Photo: Couretsy, NWA Fashion Week
One of the best dressed weekends of the year is coming up next month in northwest Arkansas.
NWA Fashion Week is set to host their third year of spring fashion shows coming up April 3-6 at various locations in Bentonville.
For those who aren’t familiar, NWA Fashion Week is a project of the non-profit organization The Arkansas Arts and Fashion Forum, with a mission to highlight fashion trends, support local brands, to provide a creative outlet for designers, and to celebrate Northwest Arkansas’ fashion culture.
NWA Fashion Week
When: April 3-6
Where: Various locations, Downtown Bentonville
What: Fashion shows, panel discussions, meet and greets, and more
More info: nwafw.com
In recent years, NWA Fashion Week has focused on putting on two events each year in Northwest Arkansas – a spring show in Bentonville, and a fall show in Fayetteville.
This year, the spring show will kick off with a Pecha Kucha event scheduled for 7-9 p.m. on Wednesday, April 3 on the Walker Landing at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The event will feature brief presentations from fashion industry insiders, including Dr. Lance Cheramie (University of Arkansas), Shaul Cohen -(Jordache), Zach Freeze (Walmart, Inc), and Alyssa Bird (Regenerous Designs). The event is free to attend and open to the public.
The fashion shows will kick off on Thursday, April 4 this year with a bridal fashion show at 21C Museum Hotel in downtown Bentonville. The Thursday show will feature looks from four local wedding boutiques, as well as designers Amy Johnson, Ashley Little, and Alicia Crayton. Tickets to the bridal show range from $35-$50.
Also on Thursday night this year, a fashion show showcasing active wear will take place from 6:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. at The Record, also in downtown Bentonville. The Friday show will feature a host of local, regional, and national activewear brands, including 22nd Element, Bearded Goat Apparel, lululemon, Rapha, and others. Tickets to the activewear show range from $45-$120.
The Friday night show on April 5 this year will feature “ready to wear” fashions created for everyday lifestyle. The show will feature looks from a host of local boutiques, as well as designers Big Sister Apparel, Darcy apparel, Ethwes, and Ruby Ru. This show will take place at 7 p.m. at The Record, and tickets range from $50-$200.
On Saturday, April 6, NWA Fashion Week will host an avant garde show they are calling their “most experimental and creative runway yet.” The show will feature designers from Arkansas and Oklahoma creating cutting-edge creative apparel. Designers include A’Lyece Lenae, Ashton Hall, Basana Chhetri, Bizarre Couture, Eclection, Ellen Elaine, Nicole Simone, Regenerous Designs, Robbie’s Era, Rosie Rose, Samantha’s Garden, and The R Gene.
In addition to the runway shows, NWA Fashion Week will also host a few other events, including a meet and greet with designer Rosie Rose and chat about her Spring 2018 collection on view in the Arvest lobby on Friday, April 5. After the event, Rosie’s gowns will be on display through May 10.
Also, educational speaker event featuring Gabrielle Korn, Editor in Chief of Nylon, at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 6 at Haxton Road Studios. According to the event description, “attendees will hear about what it’s like to run one of the hippest digital brands around and participate in a group activity to envision our very own fashion magazine for NWA.”
For more information about NWA Fashion Week, or to purchase tickets to the individual shows associated with the spring event, visit nwafw.com.
We got in touch with Fashion Week CEO Robin Atkinson, and she was nice enough to answer a couple questions for us.
How would you characterize the state of the fashion industry in NWA these days as it relates to when you started working with NWA Fashion Week?
The industry has really shown exciting growth since we came back on the scene in 2017! In late 2017 we founded the 501c3 non-profit the Arkansas Arts & Fashion Forum, and through that organization have been providing educational opportunities, professional development, public speaker events and more to foster growth in the creative side of apparel in NWA. Outside of that though, we are getting more applicants every season for NWA Fashion Week, more and more from Arkansas all the time. I’ve been really shocked at the number of designers that are coming out of all parts of the region to showcase their collections. Whereas maybe we knew of 10 designers statewide before, now there are at least 5 new designers every time we put on a show, and that’s a big deal. New talent is coming to the table, and that’s exciting for us. Alongside that there is a lot of talk in our organizations about the development of small batch production facilities, trying to foster the ability for brands to scale up, for designers to go from individually hand-making every single item to a more sustainable way to outsource production and fabrication. So within the next 5 years I imagine you’ll see something on the landscape pop-up that addresses this need. Whether it’s local apparel start up brands like Bearded Goat, or designers like Sindhu Varagani or Ashley Little, there is a demand for more ability to produce product on a larger scale than single unit production. Everyone has to go outside the region for this right now, but hopefully we can do a little something about that in time.
On another kind of scale, I’ve also seen the industry grow much wider, embracing a much broader audience than before. We have found that fashion is so much more inclusive now than when we started, here in the area that is. And we like to think we had a little bit to do with changing the way we think about creating images, in relationship to a diversity of faces, and body types, and hair styles, etc. What was once maybe a little homogenous has become really radically inclusive and we are here for it! Putting inclusion first in everything we do has shifted, I think, the way people think about creating images for their instagrams, for their websites, and their ad campaigns. It’s much less likely that you’ll see anyone advertising with only one kind of face, hair color, or body type. Across the board we are embracing difference and that’s huge for us.
Can you tell us a bit about some of the things you are most excited about for this year’s spring show?
With this season being our most ambitious season yet, there are so many things to be excited about! We have brand new programming added to our line up such as our educational Pecha Kucha event at Crystal Bridges,with a highlight on sustainable fashion. We also have an In-Conversation event with Gabrielle Korn, the Editor-in-Chief from Nylon, and hopefully you’ll be seeing some tidbits from NWAFW on Nylon after the events, which we are thrilled about.
This Spring 2019 season is also the first season that we have created separate events based on theme. For three nights, we will showcase several different runway events that include NWAFW x Bridal at 21c Museum Hotel, NWAFW x Active that will feature activewear and outdoor gear, NWAFW x Ready to Wear, and NWAFW x Avant Garde, which will be a huge collision of art and fashion. Without giving away too many surprises, this is the first year we will be putting Active Wear on the runway, and you may just see some model ON bikes. We are working with some great local vendors; Gearhead, Arkie Apparel, Bearded Goat, some national brands like BEAT Outdoor Gear and global brands like Rapha, and thats just for NWAFW x Active!
On our Ready to Wear night we are showcasing designers who working locally, local boutiques like Lola, Maude, Dandy Roll, 59th and 9th, and bringing Walmart Private Label brands Time and True, Terra and Sky, and George to the runway for their first runway shows ever! So there is really just a ton of new stuff happening this season, with big brands, local talent, and exciting partnerships across the board.
And of course I can’t fail to mention the tons of talent backstage and on the runway that make these shows happen. We have hairstylists and makeup artists from across the state, over 150 models from as far away as Shreveport and Kansas City, the best production team in the area, and our volunteers that are putting in hours and hours of their time and love to get these events pulled off. It really is a monumental task, and we are so fortunate to have the network of participants and collaborators that we do. We also have more sponsors and more community partners than ever before, so the momentum is undeniable.