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A Q&A with RVA Fashion Week Executive Producer Jimmy Budd

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In 2008, a small group of Virginia Commonwealth University students who met working on local fashion events decided to start RVA Fashion Week. Their school majors varied from fashion and design to marketing and business, but founder Jason Primrose, with Erin Brennan, Kearsten Feggans, Moe Medina, Jen Whitehead and Courtney Culbreath, managed to pull together what their website describes as "the largest fashion production in the history of Richmond."

Since then, the all-volunteer RVA Fashion Week has grown to the point that it's now overseen by a board of directors, boosting and promoting local designers and the Richmond fashion scene each of the 11 years of its existence.

Style interviewed Jimmy Budd, the executive producer of this year's event, which took place April 22 through 28. RVA Fashion Week also includes a fall weekend, Oct. 11-13, and benefits the Neighborhood Housing Services of Richmond, a 37-year-old nonprofit that "promotes successful homeownership, revitalizes neighborhoods and helps displaced war veterans find homes," according to a release.

Style Weekly: What was different this year at RVA Fashion Week?

Jimmy Budd: One major difference this year was inviting other organizers to host their events during RVA Fashion Week versus us producing every single event like we've done the past 10 years. The Wear RVA, Salome Styles, and an Evening at Black Iris events were all put on by phenomenal event organizers.

This change in direction enabled us to introduce new events — model and designer Q&As, Fashion Freedom day party, Funhouse networking social — as well as provide resources [and] consult with the other organizers with any help they might need, [such as] models, hair stylists, makeup artists, sponsors, etc.

Was there a specific highlight that stands out?

I would say introducing the educational pieces this season for aspiring models and designers through the Q&As. Each season the talent pool gets stronger as well as talent getting recognized in larger markets. So for us to hone in on the educational side will really help get local talent focused at an early age growing in the Virginia market.

How has this even grown since it started?

RVA Fashion Week has become a household name in the state of Virginia where talent continues to travel to be a part of so many awesome events that take place, as well as the possibility to further their careers through networking and runway shows. There have been many individuals signed to various agencies, booked to show their lines and/or model at New York Fashion Week, Paris Fashion Week, London, LA, etc.

Model Menddy Mercado, also wearing Swan, walks the runway at Stony Point Fashion Park. - MICHAEL HOSTETLER PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Michael Hostetler Photography
  • Model Menddy Mercado, also wearing Swan, walks the runway at Stony Point Fashion Park.

On the publishing side, boatloads of models are getting booked with various publications for shoots. Because Richmond is still a smaller city, we still have so much room to grow, so I am really excited to see how much more this brand grows.

Are there any national issues in fashion that are playing out locally?

I think the stereotypes around how a model is supposed to look as well as what size they need to be has gone out the door and allowed more realistic-sized models to enter the scene. This draws a stronger connection between the consumer and the model, which inevitably draws a stronger connection between the consumer and the designer who may want to purchase that piece that's shown on the runway.

What would you say about the state of fashion in Richmond?

It is growing at a very rapid rate and the diversity and creative freedom these designers have and continue to pursue make the fashion industry so unique in this city. … We are one giant melting pot of so many different styles you can see in the city on any given day.

What are your hopes for future of RVA Fashion Week?

I look forward to continuing all of the relationships we have been growing over the years and building more strategic partnerships down the road. Stony Point Fashion Park has been phenomenal to work with. Productive AV has been a great sponsor helping maintain quality productions. We have a strong relationship with the Henrico County Public Schools so continuing our education side with them will help spark creativity and inspiration at a much younger age.

Inviting more talented organizers to produce their events during RVA Fashion Week will allow this event to become a much larger community oriented showcase, too. So, really, the sky is the limit with growing this brand as the City of Richmond continues to grow itself.

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