Advertisement

These Were The Most Iconic Looks At This Year's 'Leading Women Defined' Summit

PhotographybyTara Pixley for HuffPost

What inspires Michele Ghee's style choices? “[I'm] a new entrepreneur after 30 years in corporate America, so I want to express myself. My style is corporate chic from a Black girl from Oakland.” The invite-only Leading Women Defined conference brings together Black female execs for four days of workshops, community and network-building each year. Fashion, especially from Black designers, is often at the forefront, as the attendees wear stunning fits throughout the conference.

This ain’t Texas and it ain’t no hold’em — instead it’s one of the most empowering, glamorous and exclusive events for women of color in America. Leading Women Defined, an empowerment conference for female leaders of color across multiple industries, hosted its 15th summit this past weekend at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, California.

The conference was founded and produced by former longtime BET Networks CEO Debra Lee. This year’s theme was “Power + Full,” with workshops and events centered on finding power of all kinds, from without and within. Over four days, women gathered to learn everything from how playing golf could change their careers to how to make it as a leader in the boardroom, and even how to make authentic roti.

But in between the workshops, panels, and marquee fireside chats, one question seemed to pop up daily: “What are you wearing?”

With so many women from such a range of backgrounds and interests, the great unifier was looking fire. This was especially true on Saturday, when attendees were encouraged to channel their inner Beyoncé and go country. Taking inspiration from the multi-hyphenate’s Renaissance Tour and her personal Western style, LWD’s attendees showed up and showed out in their finest rhinestones and denim, adorned with wide-brim hats and high-heeled boots.

It was a slight break from the usual, as every day at LWD the attendees go for fashion in ALL CAPS with looks that turn heads and inspire. There’s work from Black designers like TelfarFe Noel, Junny NYC andSergio Hudson; there are also a lot of looks from the major luxury houses, including Gucci, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Zimmerman and more. And while some attendees like their luxury quiet, this is no event for the subtle or shy. Color is celebrated, prints can be as big and bold as one desires, jewelry is dripping, and maximalism is the word.

It’s glam big or go home, and for one day at LWD, the Country Western edition.

Debra Langford

Debra Langford’s hat aligned with the conference’s Saturday country theme.
Debra Langford’s hat aligned with the conference’s Saturday country theme. Tara Pixley for HuffPost

Marissa Nance

Marissa Nance has been attending LWD for 14 years. “I want to feel like I’m surrounded by community and love in everything I wear, so I try to wear designers of color,
Marissa Nance has been attending LWD for 14 years. “I want to feel like I’m surrounded by community and love in everything I wear, so I try to wear designers of color," she said. "I like to stand out with my clothing so I can stand back in a room.” Tara Pixley for HuffPost
<span class="copyright">Tara Pixley for HuffPost</span>
Tara Pixley for HuffPost

Latham Thomas

Latham Thomas, who has attended the conference for 10 years, says she was “thinking about ease and fun” when she got dressed this morning. “In places like this, women are impressing ourselves,
<span class="copyright">Tara Pixley for HuffPost</span>
Tara Pixley for HuffPost
<span class="copyright">Tara Pixley for HuffPost</span>
Tara Pixley for HuffPost
<span class="copyright">Tara Pixley for HuffPost</span>
Tara Pixley for HuffPost

Latraviette Smith-Wilson

This is Latraviette Smith-Wilson's fourth year at the conference. She's wearing Gucci boots and a leather jacket by Mess in a Bottle. ”I’m a mood dresser,
This is Latraviette Smith-Wilson's fourth year at the conference. She's wearing Gucci boots and a leather jacket by Mess in a Bottle. ”I’m a mood dresser," she said. "Literally how I feel when I wake up is how I will show up that day. Generally, I love the unexpected.” Tara Pixley for HuffPost
<span class="copyright">Tara Pixley for HuffPost</span>
Tara Pixley for HuffPost
<span class="copyright">Tara Pixley for HuffPost</span>
Tara Pixley for HuffPost

Raj Register

“I wear things that make me feel powerful but also full,
<span class="copyright">Tara Pixley for HuffPost</span>
Tara Pixley for HuffPost

Ashley Etienne

Ashley Etienne, CBS News political contributor and former Communications Director for VP Harris and Speaker Pelosi, says: “I wanted to be seen and be relaxed. That’s what this outfit is.”
Ashley Etienne, CBS News political contributor and former Communications Director for VP Harris and Speaker Pelosi, says: “I wanted to be seen and be relaxed. That’s what this outfit is.” Tara Pixley for HuffPost
<span class="copyright">Tara Pixley for HuffPost</span>
Tara Pixley for HuffPost
<span class="copyright">Tara Pixley for HuffPost</span>
Tara Pixley for HuffPost
<span class="copyright">Tara Pixley for HuffPost</span>
Tara Pixley for HuffPost

Sherri Blount

“When your best friend says 'Bring your best cowgirl spirit to the event,' I wanted to show up properly,
“When your best friend says 'Bring your best cowgirl spirit to the event,' I wanted to show up properly," Sherri Blount said. "I thought this suit would fit the bill. It’s structured and elegant.” Tara Pixley for HuffPost
<span class="copyright">Tara Pixley for HuffPost</span>
Tara Pixley for HuffPost
<span class="copyright">Tara Pixley for HuffPost</span>
Tara Pixley for HuffPost

