NiteTalk: Keni Valenti Lets His Vodou Freak Flags Fly

When Terry Richardson wanted a suitably swingin' suit to put on James Franco for a shoot he went to the renowned Keni Valenti, whose extravagant retro couture collection is the most extensive held in private hands. That said suit happened to come from YSL and be designed for a woman didn't phase either one bit; if anything, it only added to the transversal allure of it all. And the results were suitably sublime. This, and stories like this, are the stuff of Keni Valenti's legendary life, which began in New York and will undoubtedly crown with his own Miami-based Museum of Fashion. Till then we've got his namesake Gallery, where this Second Saturday artwalkers will thrill to the mashup of Haitian vodou flags and high fashion.

In a sentence, what's Keni Valenti? It's a fashion gallery extravaganza!

What kind of extravaganza do you have in store for this Second Saturday?
We've got a show called The Guardians. We call it "a combined adventure featuring the extraordinary art of the Haitian Vodou Flag (Drapos) as inspiration for a display of [my] collection curated by Haitian-American stylist and designer Kerine Jean-Pierre, also known as Le Rouge Pierre."

Why title it The Guardians? Because it's based on Haitian vodou flags, which are based on spirits, and I believe those spirits are guardians -- of health, wealth, love and beauty. It's all purely positive energy.

How long have you been interested in vodou flags?
I saw my first flag only three months ago; I'd never seen them before. I was attracted not by the glitter but by the craftsmanship. They reminded me of beaded evening garments.

Is this a departure for you?
Yes and no. Each mannequin represents a different spirit and flag, and this mixing of vodou flag and fashion is something no one has done before. Not that I've seen anyway.

How'd you and Kerine connect? I found Kerine at Brigid Baker's 6th Street Dance Studio and discovered she's not just a dancer but she's an aspiring fashion designer as well. That she's also Haitian-American allows her to bring a rather unique perspective to the whole extravaganza.

What's next for Keni Valenti Gallery? Our next show will be devoted to the infamous socialite Lilly Pulitzer, whose fashion career began when she needed something colorful enough to cover up juice stains and continues to this day. It's a terrific story, and Lilly's a terrific figure.

The Guardians runs Second Saturday July 14 through Second Saturday September 8 at Keni Valenti Gallery 2612 NW 2nd Avenue Wynwood. For more information contact

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