By Yuwa Vosper
New Orleans Fashion Week announced the dates for their fifth season of designer runway shows. Aspiring designers, fashion industry professionals, and the general public can save the dates beginning on March 21 through March 28, 2015. The event takes place at the New Orleans Board of Trade and will feature eight days of runway shows. The founder of Fashion Week New Orleans, Tracee Dundas, said her wish was for the event to be named New Orleans Fashion Week. In February 2014, her wish was granted and she acquired the name. With a slight name change but the intentions still clear, she spoke with me about how new and ambitious designers can answer the ‘call’ for emerging fashion designers competition.
Q. What does New Orleans Fashion Week offer to designers?
A. New Orleans Fashion Week has given designers the opportunity to showcase their collection in front of an audience of fashion buyers, boutique owners, and fashion aficionados. By creating a platform, that brings the Gulf Coast fashion industry together under one roof, it has helped to connect many designers with incredible opportunities they may otherwise not have been exposed.
Q. How can local designers benefit from showing their designs in New Orleans Fashion Week?
A. Producing, marketing, and promoting a fashion show can be a costly and daunting task. NOFW handles the production details, which allows designers to focus on what they do best − creating fabulous fashions. Additionally, it’s about connecting designers with buyers. New Orleans Fashion Week has seen a 40 percent placement of designer’s merchandise picked up by new retailers or showrooms.
Q. How would a designer answer the call for emerging fashion designers?
A. I’m always in search of the next hidden gem or Project Runway ‘star” (Project Runway Alumni Anthony Ryan Auld showed the inaugural year and Sandhya Garg just appeared on the current season).
In regards to applications for both emerging designers to be part of the Top Design Competition and featured designers to showcase their collection on the runway; well, the process is very easy. Designers complete the application and submit samples (past or current). For complete details visit the website: http://fashionweeknola.com/designer-application/. The Top Design Competition has become NOFW signature event that shines the spotlight on ten emerging designers in an exciting fashion competition. A prestigious panel of fashion professionals scores the designers. Once scores are tabulated, one designer is named New Orleans Fashion Week Top Design Winner.
Q. What experience is required by an emerging fashion designer to answer the call?
A. I’ve discovered that emerging designers often have limited resources and exposure. The idea is to provide them the opportunity to shine separately from the more seasoned and experienced designers. The criteria are no more than 24 months of design experience, reside or connected to the Southern region (i.e, a Louisiana native could be currently studying at Parson’s). Emerging designers are also required to complete an application and submit samples of their work.
Q. What are some success stories from former emerging designers who have entered?
A. It’s exciting to know and see so many successful designers evolve during NOFW! From Sandhya Garg making top 8 on Project Runway 13 (current season) to Stephanie Young, LSU Apparel Design graduate having a her designs being requested for an actress in the film “Playing for Keeps” and Pedram Taheri showing at L.A. Style Week. It’s amazing to see so many talented individuals from our Southern region! At the end of the day, it is the designer talent and skill set that helped them to achieve their accomplishments, but it’s nice to know that NOFW may have played a part in it!
Q. Why did you decide to begin New Orleans Fashion Week in 2011 and begin the competition?
A. As much as I hate to reference Hurricane Katrina, it is because of it that New Orleans Fashion Week evolved. My degree (USL Graduate in Apparel Design/Visual Merchandise) and career has always centered around fashion in someway or another; after Hurricane Katrina I saw a void and an opportunity to build back New Orleans fashion community. It was after considerable research and recognizing the success of regional fashion weeks taking place throughout the country that inspired me to create New Orleans Fashion Week. The design competition originated for a couple of reasons: 1) It would help to get more designers involved without feeling threaten by more experienced designers. 2) A marketing strategy to help get the media attention.
Q. If a new participant would attend New Orleans Fashion Week, what could they expect to see? Would it be similar to a New York ‘style’ Fashion Week runway show?
A. I’ve used my experience in working with fashion events and productions to build an event that is first class, memorable and both participants and fashion aficionados will walk away with an experience similar to New York or L.A. Fashion Week. However, I am proud that I have been able to keep it unique and fusing it with the creative spirit of New Orleans.
Q. As a stylist, how would you suggest transitioning fall trends into the winter season?
For me it’s all about adding layers and textures so that you keep it interesting and unique. Three of my favorite pieces that transition into a fresh new look and style (without breaking the bank) are the infinity scarf (I think I own close to a 100) and opaque hose (black or a pop of color) and boots!