austin fashion week
A review: Did Austin Fashion Week really showcase Austin's best and brightest?
After a week of participating in the glitz and glam of local fashion, I am sad to announce that Austin Fashion Week has officially come to a close. And with its conclusion comes a perplexing question I want answered: “How successful was this thing, anyway?”
The event served as a great bridge between local designers and an unaware but interested public. I, for example, would not have found out about half the designers were it not for AFW. But I still cannot help but wonder how effective this thing really was at showcasing Austin’s best and brightest.
Take the nighttime events at the Driskill. These were the main shows, the VIP-only admissions, the most highly funded, but whom did they showcase? The headliners: Betsey Johnson, blank, blank and blank. Betsy Johnson started out in Austin? No, she did not. None of them did. That’s because no Austin designers were admitted into these selective time slots.
One might assume that Austin Fashion Week would reserve the most prestigious venues for, oh I don’t know, the best Austin designers. But that was not the case. The result of only selecting national designers for these headline events left all Austin designers to participate in the free events – the ones at various locations strewn out across random points in the city.
This made it incredibly difficult for an interested member of the fashion community to see all that many events in one day. After all, not too many people can attend a Domain event at 4 p.m., and then make it to south of downtown by 6 p.m.
The scheduling suggests, then, that the Austin community privileges nationally renowned designers over Austin ones. So the event that is supposed to promote, prop up, and empower Austin artists does just the opposite by headlining already well-known national artists.
Now I admit that hosting Austin designers at such locations did introduce me to places I’d have never known to visit otherwise. And a few of these events had quite a bit of foot traffic – guaranteeing at least a small chance that a now more knowledgeable public might return later. But nonetheless, AFW does a disservice to local artists by pushing their shows to the fringes.
Considering these Austin designers don’t participate in the main stage shows, I also have to wonder how much clout AFW has in the national community. Does anyone in New York or Los Angeles take Austin Fashion Week seriously?
I noticed while searching for some answers to this question that there is an Omaha Fashion Week. No offense to any Nebraskans out there, but really? Omaha Fashion Week? Do any big designers really get picked up in Omaha and then contracted out to some New York buyers?
Then I thought that perhaps national audiences view Austin Fashion Week the same way. Like something along the lines of, Really, Austin?Yeah, right. That’s cute. I mean, wasn’t Austin just voted in the 20 worst dressed cities in the United States?
So whom do we expect to take us seriously? How can we gain national and international clout when we only headline already well-known designers and leave the only Austin designers at the bad venues on the other side of town that can only fit 20 people at a time.
It seems to me that while perhaps we are increasing Austin designers’ engagement with the Austin community, we are also simultaneously preventing these Austin designers from engaging with the national community.
For after AFW, Austinites do know of more local and independent bars, shops, food and drink companies, and designers to visit and support. And that’s great for increasing the local economy, forming a more intimate buyer base, and giving a shout out to local business. But this does nothing to ensure that these businesses develop outside of Austin.
Anyone disagree? I’d love to hear more thoughts, opinion, and/or critiques of this event. Post them below and let’s get a dialogue going to ensure that events like these are increasing both Austin and national engagement.
Ed. note: The Kick Off also included a full runway show of 21 looks from Austin Fashion Week Mash Up Teams which included Austin and Central Texas based talent and designers. The list of teams is attached.