Trenton fashion designer turns disability into super ability

By Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

Fashion wasn’t originally a forefront for Qaysean Williams. He didn’t have any family members in the industry. He didn’t have a grandmother who sewed. What he had was a disability that made him uncomfortable and unable to feel a true connection to the world around him. Williams was born with a nerve injury and only able to use one arm because his left arm was significantly weaker. Later in life, he learned the technical term of his injury was Erb’s/Klumpke’s Palsy.

“Kids teasing me, every word I took to heart,” shared the lifelong resident of Trenton, who now lives bicoastal in the Capital City as well as Los Angeles. “My family never knew about the teasing. I bottled it all up.” Comic books and cartoons played a big role in his childhood until, as Williams likes to say, “fashion found me.” It all happened during his middle school and high school years when he was trying to hide his arm, focusing instead on what he was wearing—and it worked! He started to get attention and had the reputation of being a fly boy in the community. He counseled at a Boys and Girls Club and put on a fashion production. The show was a success.

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“That was the first time I felt alive,” said Williams. “There was something I could do that didn’t require two hands. It was a pivotal moment for finding my purpose. When fashion found me, it gave me a sense of hope.” 

Mercer County Community College just started a fashion program, and while taking fashion courses, a friend had a grandmother who taught Williams how to thread the sewing machine. “I thought my first dress was done…and it fell apart,” he said. “I thought, ‘This is not gonna work.’” However, he was persistent and kept on creating. 

In 2012, Williams put on his own fashion productions in Trenton, at the Marriott Hotel and CURE Insurance Arena. Then came his vision. “I wanted to know the business side. How to market. How to sell, grow, and scale the business,” Williams explained. “I wanted to kill two birds with one stone.” He then went on to Montclair State University to get his bachelor’s. 

Williams developed his signature brand, Manikin in 2014, and became a celebrated fashion and costume designer. For those who have yet to witness Williams’ luminous creations, he describes them as “Dazzling. One of a kind. You’ll literally have the entire room in awe. Jaws drop on the floor. Timeless. Fit to perfection. Show the world you are here.” 

Since then, Williams has had so many “I have to pinch myself” moments, but he knew he arrived when he attended the Vogue fashion show and sat in the front row. “I got to connect with Anna Wintour and so many Vogue editors and got recognized for my work,” he said. 

For those who would like to see how Williams creates a garment, they can check out “Next in Fashion” Season 2 on Netflix. He uses his knee to hold fabric down, as well as using his elbows and sometimes his forehead. “It’s important that everything is precise,” he said. 

In addition to fashion, Williams is also an actor who was in an independent film called “City of Mind” in 2007. He also writes music to create soundtracks to promote his brand. 

What’s Next for Williams?

“You’re going to see me creating fashion moments. I want to make people feel powerful,” said Williams, enthusiastically. 

When he’s not working, Williams loves to work out, dance, and find “quiet spaces just to exist” since he moves so much. 

Williams would love to see Beyonce, Anne Hathaway, and Michelle Obama wear his designs. “I’d sit and talk fashion with them all day,” he said.

Follow Qaysean Williams on Instagram:

For more information on Qaysean Williams’ brand, Manikin, visit:

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