Demetria Lucas

Demetria Lucas, an author and podcast host based in D.C., said of her outfit: “I was trying to convey fashion diplomacy. I love to walk in a room and have people turn their heads and look. It’s a conversation starter, a great opening way to meet people.”
Demetria Lucas, an author and podcast host based in D.C., said of her outfit: “I was trying to convey fashion diplomacy. I love to walk in a room and have people turn their heads and look. It’s a conversation starter, a great opening way to meet people.” Tara Pixley for HuffPost
<span class="copyright">Tara Pixley for HuffPost</span>
Tara Pixley for HuffPost
<span class="copyright">Tara Pixley for HuffPost</span>
Tara Pixley for HuffPost

Christina Jackson

Christina Jackson, a policy lead at Meta for the immersive tech portfolio, said she picked her outfit by Black designer Andrea Iyamah because “it’s comfortable, the colors are fun and vibrant. At a conference like this you want to look nice, you’re around a lot of impressive women and you never know who you’re going to meet. This is a very special place to be, in a room full of women of color all at the top of their game. I want to celebrate that, I want to look like I’m happy to be here. This is a celebratory moment. I’m celebrating that there are rooms to be in like this and that I can be in a room like this.”
<span class="copyright">Tara Pixley for HuffPost</span>
Tara Pixley for HuffPost

Madeline Edwards

Madeline Edwards, a country music artist who spoke about her career and performed at the conference, said: “I’m very inspired by my hometown of Houston, my Texas roots, anything denim, and turquoise, whatever shows off my style. I like a lot of denim with high fashion pieces and always cowboy boots.
<span class="copyright">Tara Pixley for HuffPost</span>
Tara Pixley for HuffPost

Carolyn “Cookie” Mason

Carolyn “Cookie” Mason, a philanthropist and advocate for the arts, has been attending the conference for 10 years. “Today I was attending a panel on style, so I wanted to wear something that spoke to emerging designers,
<span class="copyright">Tara Pixley for HuffPost</span>
Tara Pixley for HuffPost

Modupe Congleton

Modupe Congleton, global director of inclusive engagement for Amazon, said of the conference: “This is a fashion moment for women to bring their style. I like amplifying Black designers. I’m wearing Fe Noel, who is here at the conference. My approach is typically eclectic, a mix of high and low, so designer with the everyday, like mixing Zara and Gucci. One thing is for certain: Black women will wear what makes us feel good.”
<span class="copyright">Tara Pixley for HuffPost</span>
Tara Pixley for HuffPost

Dionne Harmon

Dionne Harmon says she was going for comfy casual with her outfit. “My whole thing is hats and sneakers,
Dionne Harmon says she was going for comfy casual with her outfit. “My whole thing is hats and sneakers," she said. "I remember coming my first year and just the shoes, the colors, the hair -- it’s just this catwalk. It’s amazing and it ranges, just Black women in all of their glory.” Tara Pixley for HuffPost

Simone Smith

Simone Smith was first invited to the conference’s 10th anniversary to share her jewelry line at the boutique space. “You leave here inspired and ready to push forward,
<span class="copyright">Tara Pixley for HuffPost</span>
Tara Pixley for HuffPost

Anne Marie Nelson-Bogle

Anne Marie Nelson-Bogle said she chooses her outfits “depending on my mood and reflecting my power. My mom really inspires my style, she’s really fashionable and I’ve carried her style — dressing how you feel, feeling confident and beautiful.”
Anne Marie Nelson-Bogle said she chooses her outfits “depending on my mood and reflecting my power. My mom really inspires my style, she’s really fashionable and I’ve carried her style — dressing how you feel, feeling confident and beautiful.” Tara Pixley for HuffPost
<span class="copyright">Tara Pixley for HuffPost</span>
Tara Pixley for HuffPost

Valeisha Butterfield

Valeisha Butterfield, vice president of partnerships at Google, has attended the conference every year for 15 years. She said her fashion choices are inspired by “living my best life and being fabulous. You dress how you want to feel. Even on days when I don’t feel fabulous, I try to be inspired by something. Fashion is art. Especially in corporate settings, this is how we show up authentically.”

Carletta Higginson

Carletta Higginson, a Warner Music Group exec who's at the conference for the first time, said she was “going for a music industry eclectic vibe” with her embroidered jacket.
Carletta Higginson, a Warner Music Group exec who's at the conference for the first time, said she was “going for a music industry eclectic vibe” with her embroidered jacket. Tara Pixley for HuffPost

Tanesha Jackson Warner

Tanesha Jackson Warner wore designer Andrea Iyamah to the dinner where attendees were encouraged to wear Black designers.
Tanesha Jackson Warner wore designer Andrea Iyamah to the dinner where attendees were encouraged to wear Black designers. Tara Pixley for HuffPost

Tracy Reese

Tracy Reese wore her own brand, Hope for Flowers, for the Saturday dinner showcasing Black designers’ pieces.
Tracy Reese wore her own brand, Hope for Flowers, for the Saturday dinner showcasing Black designers’ pieces. Tara Pixley for HuffPost

Tonya Salvant

Tonya Salvant wore designer Dena Burton, her Howard University classmate, for Saturday's dinner showcasing Black designers' pieces.
Tonya Salvant wore designer Dena Burton, her Howard University classmate, for Saturday's dinner showcasing Black designers' pieces. Tara Pixley for HuffPost

Melanie Parker

Melanie Parker said her outfit was “inspired by the country western theme and the opportunity to lean into all things country.”
Melanie Parker said her outfit was “inspired by the country western theme and the opportunity to lean into all things country.” Tara Pixley for HuffPost