Arts & Events » Arts and Culture

The Category is Runway

A look at the designs from the recent RVA Fall Fashion Week.


From grungy and futuristic to professional, RVA Fashion Week (RVAFW) designers are putting a new twist on defining streetwear fashion.

RVAFW kicked off its 15th anniversary with jam-packed events running from last Wednesday, Oct. 4 to its grand finale on the evening of Sunday, Oct. 8. The fashion organization has been helping local up-and-coming designers to grow their brands, social media presence and establish themselves within the fashion industry.

The theme for this fall was urban streetwear – contrasting the spring season back in April, luxury wear. “We’re compartmentalizing [fashion] seasons,” says RVAFW co-founder Jimmy Budd. “I’ve seen hundreds of businesses succeed and grow because of the platform, so for me, it’s always how do we continue to ... keep [local businesses] as openly supported as possible.”

Luxury Professional Design. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Luxury Professional Design.

Since the 1990s, streetwear has taken inspiration from the New York hip-hop scene and California’s surf culture. The style is often seen as casual, sporty or grungy, but fashion designer Jessica Meiko of Meiko Designs, who debuted her Into the Matrix collection during the grand finale on Sunday, says streetwear is all about self-expression, not following the latest trends.

“Streetwear definitely is a broad term,” says the up-and-coming designer. “I feel like nowadays everything can be trendy, and I think a lot of people are just following their own styles now instead of following other people’s styles. So I think streetwear will live on forever, but just in different ways with different people.”

In addition to self-expression, Meiko says that more local designers are using leftover fabrics or upcycling thrift shop pieces. “The fashion industry leaves such a huge carbon footprint in the world, in general,” Meiko adds. “So, I think people are trying to be more sustainable nowadays, which is awesome. As long as that effort is there, I think it’s good.”

The week started off with Wellness Wednesday, the calm before the storm, when participating local business vendors promoted physical and mental wellness for the fashion community. The parade of fashion shows would soon begin throughout the whole weekend, with the exception of Creative Suite, a networking and photography showcasing event on Saturday night at C'est Le Vin off of 17th Street in Shockoe Bottom.

If you missed RVAFW, don’t sweat. Here are some highlights from each show:

Preppy Meets Streetwear | Urban Academy Debut Show


The first fashion show of the week was the debut of Urban Academy, a preppy streetwear brand founded by fashion designer and former model, Sherry Nguyen. Not only was it the brand’s debut (read our preview story here), but the show also brought awareness to the current environmental and economical crisis through fashion.

“It’s finally happening,” Nguyen could be heard saying eagerly before the show.

Her collection was filled with bright-colored short plaid pleated skirts, cropped tops and ripped sweaters with Urban Academy’s logo. The pieces were worn by a diverse group of models strutting down the runway imitating a school hallway.

“I’m proud of [Nguyen],” says Ryan Azia, RVAFW creative director and designer for The Aziancy. “I’ve seen a lot of new faces I haven’t seen, so she’s getting the fashion community more awareness in Richmond.”

In addition to Nguyen’s preppy streetwear collection, she collaborated with The Aziancy and Hugh by Fitz in part of Urban Academy’s athletic wear and avant garde pieces. The debut show also incorporated a colorful array of áo dàis, a modern Vietnamese tunic dress, as part of Nguyen’s Vietnamese heritage.

“It was really great to see her concept come to life and actually be on the runway,” says runway model Tracy Sprolden. “I actually wore her traditional Vietnamese outfit and it was just so beautiful how she tied college fashion into tradition.”


First Friday’s Cultural Art Experience

Friday night’s show was hosted at the city’s 1920s landmark, Deco at CNB Apartments, in the heart of Richmond’s historic art district at 219 East Broad St. Fashion Week collaborated with the local art community before the show by featuring a shoppable art gallery featuring Richmond’s visual artists at around 5 p.m.

The runway was surrounded by African-inspired paintings and portraits to highlight both the fashion scene and the Black community in the city. Designers from Eternal Style by Gracist, Dimez, Jerchovia Moxey of MOXEY and Niquelle all showcased their streetwear-themed collections ranging from African tribal patterned dresses and suits, all-denim outfits to futuristic streetwear clothing.

New-face model Gabriela “G” Melendez of DASH Talents stole the show during the showcase of Moxey’s collection. The Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) senior and model says walking for MOXEY has been “incredible.”

“It’s been such a rush,” Melendez says. “It’s been the most incredible opportunity just having these photoshoots, meeting all these people and getting a chance to be creative. I love it so much.”

Cheers could be heard echoing throughout the spacious venue as Melendez, who wore a cutout half-denim dress, took a pause in the middle of the runway to release the bunched-up skirt.

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but [the dress] kind of got caught and my hands were shaking so bad and I was like, ‘Please don’t let this be humiliating,’ but it worked out,” she explains. “I feel so proud and I feel like my job as a model is to be a representative and a billboard for the people that keep this industry alive and people that care enough to show up and show out.”

Grand Finale

A model wears RAW brand from designer Ray Wondracek on the evening of Sunday, Oct. 8 at the John Marshall Ballroom. - JERMAINE DABNEY
  • Jermaine Dabney
  • A model wears RAW brand from designer Ray Wondracek on the evening of Sunday, Oct. 8 at the John Marshall Ballroom.

After a night of the fashion community mingling and networking at Creative Suite on Saturday, RVAFW wrapped its 15th anniversary by hosting the week’s grand finale show at the John Marshall Hotel Ballroom, which was filled with designers such as C.Renee, Allure Design House, Luxury Professionals, Eula J’s Designs, RAW, Jessica Meiko of Meiko Designs, Leve, The Suit Brother, and Ryan Azia of The Aziancy.

Models strutted confidently with their long legs to the sound of the loud music booming throughout the ballroom. The show was hosted by Heather Marie Speaks and benefited American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer initiative.

Design by RAW (Oct. 8) - JERMAINE DABNEY
  • Jermaine Dabney
  • Design by RAW (Oct. 8)

Meiko, who is also a recent graduate of VCU Department of Fashion Design and Merchndising, debuted her designs – a mix of futuristic streetwear and avant garde pieces – in the second half of the show as an extension of her capsule project when she attended school. She explained that her brand was inspired by her Japanese heritage and designing her own clothes when she was younger.

“When I was younger in high school, I always enjoyed dressing differently than everybody. I feel like I grew up with people who dressed the same all the time,” Meiko says. “I realized that finding my own style of clothing is easier when I made the clothes myself.”

As more photos and videos from the long weekend are shared on social media, Azia is looking forward to the next 15 to 20 years and says that RVAFW will continue supporting the local fashion community.

“We’re spending more time on development and looking forward to the future in regards to how we’re doing things,” Azia says. “Before, we would try to do everything ourselves, but now we’re giving people who want to do things the opportunity to shine and supporting them along the journey.”