High on Style: Tampa Bay Fashion Week preview


If the Emmys can switch from Sunday to Monday, Tampa Bay Fashion Week can host its runway show on a Wednesday — Wednesday, Sept. 17, to be exact. Perhaps it’s part of the event’s seven-year itch. In any case, this year’s schedule resembles, in theory, a pineapple upside-down cake, with the most delicious part (the designer spring/summer 2015 collection runway presentation) up first and wrapping with the little morsels you just love to gobble up at Kid Couture.

Nine designers, including Crystal Hefner (yes, that Hefner), a bunch of new faces and a handful of student designers are participating this year. Plus, there are some new events on tap, too. See the full schedule and list of designers online at fashionweektampabay.com.

Nancy Vaughn, principal of White Book Agency and executive producer of Tampa Bay Fashion Week, fills us in on the goods…

Surprise us! What’s new this year?
We have a few new changes. Our main runway show date will be on Wednesday, September 17, instead of Friday. We’re opening up our week with a focus on the runway. Then we changed our evening Model Behavior cocktail reception to a day party, and we added a free event to this year’s calendar called Baubles & Beer [Sept. 18 from 7:30-10 p.m. at Green Bench Brewing Co.] where people can check out accessories designers from across the region.

We’ve also shortened our event week calendar, which has grown over the years, and went back down to four days like our very first year. Some events that were on our calendar you will now see us promoting during other times of the year, so you can get your fashion fix during other months (like Cocktails & Couture in January).

Will accessories be available for sale at the Baubles & Beer Fashion Party or just on display?
Yes. For sale.

Tell us about the ability to order looks online straight off the runway…
All of the designers have a website, but not all of them have e-commerce available on their sites for various reasons (some are custom-order, some are exclusively carried in boutiques, etc.).

This year Tampa Bay Fashion Week has partnered with Luevo [luevo.com], an award-winning company and pioneer in fashion crowdfunding. After the runway show, a few designers will be making their collections available for pre-order via Luevo’s platform. In addition, people from all over the world will be able to shop these collections from Tampa Bay Fashion Week designers.

Did you get your plexiglass runway?
No. Sigh… not this year.

Overall, what do you think makes a compelling runway presentation?
The clothing, of course! Something that makes people say, “I need to add that to my wardrobe!” or if it’s not something s/he can see her/himself wearing, it has an artistic flair and creativity that can be appreciated. And a great model that knows how to work the garment is always helpful, too!

There are lots of designers we haven’t met before participating this year. What’s that been like?
Great! There’s always a number of talent who return to showcase their new collections and a new group of applicants. Over the years we’ve seen people who are established in their craft and look to launch their new collections at our show, some who have never applied before, and some who have improved their portfolios over the years or changed directions, etcetera, and we’re always excited to see what they bring to the runway!

What’s the thought process behind inviting a designer from Arkansas to participate in TBFW?
We’ve always had out-of-state applicants, and this year we even had international applicants from South Africa. Chavon Shree applied to our event; we reviewed her materials and let her know that she was selected to participate. We think it’s great that people think our region is cool enough to come down and share their fashion work. We want people everywhere to value the fashion scene in our area and we’re excited when people want to be a part of it because we think Tampa Bay is worth the visit!

Do you think that launching Crystal Hefner’s lingerie collection at the show will cause a scene?
Yes, because we think it’s going to be great! Her collection’s pieces can be worn at home or out around the town — it’s versatile clothing with comfy mix-and-match tops, robes, chemises, and bottoms. Perhaps you’re asking if it would cause a scene if her husband came to the show? Well, certainly, that would be a big deal, too, right? His wife is showing in Tampa Bay Fashion Week and so is his friend Rhonda Shear, who lives here, plus Tampa Bay is pretty this time of year…why not?

Why does TBFW feature a student designer showcase on the runway?
We have students in our region who are looking for support and events in their area, and we always welcome a student showcase when we’re able to have them. It allows people to see the talent that’s out there and many of these students go on to advance their careers in fashion. Alexandra Lin was in the Sanford-Brown IADT School of Design Student Showcase last year and this year she’s launching her latest collection at Tampa Bay Fashion Week.

How did TBFW get involved with Becca’s Closet, one of this year’s beneficiaries?
We always look for non-profit partnerships that appreciate the uniqueness and creativity of our event. Our team discussed a few different ones this year, and we all agreed upon Becca’s Closet [beccascloset.org]. It’s a unique, Florida-based organization and our runway show date is going to be a drop-off location. Our audience can get involved by donating their gently used or new formal dresses. That bridesmaid’s dress? Bring it — someone might be able to transform that thing into something fantastic for someone else to wear!

What are you most looking forward to this year?
Everything! It’s all a really exciting time of year! Girlfriends and couples get together for a night out, parents bring their kids who have an interest in fashion, designers collaborate on new projects, and people who haven’t seen one another in awhile (or since last year) are gathered for a good time. Whether you’ve attended the event previously or not, everyone’s excited about picking out their outfits for all of the events to anticipating what they’re going to see on the runway. Tampa Bay Fashion Week is a chance for everyone to experience a fashion buzz.

Let’s hear what someone else on the TBFW committee is most looking forward to this year.
Dr. Zakia Carter, PhD and owner of White Tent Runway Mobile Boutique, says, “I am most looking forward to the diverse expression of the designer’s art. It is extremely humbling to be a part of a team that highlights the immense degree of talent in the Tampa Bay area. Personal style, genuine soul and heart are truly reflected at Fashion Week Tampa Bay. It’s always interesting to see firsthand how the inner spirit can be reflected through fashion. I am also looking forward to the emotions that will be felt at this year’s show when the audience sees the multitude of fashion influences hit the runway!”

Back to Nancy…
Seven years in, what have you learned about the local fashion scene?
People enjoy that there is a growing fashion scene in our region! Is it how everyone imagined it would or should be? Some things, yes and some things, no – but at the end of the day, it’s ours!

Tampa Bay Fashion Week
September 17-20. Opening runway show Wed. Sept. 17, Hilton Tampa Downtown, 211 N. Tampa St. Doors open at 6 p.m., runway begins at 7. Gen. admission, $40; VIP Pass (limited), $100. Fashion Week kick-off: Friday, September 12, International Plaza, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

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