The Fourth Annual Winston-Salem Fashion Week returns to the catwalk
Winston-Salem Fashion Week starts this weekend, and this year it is more local than ever before. Nikita Wallace, founder and director of Winston-Salem Fashion Week, said this year’s designers are all from North Carolina and many are from the Triad.
Wallace started Winston-Salem Fashion Week in 2015 after she pitched the idea for her senior project at Salem College. She said at the first Fashion Week; there were only eight designers, about 80 models and an attendance of about 200-250. This year, there are 13 designers, around 80 models and an expected 300 in attendance. The designers include Puja Aura, LaTosha Bell, Iris Cole, Melissa Coleman, Tiffany Flowers, April Gilliam, Ahmad Johnson, Jane Murrow, Anne Pembaur, Jayson Sloan, Taylor Wallace and Kimberly Yontz.
“We are not exclusive to just North Carolina- in the past, we have had some [designers] from Virginia, Georgia, New York- but this is the first show that we can say they are all from North Carolina. We are excited about it,” Wallace said. “I’ve always had a huge passion to do something in fashion. Growing up in Virginia, I didn’t really have an opportunity; there were no platforms where you can flourish in anything for fashion.”
Wallace’s passion for fashion dates back to when she was 8 years old, however, she wasn’t able to study it in college. She had an opportunity later in life to move to New York and work with her friend as a designer. She spent a few years in New York City but then moved back to Winston-Salem in 2007. She then worked with Forsyth County School students that had the same passion for working in the fashion industry (whether it be as a model, designer, artist, photographers, etc.). As she experienced, the fashion industry in major cities such as New York and Atlanta are very competitive markets, “especially for freshman straight out of high school.”
“So, I thought, let’s create a platform here,” she said. “For these kids or for creatives, why not have a small Winston-Salem Fashion Week on a smaller version?”
Which is exactly what Winston-Salem Fashion Week has become, a “high energy and exciting” gathering of diverse creatives in the city to celebrate art, apparel and fashion. Wallace said the theme of this year’s Fashion Week is transformation and will be presented at the Sept. 29 showcase.
“We are still celebrating our accomplished history that we have in so many areas of the industry, but also how we are transforming from that into innovation and technology,” she said. “A few of the designers have chosen to create an unconventional look that will represent the history of Winston-Salem– like Old Salem, R.J. Reynolds, Dewey’s Bakery and Hanesbrands.”
To go along with the theme, Wallace said Winston-Salem Fashion Week is in its second year of collaboration with Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina. Goodwill will be presenting six local designers at the Saturday night showcase as apart of their line called “Diva, Dapper on a Dime.” These designers go to various Goodwill retail stores to recreate and transform apparel to walk down the catwalk. Wallace also mentioned designer Jane Gillian who used technology to create “3D Design” apparel designed online and then transformed into a reality.
“We actually have a [designer/vendor] who is presenting a collection and her fabric is made from recycled plastic bottles,” Wallace said of Do Good Artist, which according to the website (www.wsfashionweek.com), is “an innovative company creating social impact through multi-sector collaborations between the arts and other industries.”
Iris Cole is the director and designer of the collaboration for Do Good Artist, and she said fashion is a big part of the company because of its growing industry. Do Good Artist will present its line at the Sept. 29 showcase.
Cole has created a special line just for Winston-Salem Fashion Week that highlights some work that is being done within the community and local fashion industry. For instance, Do Good Artist is launching a line of T-shirts that are made of 50 percent recycled plastic bottles and each design carries a social empowerment message addressing numerous issues such as domestic violence, self-awareness/love, and poverty.
“Our skirts for Winston-Salem Fashion Week are also made out of fabric that is made out of recycled plastic bottles,” she said. “[The skirts] are canvases for appliqués from upcycled fabric from Goodwill, and were made by refugee women in Winston-Salem.” These women are apart of the YMCA’s refugee literacy program and are taught English and skills such as sewing. Cole said volunteers from UNCSA’s dance costume shop made the skirts and volunteers from Winston-Salem’s FEARLESS helped out as well.
Cole said Do Good Artist’s models are dancers from UNCSA, and their hair/makeup will be done by a professor at the school who has a program that teaches students how to make medical wigs for cancer patients.
“Lots of amazing things that are going on in our community that are making a difference that is all being visually presented through a fashion line,” Cole said. “We have had a really fantastic time doing it; I would generally tell you this has been a story about women helping women because it has literally been all of these ladies and amazing companies all over the community that have helped together. It has been nothing but fun and joy to be a part of this.”
