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Greensboro’s Got Style

Put aside your polos and your Bermudas: It’s time to dress to
impress at Greensboro Fashion Week

By Waynette Goodson

What do New York, Berlin, Shanghai and Greensboro have in common? They all have their own fashion week.

Whether you’re involved in fashion or you’re just looking for something fun to do, the third annual Greensboro Fashion Week, September 22–25, will feature everything from live bands to professional runway shows — all in high style, of course.

“Every night has its own special theme,” says director Giovanni Ramadani. “And every night has a different shaped runway and different seating. There’s a two-hour vendor reception before the show, so you can shop the trendiest stores in the area and enjoy wine-tasting at the same time.”

Back by popular demand, pop/ R&B trio Citizen Shade will play during intermission as well as other local performers serving up a variety of genres, including jazz. “You’re going to come away with an experience,” Ramadani says. “Whether it’s a date night or a family night, there’s entertainment from start to finish. Shop, eat, drink and see all the collections.”

The four-night event at the swank Elm Street Center calls for cocktail attire, of course, which you’ll need for your grand entrance on the red carpet. Ramadani observes a misperception of Southern style, noting that those beyond the Mason-Dixon line “think we wear polos and Levi’s and flip-flops all the time. We want to dispel this perception.”

Both he and his partner Witneigh Davis stress that the Greensboro show is modeled after fashion weeks in larger cities, with industry standard models, rehearsals, contracts — requiring up to a year to organize. The two want to create a bridge to New York Fashion Week, and their goal is to become the premier show in the Southeast.

Another goal: To elevate Greensboro and call attention to the high-end
nature of the area, which they easily achieve via the title sponsor Jaguar and Land Rover Greensboro, and the elegant venue, Elm Street Center. 

The two style visionaries say they have “pulled out all the stops” for the junior year of their fashion extravaganza, complete with blocking off a portion of North Elm Street, red carpet galore and special VIP areas. Based on attendance during previous years, they’re expecting 5,000 guests, about 1,000 each night.

“We want to make sure that everyone comes to the shows and participates,” Ramadani says. “It’s once a year, and we want to make sure we celebrate it.”

The event has grown from three to four days, and, for the first time, the week will have special themed nights. The following is a guide to each night. (Fashionistas take note: If you like a look that comes down the runway, you can buy it right then — you don’t have to wait!).

Special Feature Night

The kick-off evening, Thursday, September. 22, will feature Kriegsman’s Luxury Outerwares. As of press time in July, this show was still under wraps. 

Emerging Designers Night

In February, Greensboro Fashion Week organizers selected eleven local designers, who had seven months to create a ten-piece collection, à la Project Runway. Those looks will hit the catwalk, Friday, September 23.

The prize? The title of Designer of the Year.

“This show means so much,” says Emily Costlow, 25, a self-taught seamstress. “For a young designer, Greensboro is a great place to launch a business. I want to get my name out there and get started.”

The Apex resident was inspired by coworkers to craft a collection focused on the journey from childhood to adulthood. “You grow up and you gain more self-confidence,” Costlow says. “You become more of a strong, powerful woman.”

Thus, her collection demonstrates both rebelliousness (black mesh dresses) and structure (light blue, triangular skirts paired with white tops in a bralette style).

“It’s very different from what I’ve done before,” Costlow says. “I’m really excited about it.”

Fellow emerging designer Jasmine Rhodes, 25, of Greensboro, also plans for powerful, structured looks, inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama. She’s using a neutral palette (tan, white, black and pink) in sheer fabrics, satin and some blends.

A 2013 graduate of N.C. State with a degree in fashion textile management and product development, Rhodes plans for a career in fashion and hopes the Greensboro platform will help prepare her for New York.

“If I won, I would be ecstatic,” Rhodes says. “It’s been such a journey becoming a designer and gaining confidence. Sometimes I doubt myself a lot. So it would be so great to win! I want to create an amazing collection, and if I won, that would be the icing on the cake.”

Other emerging designers to look for? Dani Oliva, Brian Atkins, Kerri Murray, Liamcy Hogan, Jokenya Brown, Lindsay Broughton, Moniquea Renee, Raven Ledbetter, Elva Vieyra and Palmira Carrera Jarquin.

