Bored with mass market fashion? Now is your chance to peruse locally designed styles at a pop-up shop featuring the works of designers and fashion artists from across Hampton Roads and Richmond. Fashion enthusiasts hoping to gain industry insights also will have an opportunity to hear from established pacesetters.
The pop-up, put on by the Virginia Fashion Designers Collective, will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday inside Hamilton Perkins Collection at MacArthur Center in downtown Norfolk.
VAFDC is itself a new initiative, billed as a platform for fashion designers, created by fashion designers, said its founder, Roxanne Smith of Chesapeake, the CEO of ALFA Custom Clothiers and its principal designer. The goal is to promote, support and collaborate efforts while building community, she said.
“I came up with the idea after researching Harlem’s Fashion Row. I thought that it would be great to have a consortium for local designers to share ideas, strategies, successes and failures to help one another become successful,” Smith said.
The costs of marketing, production and placement are major challenges for independent artists looking to stand out and turn a profit in a saturated market. Regional fashion showcases and social media exposure help increase visibility, but not necessarily revenue. Some of the biggest names in retail fashion are publicly traded brands or have the backing of major sponsors.
And even they sometimes struggle. Think Michael Kors and his bankruptcies.
That’s where social companies like Harlem’s Fashion Row come into play to help marginalized designers gain footing with investors and audience. Its creator, Brandice Henderson Daniel of Memphis, Tenn., moved to New York in 2005 to find her purpose in the industry. In 2007 she created Harlem’s Fashion Row — a pipeline to help multicultural designers present their collections to fashion industry leaders, Daniel says on the HFR website.
HFR has helped numerous designers, including Kimberly Goldson, a Season 9 contestant on “Project Runway,” and it has an annual presence during New York Fashion Week that attracts the stars.
In addition to putting on high-profile fashion shows and pop-up shops, HFR launched a traveling education initiative, HFR-U — Harlem’s Fashion Row University. It most recently stopped in Hampton Roads in 2015 at Hampton University, where it packed an auditorium with students eager to learn from industry professionals.
“We don’t often get to share our lessons,” Daniel said to this writer at the time regarding networking with up-and-comers.
And now, enter VAFDC, which is using its inaugural event, the pop-up shop, to give designers the opportunity to showcase and sell. There will be mini-sessions, facilitated by industry experts, providing insights to help the designers build their brands, Smith said. There will then be monthly meetings to discuss topics around the fashion industry as well as quarterly events, Smith said.
The pop up’s sponsor, Hamilton Perkins of Hamilton Perkins Collection, is himself an exception among local independent artists. Perkins’ brand of eco-friendly bags for men is sold online and in fine boutiques, department stores, airports and bookstores nationally and in Italy, the Bahamas and Canada. Perkins started out making bags with leather, but switched to pineapple leaf fiber, recycled water bottles and billboard vinyl. Such conscientiousness about sustainability earned the brand recognition, grants and awards.
“We have to develop a product that people actually want and that solves a problem, and we are continuing to find ways that customers can find it,” Perkins said.
In doing so, he has used a combination of traditional and contemporary methods to become established.
“Old-fashioned sales, business development, personal relationships, some hand-to-hand combat,” he said. “It takes knocking on doors. It’s not going to find you.”
And it takes finding where the most current audience is, he said. “The discovery process has changed, and it’s still changing.”
In addition to regular pop ups, Perkins’ strategy includes producing content online that helps buyers find his brand, like through podcasts. For his grind, the Norfolk designer has been featured in The Virginian-Pilot, Forbes, Fast Money, The Washington Post and Money Magazine, among other major publications.
Others who will be at the pop up include:
Daphne Maxwell Reid, owner of Daphne Style, Richmond. Reid, also an actress, creates custom swing coats. daphnemaxwellreid.com
Roxanne Smith (of VAFDC), owner of ALFA Custom Clothiers, Chesapeake. A premium concierge clothier, offering luxury custom suiting and shirting. ALFAClothiers.com
Mario Daughtry, owner of Reckless, Chesapeake. Lifestyle brand for those who live on the edge. Recklessshop.com
Anthony Porter, owner and CEO of Risk Denim, Norfolk. Provides premium denim jeans. riskdenim.com
Roslyn Perez, owner of Jewelry Appraiser, Suffolk. Specializes in handcrafted earrings.
Sienna Nelson, owner of White Elephant, Hampton. Denim distressing, thrift, staple pieces and vintage. whitelephant.shop
Kendall Lawson, CEO of Three Scooops Clothing, Virginia Beach. Prepwear brand, designing comfortable clothing. threescooops.com
Kaleb Mahaffey, owner of DyesByKaleb, Virginia Beach. T-shirts and dyes.
Also on hand will be fashion influencer and runway producer Ron Cooke of Washington, D.C. Cooke formerly lived in Virginia Beach and is a co-creator of Virginia Fashion Week and Men’s Fashion Week Virginia. Among the bloggers: Tunisia Lewis, author, singer, teacher and worship enthusiast; Dakota Vibe, author and freelance writer; and Wil Strayhorn, hair and makeup artist, transformation coach and host of Let’s Face It radio show.