Atlanta International Fashion Week is a relatively new event, being overshadowed by long-time favorites like New York Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week. But, being only ten years old and taking place biannually, it makes a case for going to local fashion weeks.
“Fashion is the heartbeat of style and the driving force of our society,” said founder Paula Whittle. “Aspiring designers, models and enthusiasts needed a platform and outlet for networking, promotion and presentations. Then, entered the concept of the Atlanta International Fashion Week, a vision of bridging the gap and connecting continents through fashion.”
From July 27 to 30, designers from around the world showed off their newest lookbooks on the runway accompanied by DJs, models and fashion enthusiasts from across Atlanta. The week was initially scheduled to take place from July 26 to July 31, but it was cut short because of scheduling issues. Instead, there were only three events, including two runway shows and a mixer to kick off the week.
Even though there were fewer than 200 people in attendance, it brought in new perspectives to the concept of fashion week. Instead of enlisting big brands like Coco Chanel or Dior, it showcased looks from smaller brands and designers like Iridium Clothing Co. and Dani Oliva.
It was an intimate event, where everyone seemed to know each other (or acted like they did). Many of the models weren’t professional models, and it seemed like everyone was learning from the experience. “What is most memorable and rewarding [about AIFW] is the opportunity to mentor young girls for the fashion industry,” said Whittle. “We enjoy seeing their eagerness to learn, enthusiasm, drive and the impact on their lives.”
Even though it took over 30 people to plan, some aspects seemed improvised, causing a few last minute changes and cancellations to runway shows. Sunday’s swim show and other unannounced events were canceled, so better-known designers like Rigby & Peller ended up not being able to participate.
Despite feeling sometimes unprepared, the week featured 10 designers through a theme of traveling around the world. “You’re flying Atlanta International Fashion Week airline. The first stop is Europe,” said the opening speaker on the first night.
Baby Bella Boutique brings back European designs to the United States for children under 14. It was founded by Lolita Corinovscaia, a Moldova native who opened a store in Phipps Plaza Shopping Center in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta after realizing that it was difficult to find European products for her child in America.
De Louice is a tailor originally from Virginia. James Jang created the brand after moving to the United States from Korea in 1985. He owned a small shop in Virginia, which he then expanded to stores in Washington D.C., Chicago and Atlanta’s Phipps Plaza in 2014. The runway looks featured mostly black suits with a few accents thrown in, like subtle fleur de lis patterns and bright red pocket squares.
L.K. Bennett is a brand hailing from London. It was the biggest brand at the show, with over 100 stores around the world. Focusing on both comfort and glamor, the brand brought many outfits featuring subtle pinks and nudes. Though the label originally started out as a luxury shoe brand (it’s well known for its modern kitten heel), it quickly began to grow into a women’s clothing brand and later expanded into accessories and handbags.
Massimiliano Stanco, also known as StanCo, brought in luxury structured satchel bags from Italy. According to its website, the brand “[mixes] innocence and sex appeal, refinement with Art Deco and a love of craft with a futuristic boundary pushing aesthetics.”
AMARI Co (Amari & Mari) is run by a 17-year-old fashion designer, Amari Johnson. Johnson began sewing when she was five, inspired by her mother who is a fourth-generation seamstress. The looks she presented at AIFW were muted shades of tan, but they included interesting touches of patchwork and metallic studs. “Every show I do is for a cause,” says Johnson on her website. “I have raised money for Rheumatoid Arthritis, Bullying, Eating Disorders, the homeless, etc. There are so many problems in the world and there is no time to do things that have no purpose, which is why I do what I do the way that I do it.”
C.A.U.S.E (Causes All United to Serve and Empower) for Elegance is a non-profit clothing store, funding the Jr. Apprentice Program and scholarship fund, which gives students scholarships and access to the fashion industry. The Jr. Apprentice Program of Camp Village, Inc. teaches students between 13 and 18 years old to develop their own business plans and products. The students also get experience working at their store in Phipps Plaza and being mentored by others in the fashion industry.
The brand teamed up with Beijing-based Elisabeth Koch Millinery, who designed delicate and attention-drawing handmade hats for their collection. Elisabeth Koch Millinery began in 2007 with the “Pink Label” line of hats. Since then, all of her hats have been handmade by herself. Before moving to Beijing, Koch lived in Berlin, Luxembourg, Bombay, London, Amsterdam, and Brussels. “I’ve made hats in China that I know I never would have made, had I been living elsewhere. There is no millinery supply shop in China. There are no milliners there. At first, I thought this was a huge problem, but it was the best thing that could have happened: it forced me to look at what I did have available to me as opposed to what I couldn’t find. I had to think totally out of the box and it’s influenced my hats from their base materials to the end-design and continues to do so.”
Twelve Couture was the first brand at the third night of AIFW. Located in Fayetteville, Georgia, Twelve Couture is a small boutique specializing in women’s clothing. Their lookbook featured flowy, floor-length dresses and rompers decorated with statement necklaces and big purses with bright flower arrangements glued onto the face of each bag. Twelve Couture also played with loud patterns like black and white stripes and leopard print mixed with blue-orange swirls.
Dani Oliva brought all white to the catwalk. “I was inspired by the tv show, Suits, specifically, one of the main characters, Jessica Pearson,” explains Danielle Oliva, who founded the label in 2011. “A lot of my ideas are heavily inspired by my surroundings. I put everything that I am into my work. I love classic looks from the 40s and 50s, so when there is an opportunity to incorporate or modernize, I’m all in. Old Hollywood glam to me is all about sophisticated, powerful, women and these aspects are important to me because I feel there is a need for clothing that doesn’t intimidate women and will make them feel beautiful and confident.” Oliva currently owns a boutique in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she attended college at N.C. State University and graduated with a B.A. in Public Relations. In addition to living in North Carolina, she has also been inspired by her upbringing in Southern California.
Iridium is a modern fashion brand from Chicago with four US locations and one in Japan. Before starting the company, CEO Platinum worked as a biochemist and moonlighted as a fashion stylist. He teamed up with creative director Pugs Atomz after developing a friendship from shared tastes in fashion and music to form Iridium. At the show, Iridium presented mostly monochrome designs featuring bold feather patterns and full-length jackets.