As D.C. Fashion Week Grows, Shows Spread to Venues Across the City

By Adele Chapin February 28, 2012, 5:16 PM EST

Photo: Julian Skinner

DC Fashion Week February 2012
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After six days of events, D.C. Fashion Week ended its 16th season at the French Embassy on Sunday with a sold-out runway show showcasing fashions from 14 designers. Hosted twice a year, in February and September, D.C. Fashion Week draws designers from Washington, D.C., and around the world, with collections in this season’s run by designers hailing from Germany, Russia, Thailand, Nigeria, Belgium, and Ukraine.

Members of the D.C. fashion community and fashion fans attended a mix of ticketed, free, and invitation-only events February 20 through 26 at venues across the city. Parties and events ranged from an eco-friendly show at new venue the Woolly Mammoth Theatre on February 20, after-parties at nightclubs like Eden and Josephine, a presentation at the Ukrainian Embassy of clothing by Ukrainian designers on February 24, and Saturday’s Metropolitan Emerging Designers & Indie Artists (M.E.D.I.A.) Showcase, which combined the talents of upcoming musicians and design students for a show at the Washington Post Conference Center.

D.C. Fashion Week founder and executive producer Ean Williams showed his Corjor International label at a new venue, the Washington Club, for his February 22 invite-only runway show. Williams trademarked and began D.C. Fashion Week as he was starting his own fashion career in hopes of allowing designers an affordable option to showcase their fashions in the nation’s capital. Eight years later, the series now hosts several hundred guests at various events, 40 designers, a team of 30 volunteers, and an army of models. “Right now, there’s over 100 models,“ Williams said. “It’s a huge logistical nightmare, but it’s fun.”

Williams hopes to continue to grow the event’s attendance in the future, particularly for the eco-friendly kickoff show and the International Couture Collections finale show. This season’s free opening show outgrew last year’s venue—event partner Perkins & Will’s D.C. office—drawing 200 guests to this year's venue, the Woolly Mammoth Theatre.

Sponsors included restaurant partner Chima Brazilian Steakhouse, which passed out cheese bread and Parmesan pork loin at Sunday’s finale show. Aveda Institute continued its long-running sponsorship, providing hairstyles for the models.

As for a more unexpected partnership, event partner Inova Health System challenged designers at Monday’s eco-friendly show to create wearable fashions using the hospital’s surgical blue wrap, which is used for instrument storage and usually thrown away (or recycled, in Inova’s case). Inova’s participation with D.C. Fashion Week helped promote the hospital’s comprehensive environmental plan and also served as an employee engagement activity, with workers attending the event and participating in a design contest at last September’s D.C. Fashion Week and the upcoming 2012 September showcase. “This is a wonderful way to help the community understand that we are committed to the environment,” said Seema Wadhwa, Inova Health System’s director of sustainability. “It’s a material that doesn’t have an end purpose but turns into something so beautiful.”

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