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VOL. 130 | NO. 58 | Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fashion Forward

Memphis Fashion Week celebrates local artists, designers and retailers

By Madeline Faber

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Memphis Fashion Week is celebrating its emergence as a full-fledged event.

For the past three years it has been known as Memphis Fashion Weekend, but a new branding effort through inferno LLC has produced a stable logo and a stable vision.

“We would change logos every year, which is indicative of us trying to find who we are. Having this strong, geometric logo really solidifies who we are, and we’re really excited about having one indelible mark everybody can recognize as Memphis Fashion Week,” said organizer Abby Phillips.

Growing from the initial two days of fashion shows was an obvious choice to Phillips.

“We always knew we wanted it to be a week of events,” she said. “It just kind of took it growing naturally to reach that point. We had to test the Memphis waters and make sure we could sustain it for a full week.”

“More people definitely know about it. The events are bigger and the designers are bigger,” said Nicole Forsythe, a local model who has been participating since the first Memphis Fashion Weekend. At Monday night’s opening event at Joseph boutique, Forsythe and several other models strolled between partygoers and the martini bar. Ten percent of Joseph’s sales that night went to the Memphis Fashion Week Fashion Fund, an account housed at the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis to benefit community education fashion design classes at the Memphis College of Art.

“Every year it takes on a little bit of a new purpose. Memphis Fashion Fund and these fashion classes are now our long term goal,” Phillips said.

In the first two years of Memphis Fashion Weekend, a percentage of proceeds were donated to ArtsMemphis.

“We created the Fashion Fund to enhance the growth and education of the fashion industry in Memphis,” Phillips said.

Wednesday’s event is a VIP Preview Party held at Jay Etkin Gallery in the Cooper-Young neighborhood. The event is an opportunity for the Memphis industry, models, designers and Memphis Fashion Week sponsors to mingle.

On Thursday, attendees can weave in and out of the Shops of Saddle Creek. Banana Republic, Indigo and Brooks Brothers will dress the models for fashion shows to be held at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Local jewelry designers also will sell their creations.

On Friday, Memphis’ designers get to shine. The 10 selected designers of the Emerging Memphis Designer Project display either a singles collection, which consists of one to three looks, or mini-collections, which consists of five looks that are part of a cohesive collection. “Typical collections from designers include 20 to 30 looks, which is hard for a smaller designers just starting out,” Phillips said.

This year, celebrity judges include musician Grace Askew, designer Pat Kerr, and Ballet Memphis costume designer Bruce Bui. Models will guide the designers’ creations down a runway at the Memphis College of Art.

Tara Skelley and her Dilettante Collection won the Emerging Memphis Designer Project in 2014 and 2013. Through the Memphis Fashion Fund, she was awarded a scholarship to take fashion design classes at Memphis College of Art, and she received continued support for her emerging career.

“I love being able to see everything all lined up. Even if it only takes 15 minutes, it’s really gratifying to see your work showcased and in front of people,” Skelley said.

Now, Skelley has made her Dillettante Collection available off the runway. The ready-to-wear pieces are crafted by her and other Memphis artisans. In the coming year, she’s looking to add custom commissions.

On Friday night, she’ll send down the runway something extravagant: a dress made out of real flowers.

“People come to fashion shows for entertainment,” she said. “I’ve made something to be potentially used for editorial styling in the future or for custom commissions.”

Saturday is the featured designer show, which will be held in the Memphis Zoo courtyard. Spring and summer collections by Diane Von Furstenberg, Faherty Brand, Anne Barge and Waverly Grey will be on display.

A local retail focus surrounds the two culminating events. Fashion trucks Henny Penny mobile boutique and Sache, which will be screen-printing Memphis Fashion Week T-shirts on site, will be present Friday and Saturday. During the week, trunk shows and special events pop up throughout the city.

The official app, which is new this year, tracks the retail offshoots as well and also provides information about the Memphis-made photographers, designers and make-up artists and models. Around 80 percent of the models are local.

“The reason Memphis Fashion Week has grown is because of the support of we have seen through retail stores and people that come to the event year after year,” Phillips said.

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