Cole said Fashion Week is significant to Winston-Salem because of its own history with textile production in North Carolina. She said fashion can be an agent in change and is something that helps people express their individuality.
“We have choices that we can make about what we buy and what it is doing and how it is helping,” she said. “Fashion is an industry that can create economic development.”
Cole said it has been an amazing experience to be apart of “connecting the pieces of the puzzle” in the community and to launch this line so that it could be as impactful for others as it has been for her.
Winston-Salem Fashion Week kicks off with the opening night reception on Sept. 21, 6:30 p.m. at the Winston Cup Museum Special Event Center, located at 1355 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. The reception will have live music, food, beverages, a silent auction, designers, models, and Councilwoman and Congress candidate D.D. Adams, who will give the welcome address followed by the introduction of the designers.
Christy Spencer is a sponsor of Winston-Salem Fashion Week and the co-owner of the Winston Cup Museum Special Events Center. Wallace and Spencer were connected through a mutual friend, and Spencer said she hit it off with Wallace the moment they met. Spencer attended Fashion Week last year, and after attending she knew she wanted to get involved this year.
“It is exciting to give local designers an opportunity to show off their talents,” she said. “Obviously, to showcase a Fashion Week, it normally takes a lot of money, and you have to know somebody, but most small designers don’t have that opportunity. This is a way to get our local talent exposure. I am really excited about that and to meet the designers in person, and just get them in front of other people to appreciate what they are doing.”
Spencer said her special event space is a good place to have the opening night reception because it’s inclusive for car or racing enthusiasts as well as fashion enthusiasts. Spencer said there are 21 race cars in their space and people get to literally “have a party with race cars.”
“They are like additional guests that are included,” she said with a chuckle. “So it is kind of a fun take of the idea of fast and innovative and thinking outside the box. I hope that is inspiriting to the designers.”
On Sept. 27, Venture Café will host the workshop “Fashion & Economics/Social Impact” from 5 to 8 p.m. and is open to the public. From Sept. 29-30, (ticketed events) there will be the emerging designers and retailers/boutique showcase featuring 11 designers, four emerging designers and numerous retailers from across North Carolina and the East Coast. The showcases will take place at the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, Biotech Atrium (located at 575 Patterson Ave.) at 5:30 p.m. At the showcase, Wallace said there would be celebrity/special guest appearances by Desiree Ross of the Oprah Winfrey Network drama Greenleaf, host/entertainer Mo Brown, as well as door prizes and vendors. Sunday’s showcase features kid’s/tween’s showcase as well as focuses on collaborating with retailers such as Jewellery Unique Gifts & Accessories Boutique, JCPenney, DXL and Forever 21. These retailers will introduce their looks for the 2018 fall/winter or the 2019 spring/summer. Following the showcase on Sunday, and staying in the theme of transformation for Fashion Week is a sneak peak of Monarch Butterflies, a film by local filmmaker and actor Korrine Meier.
Wallace said Meier’s piece is something that Winston-Salem Fashion Week likes to incorporate because it adds to the visual art aspect of Fashion Week as well as a way to showcase “the many talents and arts we have here in Winston-Salem.”
“We are excited, and I am just happy to present them, and I am actually proud to see what we have to offer in the city and what we are bringing to the table,” Wallace said. In the near future (possibly October 2019), Wallace hopes to connect Fashion Week with the University of North Carolina School of the Arts so that more students have the opportunity to get involved. Also for 2019, which will be the fifth annual Winston-Salem Fashion Week, Wallace plans to make the week more about the community by partnering with downtown restaurants and businesses, and for designers to have private events, so they have more time to network with other designers in the community.
“I think [Winston-Salem Fashion Week] is extremely important because if you see cities where art flourishes, take New York and Paris, where art is very huge, fashion is right at the center of it,” Wallace said. “Winston-Salem, being the city of art and innovation, is just perfect. We have the opportunity to really capitalize on and bring attention to the retail and the fashion industry that we have here in the city.”
Tickets for Winston-Salem Fashion Week are on sale now on Eventbrite (www.eventbrite.com/e/winston-salem-fashion-week-2018-tickets-45499619587?aff=eac2#ticket), and prices range from $25 student tickets, $50 general admission to $200 for packages and two-day VIP Swag admission. The opening night reception is free and open to the public, but it is advised that attendees RSVP before on Eventbrite.
For more information, visit the website www.wsfashionweek.com.
Katie Murawski is the editor of YES! Weekly. She is from Mooresville, North Carolina and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in film studies from Appalachian State University in 2017.