Tuesday, Sep. 04, 2012
Local designers bring style to Kansas City Fashion Week
By JENNIFER BHARGAVA
Special to The Olathe News
factbox1-B822176355ZSee for yourself Visit www.kcfashionweek.com for Kansas City Fashion Week schedules and tickets.
Splashes of bright, cheerful colors danced around Brittany Davidson’s design studio recently.
Soft, romantic gowns and flirty, bold cocktail dresses lined the walls. Bundles of whimsical fabric sprinkled the floor.
With a quick glance toward a pristine row of nautically-inspired dresses, the 24-year-old gave a nervous laugh.
“I still have a lot of work that needs to be done,” she admitted.
The Overland Park woman is one of several local fashion designers who will showcase collections at Kansas City Fashion week, starting Wednesday.
The event, which ends Sept. 9, will feature several runway shows from a wide assortment of metro-area and national designers.
For Davidson, it’s an opportunity to put Kansas City on the fashion map.
“We’re not a Cow Town,” she said. “High fashion can come from anywhere.”
Her contemporaries agree.
Gabriela Arslanoglu, another Overland Park designer, hopes fashion week will prove to the world that the Kansas City area is more cosmopolitan than people think.
“When I first moved to Overland Park from Peru 30 years ago, people weren’t used to other cultures and everyone wore country-western and rock-and-roll style outfits,” said Arslanoglu, who describes her design style as Peruvian ancestral with a European look. “Now, I see women here embracing bright colors and artistic style. It’s beautiful.”
Her goal is to bring Kansas City fashion to an international level. To open the door, she’s invited two media outlets — one from Peru and another from Turkey — to cover the event.
Arslanoglu is also bringing in a Peruvian and a Brazilian model to strut her runway looks at Kansas City Fashion Week.
Bringing the Kansas City fashion scene to an international level could help boost the economy, Arslanoglu said, because it could bring more tourists and essentially more consumers.
She also hopes fashion week proves to other emerging designers that they don’t have to move to New York City or Paris to find success.
Other opportunities, such as the West 18th Street Fashion Show and the RAW Showcase, also allow Kansas City area designers to reveal their collections to potential buyers and gain critical exposure.
Davidson is one of the designers who took control of her own destiny the Kansas City way.
To get her foot in the corporate fashion world, Davidson took over Chocolate Soup, a locally-founded children’s boutique company, with the help of a silent partner.
She not only has a Chocolate Soup store near 119th and Metcalf, but also others in St. Louis, Atlanta and German Town, Penn.
Juggling an entire corporation, plus her own collections, has been a struggle, she said. But it was a necessary career move.
“It was important for me to learn how to be more business-minded,” she said. “You can be a great artist, but if you can’t get out there and market yourself, you won’t sell anything.”
Karma Jade, a designer from Lee’s Summit, shares that business sense.
She’s been selling her eco-friendly designs to the public since middle school.
At 12, Jade began creating duct tape purses, which she sold to friends and eventually to customers at a downtown Lee’s Summit boutique.
In high school, she sold skirts made out of men’s ties.
Now, the 24-year-old’s collection has evolved into an edgy punk-rock, recyclable clothing line called American Trash.
Her entire collection for Kansas City Fashion Week is made out of used clothing and funky fabrics.
She invades thrift stores and scours garage sales for any clothing garment she can tear apart for basic materials. She thrives on bizarre prints and unusual fabrics.
And while Jade agrees that you don’t have to fly to either coast for innovative fashion, she also doesn’t think it’s fair to compare Kansas City to other parts of the world.
After all, uniqueness is what makes Kansas City shine, she pointed out.
“In the Midwest, you have such an eclectic group of different styles, so there really is something for everyone,” said Jade. “And that makes it fun as a designer.”