After its 10th season was canceled last year due to the pandemic, New Orleans Fashion Week is returning this week for a three-day showcase of local and regional style.
“COVID affected us in such a hard way, especially for the designers,” said Tracee Dundas, the founder and executive producer of NOFW. “Most local designers are creating pieces for clients for events like Mardi Gras. When all of that stopped, when the need to wear fashion for special occasions stopped, fashion stopped.”
New Orleans’ typically jam-packed annual calendar of galas, debutante events, Carnival balls and other gatherings has been virtually halted since March 2020, when the coronavirus arrived in the city. A hoped-for revival planned for this summer succumbed to the wave of infections spurred by the delta variant.
But now, with case counts low, all signs are pointing to a return of Carnival early next year and the revival of events, which the city’s designers hope means a renewed interest just as Fashion Week is kicking off.
The “fashion renaissance,” is usually a week long. But it’s been shortened this year and will run from Thursday through Saturday (Nov. 4 to Nov. 6). Its main showcase will take place at Gallier Hall Saturday. Throughout the event, Dundas and her team aim to showcase the creativity and talent of New Orleans and Southern-based designers.
The French Quarter building at North Rampart and St. Philip streets that was long home to the restaurant Meauxbar will soon be coming back to …
“Our goal is to uplift the local designers, to give them a platform to showcase their work, and to remind everyone that your local designers are still here,” Dundas said.
Currently, NOFW has 17 local designers participating in the showcase, with styles ranging from ballroom to streetwear to vintage.
Some designers said to look out for bold designs with blasts of color, which may be a welcome turn for fashion watchers after almost two years of virtual get-togethers and remote work.
Harold Fedison, founder of Ward And Parish retail in New Orleans, will be one of this year’s local designers. He said this year’s show is important for increasing his brand’s exposure, especially after the hit the fashion industry sustained due to COVID-19.
Tracee Dundas, the founder of NOLA Fashion Week, wears a dress by Alexandra Bujan, who was a competitor Top Design.
“I wouldn’t consider myself a streetwear designer or an urban designer. I’m a ready-wear designer,” said Fedison. “I design for both men and women who love to dress easily. I like creating styles that give off a sense of easy sophistication.”
“Being a creative, we need things to pulse us and affect us, and to be isolated from that is tough. In fact, to continue working when isolated was almost impossible,” Fedison said.
Adrianna Moore, founder of Batu Collections, echoed Fedison’s struggles with adjusting to a non-contact society.
“It was hard because I am an in-your-face type of person,” Moore said. “I had to adjust and do things online and learn to work social media a lot more than usual. That was the only way to get my clothing and jewelry designs out there,” Moore said.
Moore had been a part of NOFW since 2016, where she had released her first collection, Batu.
Fashion Week begins Thursday with WARdrobe- Fashion on the Rations, in partnership with The National World War II Museum. The event includes a vintage fashion presentation and a viewing of pieces from the museum’s collection of wartime style. There will be hair and makeup demonstrations by the Paul Mitchell School of cosmetology.
On Friday, NOFW will partner with Diamonds Direct, a local jeweler. The Giving Back with Style event will feature Aaron Michael, a NOFW alumnus and a participant on Project Runway Season 19. Michael’s designs will be auctioned, and the proceeds will be donated to local non-profits Dress for Success, Second Harvest Food Bank and Son of a Saint.
Preservation Hall proprietor Ben Jaffe wasn’t necessarily looking for another music venue, especially during a pandemic.
The final featured event, the Designer Showcase runway show, will take place on Saturday at Gallier Hall.
“This year’s fashion week is going to be one of my favorites,” said Christian Suarez, a local streetwear designer and founder of God’s Eye Apparel. “I love doing things that are different. It’s not about just sending my models out on the runway one by one wearing my clothes. There needs to be a story behind it, and there needs to be a mood,” Suarez added.
On the three evenings, an After the Runway Affair will be hosted as a way for designers and fashionistas alike to enjoy more fashion and music.
For tickets and full event details go to neworleansfashionweek.com.
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