Milwaukee Fashion Week Marks Its Second Year
Couture event emphasizes culture and charitable giving
Last year’s inaugural Milwaukee Fashion Week (MFW) was a rousing success—both culturally and in terms of its charitable support for its beneficiary, Pathfinders. This year’s offering (Sept. 22-24) promises even more rewards for the Milwaukee fashion community. Twenty-four Midwestern designers will be featured, most of whom hail from Wisconsin and some of whom are students or young professionals in the industry.
When asked about lessons learned and modifications to this year’s event, board member and founder Deborah Reimer first stressed the change of venue. Rather than last year’s three distinct settings, all shows will take place in the Hyatt Regency Hotel’s VUE Ballroom, which, she says “still highlights Milwaukee with the views of the city as our backdrop. The venue is a little smaller, so guests can expect a more intimate, yet upscale event.” The window-bedecked VUE is located on the hotel’s top floor and is Milwaukee’s only circle rooftop ballroom.
Last year’s event featured a fashion marketplace that allowed patrons to purchase clothing from participating designers. This year, guests are invited to meet-and-greets during the intermission of each show as well as an after-party on the Hyatt’s first floor immediately following Saturday’s event. Reimer says this will allow a more immediate networking opportunity with organic occasions to discuss designs and make commissions.
The other major structural change is that the three runway shows will not be themed (eveningwear, casual, etc.). Rather, each designer will present a holistic vision of their oeuvre and guests can enjoy greater mystery going into each night’s show. Also related to designers, MFW 2016 features a shared model pool and a unified hair and makeup concept that give the event a cohesive look, ensuring that prime focus rests on the clothing designs themselves.
Finally, this year, MFW offers even more opportunities for student artists to hone their skills both in the designer pool—where the Art Institute of Wisconsin and Mount Mary University are represented—and in the realm of hair and makeup. MFW’s director of makeup, Alex Jankowski, says, “We have schools participating like Paul Mitchell and Gateway in Racine, which is exciting. It’s a nice place for students to learn if they want to get behind a chair in a salon or if they want to get into the fashion industry because they’re completely different genres of hair and makeup. It’s a way for them to contribute and to grow as artists.”
Charitable and Cultural Impact
Arguably MFW’s greatest selling point is its charitable and cultural impact on the Milwaukee community. Last year’s event generated an impressive $74,000 for Pathfinders, Milwaukee’s premiere nonprofit serving homeless and runaway youth age 25 and younger. Pathfinders’ director of development, Genese Lindner, shared that this money went directly into their programs addressing basic needs such as shelter, food, clothing and transportation. MFW board member Abe Van Dyke explained, “Our main goal with Fashion Week is that our proceeds are able to go to a local charity that can use them as they see fit, no strings attached. The main idea is to involve people in Milwaukee and then give back to Milwaukee. Recently we’ve seen different programs go under and funding not be kept across the board, and it’s getting harder and harder as ordinary people. So, we want to try to step in and help organizations that don’t get regular funding as much as we can.”
Culturally, MFW strives to put Milwaukee on the map in the fashion world, thus making it easier for the area’s many talented creatives to gain exposure and grow as artists. Celebrity emcee Stephanie Brown of Je Suis Talent commented on how inspiring it is “to know that here in Milwaukee we have so much talent, so much innovation.” She encourages Milwaukeeans to come out and support MFW for its benefit to fashion community members—both up-and-coming and established—and for the chance to be surprised: “Even if it’s not something you’ve ever done or if you think you just shop at Kohl’s, come just for the support. You might be surprised and you might open your eyes to something else. I’d love for Milwaukee to expand its horizons and its looks and its view of things.” Reimer adds, “Essentially fashion is an everyday commodity for everybody, from the person who puts on the holey pair of jeans and a T-shirt to those who like to get decked out. There’s something to please every palate.”
For tickets (regular and VIP) to Milwaukee Fashion Week and additional information, visit milwaukeefashionweek.com.