Richmond has many claims to fame these days — a growing art scene, the James River, a vibrant restaurant culture. Fashion may not be anyone’s first thought.
But the city slowly has carved out a niche as a fashionable place with a dedicated designer core and scores of boutiques offering new, recycled and handmade clothing. RVA Fashion Week, which kicks off Sunday, provides an opportunity to take the temperature of the local scene with a week of shows and networking events.
“Our goal is to cover all aspects of clothing, from boutiques, designers and consignment, while also incorporating artists and music,” says Courtney Culbreath, executive director of the event.
After helping found RVA Fashion Week, Culbreath left for a few years to take on fashion stints in Miami and New York before returning to guide the local event.
“We’re seven years strong. Lots of people have tried to buy out the name from us,” she says. “We say nope, keeping it. I came back because I love this city.”
A call went out in January for designers to submit sketches to the board. Three weeks later, the chosen ones were told to submit their first three pieces for the show. Another three weeks later, their final eight pieces were due.
Expect more than just runway shows. The week will start with Strike a Pose, a yoga and wellness workshop. A networking social at the Tobacco Company on Monday offers a preview of the week ahead, with the chance to meet the event’s models, staff, designers and sponsors. The Threads block party at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery features consignment outfits, live music and local beer and food trucks.
Sunday, April 12: Strike a Pose Yoga and Wellness Workshop at MTK Auto
Monday, April 13: Networking Social at Tobacco Company
Tuesday, April 14: Art and Jewelry at Visual Arts Center
Wednesday, April 15: VIP Client Appreciation Party at Snipes Property
Thursday, April 16: Threads Block Party at Hardywood Brewery
Friday, April 17: Designer Boutique Show, Part 1, at Maymont Nature Center
Saturday, April 18: Designer Boutique Show, Part 2, at Maymont Nature Center
Sunday, April 19: Wrap Party at F.W. Sullivan’s Bar & Grille
Find a complete schedule at rvafashionweek.com.
“When you have that first drink at the wrap party, that’s when you start to breathe again.” — Larissa Wisniewski, public relations director for RVA Fashion Week.
Number of months it takes to plan RVA Fashion Week, with a board meeting weekly: 8
Number of runway fashion shows: 4
Average number of models used: 70. “Male models are so much easier to work with than female models,” executive director Courtney Culbreath says. “Women will get competitive about each other’s hair, saying they want their braid like someone else’s. I have to remind them no, you’re just a model here to model clothes. That’s the hairstyle that works with the outfit."
Number of local designers whose clothing for men, women and plus sizes will be featured: 15. “Our event draws heavily from local talent,” Wisniewski says. “Cities like New York and L.A. pull from different cities’ designers. Even Charleston uses other designers. It’s really inspiring because we showcase all local talent.”
Number of venues where Fashion Week events will be held: 7
Number of returning designers from past shows: 2. “Kamala Bhagat began with us as a model before becoming a designer,” Culbreath says. “She makes organic, eco-friendly bohemian looks with lots of prints and maxi skirts. It’s casual to formal and kind of African-influenced.”
Number of photographers and videographers who capture RVA Fashion Week: 8
Number of boutiques and consignment shops featured: 7
Number of local fashion bloggers who cover the event: 50. “For fashion bloggers, it’s our big thing to talk about,” says Wisniewski, herself a blogger. “A lot of people don’t think of Richmond as a fashion town. For one week, there’s a focus on all that to remind you that we are.”
Number of models who have gone on to model in New York and Thailand: 2
Number of designers who have gone on to show at Brooklyn Fashion Week: 1. Jevin Kinard has gone on to present his line Child Rebel in various New York shows. “RVA Fashion Week can be a springboard to bigger things,” Culbreath says. “We’re happy for them as long as they remember to shout us out in their later lives.”