High-End Retailers Night

The Saturday evening show (September 24) is the most-attended event and sells out the fastest. It features local high-end boutiques that send their trendiest looks down the runway. Past shows have included BCBG Max Azria, Rebecca & Co., Simply Meg’s and Palm Avenue.

Everything Bridal Night

Weddings are a $1.2 billion industry, so Greensboro Fashion Week will celebrate that success with an “I Do Runway,” September 25, the final day of the show. The event will feature tuxedos, flower girl dresses, bridesmaid dresses and much more.

“It’s everything bridal and wedding!” exclaims Witneigh Davis, event director. “It’s going to feel like you’re walking into a wedding ceremony; everything will be white,” Davis says. “We’ll have a fountain, and the runway will be sprinkled with rose petals.”

The best part for brides: Ten area stores will send ten of their newest looks for 2017 down the runway. That’s one-hundred dresses! Better bring a pad and pencil to take good notes, so you can say “yes to the dress.” Info: greensborofashionweek.com.

Waynette Goodson is the Editor in Chief of Casual Living magazine. A high point of her life was attending a Betsey Johnson fashion show at New York Fashion Week in which the 70-year-old designer turned a cartwheel on the catwalk — and landed in a sweet-pea split.

A Passion for Fashion

Why does Greensboro need a fashion week?

Organizers Giovanni Ramadani and Witneigh Davis love to hear that question because it gives them an opportunity to explain their cause.

“We’ve created a movement,” Ramadani says. “We like setting the stage for fashion. But we didn’t have to build a foundation — it was here long before us, with this being the first textile industry.”

“Some of the first overalls were created here,” Witneigh chimes in, citing C.C. Hudson, who launched his Hudson Overalls Company on the second floor of a grocery store in 1904. “Then there’s Wrangler with the VF Corporation,” she continues. “This is an international textile hub. Fifty years ago, all of the denim was from here. If you went to China, the denim came from here. The True Religion brand still buys denim from Cone Mills. It’s quality; it’s American-made.”

The two entrepreneurs view Greensboro Fashion Week as a natural extension of the city’s history, as well as a showcase for downtown development, to lure young professionals, and especially, to provide higher education opportunities. Students from seven area colleges, including N.C. A&T, UNCG and Elon University, have important roles, from budding fashion designers to make-up artists.

How did the two millennials get the idea? Let’s call it a “fashion moment.” Ramadani was looking for a tie and Davis was trying on shoes when the two met. “We became friends, and we started thinking of ways to create a strategy to help Greensboro grow,” Ramadani recalls. “We wanted to attract more young professionals here. There are good fashion programs at local colleges, but there was no platform for fashion. This is something we love doing, and we do it well. ”

Clad in a vintage, three-piece suit custom tailored by Pierre Cardin, Ramadani stands well over 6 feet. A native of Albania, he moved to Greensboro in 1999 at the age of 12 to escape the war in Kosovo. He worked as a runway model for six years and walked in New York Fashion Week in 2012.

Sporting Prada shades and wrapped in a delicate white blouse and a silk, emerald green skirt by BCBG Max Azria, Davis exudes personal style — in fact, she has worked as a personal stylist since college. In addition, she graduated with honors, with a B.A. in communications and a minor in marketing, and put her skills to work representing local car dealerships. Davis has also managed major store brands such as BCBG and Aldo.

The two fashionistas share the same philosophy: You can never be overdressed.

“People often ask us why we’re so dressed up,” Davis says. “Why not wear your heels?” she counters.

“Just because you’re going to the grocery store or getting off work for drinks, that doesn’t mean you have to go home and put on jeans,” Ramadani says. “You can get dressed up. People are going to look at you whether you look good or bad, so you might as well look your best.”

Fashion For Good

Ten percent of all Greensboro Fashion Week proceeds go to Emily’s Plea, a local charity focused on educating the community about the dangers of drunk and distracted driving. Named after Emily May, a Jamestown youth killed by a drunk driver in 2007, a group goal is to put breathalyzer tests on keychains. “Emily was my friend,” says Witneigh Davis, event director. “She was super-trendy, and she would have loved fashion week.” emilysplea.com.  OH

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