Story, photos by Eric Smith
That’s the one word – or derivation of it – that comes up in conversation with fashion insiders describing Philadelphia Fashion Week, an event featuring local and international designers, with the 2015 fall show having just gone down the catwalk in the city from Aug. 31 to Sept. 4.
From fashion icon Fern Mallis, to Philadelphia Fashion Week co-founder Kevin Parker, to event attendee and local designer Renee Hill, the consensus is that Philadelphia Fashion Week continues to pick up steam and provide a place for local designers to mingle with international talent.
Mallis, creator of New York Fashion Week and driving force behind fashion events in a number of other cities, mentioned the growth as she received the Philadelphia Fashion Week Fashion Icon Award at Macy’s on Sept. 3.
“Fashion Week is an international event and happens in over 600 locations around the world,” Mallis said. “It has come a long way here, and it is a chance to see the creativity here in Philadelphia.”
“It’s been a slow, growing process,” said Kevin Parker, who founded Philadelphia Fashion Week with Kerry Scott in 2006. “It was something new and we didn’t have a fashion week. It was a slow start, but now it is really growing strong. For the past five years, it’s been a big success.”
Since 2006, the main thing that has changed is the notoriety, Parker said.
“We get international buyers and international designers who are coming in as well as local designers,” he said. “A plethora of different media come out to cover our shows from season to season. We get celebrity stylists who come in. The designers get covered in different editorials. It is really exciting.”
With the notoriety comes opportunity.
“We have our own sense of style and our own unique energy,” Parker added. “We have so many amazing, talented people here, who are growing businesses and who are becoming successful here, so people know now that they don’t have to move to New York or L.A. in order to succeed. People are opening businesses here. The amount of opportunity that is here for them is overwhelming.”
Renee Hill, a local designer who attended the Sept. 4 Couture show at the Crane Arts Building with fellow designer Nayyirah Sabree, said she’s seen progress since she started attending the shows three years ago.
“We’re moving forward,” Hill said. “We’re in the right direction. We’re continually moving forward and we’ll continue to grow. We’re definitely inspired by Europe and couture. The inspiration is there and Philly has a lot to offer. I think in a couple of years, it will be all together.”
Sabree, after the culmination of the couture show, said the designers and participants had reason to feel good about the outcome this year.
“I’ve done a few shows and in doing the shows I know there is a lot of work in order to succeed behind the scenes,” she said. “I’m sure it was very, very hectic, but I was happy to see it be successful and come together. That’s always the best part of it. When you get to the end, you’ve got to go, ‘It went well.’”
Parker said that to pull off the shows, it not only helps to have the international notoriety, but it helps to have local sponsors and media as important players.
“It takes tons of support,” he said. “We have to make sure we feature local talent. We’re all about featuring emerging designers and local talent. We also make sure we bring in notable designers – international designers – so we can attract different press to attend the shows and who can attract different opportunities for the designers who are in the shows. We have to make sure we have our local press – our local media – supporting our talent. That’s the only way our local businesses can survive and grow.”
Event sponsor Geno Vento of Geno’s Steaks said he was captivated by Philadelphia Fashion Week.
“Being a part of Philly, Philly fashion is iconic just like we are,” Vento said. “I love fashion and especially after losing 110 pounds, fashion is a whole new life for me… being able to go out and get clothes and have things fit and not having to worry about sizing.”
Vento plans to continue his support of Philadelphia Fashion Week.
“It’s my first year sponsoring this event and I’m already signed on for next year,” he said. “It’s been an absolutely amazing time and Kerry (Scott) and Kevin (Parker) really know how to run an event. I also like the glitz, the glamour, the cameras, the socializing, the meet and greets, the designers and getting a chance to see different designs. It makes you think, ‘That’s a really cool outfit. I wouldn’t think to put that together.’ It just opens your mind because the imagination is unbelievable.”
Other attendees had their own reasons for coming out.
“We’re interested in fashion,” said Carie Treadwell, who was visiting Philadelphia from Chicago with her friend Ieshia Brown. “We are actually here for the fest (Made in America Music Festival). We saw there was a fashion show so we decided to come. We like fashion. I’m a seamstress and (Brown) is my model, so we thought we’d come.”
For mother and daughter Regina and Angie Vasey, the couture show was an opportunity to come out and support someone they knew.
“Our hairstylist, Kia Sterling, was the lead hairstylist doing the looks for the hair,” Angie said.
Though they both said they enjoyed the show, the two disagreed on who was the best designer. Angie liked Ayasa Afi and Regina liked Closet By Christobal.
Parker said he welcomes anyone to come and check out future shows.
“Make sure you come out and support us and see what we are all about,” he said. “We are an amazing production and your support is needed.”
Enjoy featured looks from the Ready To Wear and Couture shows from Fall 2015 Philadelphia Fashion Week: