Dwight Byrd, whose extravagant fashion show productions for the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington made tickets for those shows the most coveted for any fashion event here, died in Dallas Nov. 9 of acute kidney failure. He was 33.
"A fashion show should be entertainment . . . it should help you keep your mind off other things, like the economy. And it should make people enthusiastic about the clothes and want to buy them," Mr. Byrd said before the caucus show a year ago. His ability to gracefully incorporate all those elements distinguished his productions.
"He was an artist and a genius, and made each show innovative and exciting," said Roscoe Dellums, an attorney and the wife of Rep. Ron Dellums (D-Calif.), who helped launch the first Black Caucus show when it was proposed five years ago by Washington model Helen Moody. "He put our fashion shows on the map."
Mr. Byrd, who was born in Wilmington, Del., created fashion shows in his house as a small boy, twisting the gooseneck lamp to shine on his mother, a former model. He gave up an athletic scholarship at La Salle College to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology and got an advanced degree from the Pratt Institute.
He staged industry shows and designer fashion shows for Bob Mackie, Jeffrey Banks and others across the country. The show he produced in Dallas to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Mary Kay Cosmetics, attended by 8,000 at each of three viewings, may well have been the largest audience for any fashion show in history.
And what shows they were. For the Black Caucus show last year Mr. Byrd brought in a cougar to walk with the models in fur coats. (The cougar, frightened by the lights and the crowd, balked and refused to go down the runway.) To show off red, glittering evening dresses he created a five-alarm fire with red lights and dressed other models in D.C. Fire Department garb. By remote control, he directed an air-filled dirigible around the hotel ballroom during one show, and released 10 dozen mechanical birds from the stage as the grand finale for another.
Mr. Byrd, who recently moved to Dallas from New York, had a strong tie to Washington, mixing in Washington designers and models with those brought from New York, and lecturing at Howard University on each visit here.