Models were, at least for a few days, a hot commodity in Richmond. Those young men and women of the blank stares, slicked hair and swiveling hips were in demand for two record-breaking rites of spring, showing the city’s trendsetters what to wear.
In its fifth year, RVA Fashion Week filled stages from City Hall to Carytown with more designers and attendees than ever. And tickets sold out within hours for Virginia Commonwealth University’s annual juried fashion show, which packed two presentations at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on May 5.
Students showed more than 100 garments with influences as diverse as David Bowie, Jackie O., Dubai and nuclear apocalypse. New this year were senior designer collections, maternity wear, swimsuits and furs, with skin-baring silhouettes far more commercial than fantastical. And while this academic clothing rarely is sold afterward, it becomes a calling card to careers beyond campus in the multibillion-dollar industry.
VCU’s fashion department “is playing in the big leagues now,” as longtime associate professor Henry Swartz puts it, and the program’s prestige factor is higher. The department is a new member of the invitation-only Council of Fashion Designers of America, one of 21 college fashion programs to be affiliated. To show why it matters, models pounded the catwalk beneath Dale Chihuly’s “Blue Ridge” chandelier Sunday, high-stepping once-conservative Richmond’s influence in the world of fashion.