Walk the walk: Fashion Week focuses on everything NWA

Walk the walk: Fashion Week focuses on everything NWA
April Wallace

There never seems to be enough time to plan NWA Fashion Week, say its organizers at Interform, the arts and culture nonprofit that plans and executes all its events. But this time, they’ve had three years to get ready rather than one.

Designers showcased during this year’s NWA Fashion Week include Rosie Rose, Southern Gypsy Fashion, Ellen Elaine, Orez, Bryce Arroyos, Felix Bui, Asserraj Haus of Fashion, Amy Leuenhagen, Gwen Nguyen and Ashton Hall. (Courtesy photo)

Thursday’s runway show kicked off the first NWA Fashion Week since 2019, and you can bet that Interform’s team has been hard at work planning it all this time.

An especially new and exciting thing about this year’s events is that so many of the garments, materials and designers are products of Interform itself.

NWA Fashion Week 2022 “features the most amount of designers or garments made in-house by Interform creatives (than ever before), and this season we covered the cost of all the emerging designer runway shows,” says Robin Wallis Atkinson, chief executive of Interform.

Throughout the year, Interform gives community sewing classes, with opportunities to make sales and gain runway experience. It has a designer cohort so participants can grow their professional skills and even a curatorial cohort that concludes with a monthlong exhibition.

A number of NWA Fashion Week emcees are old pros who have graced the events before, such as Sunshine Broder and Rochelle Bailey, and several designers have been on the runway before, including Ashton Hall and others.

“People like seeing those (familiar emcees and designers), especially those from the community, to see that we have these incredible artists in our own home,” says Elanor Jones, marketing coordinator for Interform.

Five of the designer runway shows this year are from Interform’s designer residency program, and of the 25 shows, Interform paid material costs for 10 of them, as well as all the costs for the production of the Interform sewing class workshop, Atkinson says. “All were produced within the boundaries of our educational and programming guidance with mentors across the nation,” she says.

More than 80 creatives’ works will be represented on the runway, including that of 21 hair and makeup artists, 13 dancers, 25 designer students and 23 designers, says Robin Atkinson, CEO of Interform. (Courtesy photo)

The NWA Fashion Week events continuing March 11-12 are what allows Interform to fund all their other programming, Jones says.

Interform’s focus areas of allowing designers to “learn, make and show” is what guided its rebranding from Arkansas Arts and Fashion Forum.

“Going under a new name gives us room for expanded programming that we’ve taken on,” Atkinson says. But it’s still “under the same notion of providing educational, production and exhibition opportunities in fashion and visual arts.”

The educational courses are year-round. Curatorial practice can be gained during the designer residency program, and their sewing workshops produce garments both for sale and for the NWA Fashion Week events.

The last NWA Fashion Week took place in 2019, before the pandemic put so much on hold for two years. Events return tonight, Friday and Saturday at the Momentary in Bentonville with a focus on garments, materials and designers that are products of Interform itself. (Courtesy Photo)

The culmination of all this is a very local and diverse show. Of the 25 runway shows, 20 are from creatives based in Arkansas. Four of them feature 25 separate individuals from Interform community sewing classes, including those from Congolese, Marshallese and Latinx communities, Atkinson says.

“”All in all, there are more than 80 creatives whose work is represented on the runway, and more than 80% of those are from our region,” Atkinson says. Guests of NWA Fashion Week can expect to see 188 models of all body types on the runway.

“We did auditions on Jan. 9 of this year, and everyone goes through the same process, no matter their background,” Jones says. They get measurements done, they walk for the programming manager, and then designers choose the models for the look. “People on the runway look like the people in the audience, with a diverse set of bodies, whether that’s age, race, ethnicity or gender orientation.”

Atkinson and Jones say people are already responding to this year’s event offerings, reflected in their ticket sales quickly closing in. Seats for Saturday night are 95 percent sold, so they expect that night to sell out.

Thursday’s runway show featured a local designer and 16 transgender, intersex and nonbinary models from the Transition Closet. Organizers say 10% of the show will benefit the organization that aids people with gender transitions by loaning clothing, a particularly expensive part of transition.

The headliner for March 11 is the Walmart Beauty Aisle Hair Show, granting focus to the hair and makeup artists that pull the look together. Also featured that night will be Waste Garden by designer Bryce Arroyos, which was formed through a long-term relationship with Crystal Bridges and in response to the exhibit “In Some Form or Fashion” at the Momentary.

“It’s specifically about the kind of problematic sustainability angle of the industry but highlights art as fashion,” Jones says. “Arroyos is a perfect fit for fashion-meets-art installation project. We put our heads together with curators at the Momentary, and we’re super happy with the results, looking forward to more of that.”

The final night will feature New York City-based designer Rinat Brodach, who was a contestant on Amazon Prime’s “Making the Cut.”

Guests of NWA Fashion Week can expect to see 188 models of all body types on the runway. “People on the runway look like the people in the audience, with a diverse set of bodies whether that’s age, race, ethnicity or gender orientation,” says Elanor Jones, marketing coordinator for Interform. (Courtesy photo)



NWA Fashion Week

WHEN — Through March 12

WHERE — The Momentary in Bentonville

COST — $60-$225

INFO — https://interform.art/fashion-week/

BONUS — There will be a panel discussion on “The Rise of Regional Fashion” at 2 p.m. March 12 at the Tower Bar at the Momentary. Admission is free.

Categories: Cover Story