. One flash mob during the June show emerged much like a demonstration, showcasing and spreading the message “Fashion Over Opioids,” in support of a call to action led by DC’s Department of Behavioral Health (https://dbh.dc.gov/) and other affiliates. Neighborhood moms protest opioids, while parading around DC with drop-dead gorgeous hipsters in thigh-high tangerine boots. So, it’s the juxtaposition combined with the every-day stage that arrest your attention, almost as much as the vibrant colors and styles.
June’s #CycleELEVEN also took over The Nelson Manor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, not far from MGM and the National Harbor for a fashion event. There, the model’s makeup – lashes like flower petals and with hair adorned by butterflies – helped echo the garden scene. “Everything correlated with the space... details like that just take it up a notch.”
Every cycle adopts a different overall aesthetic or vibe to best resonate with the participating brands and the venues where they’re introduced. Even the influencers and taste makers who are invited contribute to a selected theme. Invitees are a who’s who of press, media, and even politicians who influence policy on the arts and creative industries. “We just try to have a good mash-up of all industries there so that they can all enjoy what fashion has to offer. It inevitably turns into a networking soiree where people across industries are mixing and mingling and trying to find synergy.”
Such cross-cultural networking motivates designers too, who experience validation from the appreciation of influencers outside of their own comfort zone. Indie Fashion Week introduces them to champions that can help elevate their brand in other communities, or recommend how best to reach them.
Influencers in nearly every field will be angling for invitations to the #CycleTWELVE installment of Indie Fashion Week September 25 through October 1, but you’re getting your invitation directly from the horse’s mouth. See http://indiefashionweekdc.com/ to take advantage of opportunities for models, brands, and sponsorships.
Look for #CycleTWELVE to launch into the Bloomingdale neighborhood of DC where there’s a triangle-shaped park he hopes to transform everyday neighborhood common areas to electrifying fashion hubs for all!
And then – close your eyes and imagine it all taking place somewhere in Loudoun County. “That's always been a part of the plan to bring our platform to Loudoun! Our affiliates - #BlackWallStreet: Loudoun, will be sponsoring and leading the charge with us!” he says, as well as moving a bit further down the East Coast, to the West Coast and beyond. “We want to expand to multiple cities and provide a platform for emerging and unseen fashion and beauty brands to be seen and discovered and supported by consumers there.”
If, after imagining yourself rocking some of the designs in these photos, you wonder whether you’ve been living under a rock, don’t despair. As Harley puts it, “It's never too late. Fashion is like its own religion. It’s never too late to get involved.”
“That's what we're here for, to let people know they don't have to be stuffy; they can do orange and green and do it your way. We just want to start the conversation about what it means to create their own style that makes them comfortable in their own skin.”