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Keeping it Fresh 

RVA Fashion Week is back with a focus on sneaker culture.

click to enlarge "Recognizing the passion many feel towards the sneaker world, the RVA Fashion Week committee decided to combine sneaker vendors, streetwear fashion shows, and live music performances under one roof."

Michael Hostetler Photography/Courtesy of RVA Fashion Week

"Recognizing the passion many feel towards the sneaker world, the RVA Fashion Week committee decided to combine sneaker vendors, streetwear fashion shows, and live music performances under one roof."

When RVA Fashion Week kicked off in 2008, it’s unlikely that its all-volunteer creative team, or even the enthusiastic participants, could have envisioned the semi-annual event’s growth and evolution.

The nearly week-long event offers an opportunity to highlight the vision and expand the potential of Richmond’s diverse fashion and arts communities through a range of happenings. Just last year, the organizers debuted SneakerFest, the latest jewel in RVA Fashion Week’s crown.

Recognizing the passion many feel towards the sneaker world, the RVA Fashion Week committee decided to combine sneaker vendors, streetwear fashion shows, and live music performances under one roof. “Countless walks of life have a love for sneaker culture, so from a diversity standpoint, which we always strive for, it was a no brainer to make this happen,” says Jimmy Budd, executive producer for the event. “That way, RVA Fashion Week could be the catalyst to launch this brand.”

The SneakerFest Art Gala launches day one of the festival by mixing elegance with sneaker culture, challenging the notion that sneakers are typically associated with athletic wear and streetwear. [This Friday's] event at Black Iris features a dozen different artists showing artwork, installations, and photography, live sneaker paintings, and digital sneaker making, as well as sneaker prototypes being developed in our city.

“One example of a prototype is by some 11th graders at Girls for A Change, which is the non-profit we’re supporting both days,” says Budd. “It also made sense for us to align this event with RVA First Fridays and continue supporting the arts district while that area continues to bounce back from the pandemic.”

As for why Richmond’s sneaker game is so strong, much of it has to do with the city’s ability to retain and evolve its own unique style, with the sneaker a key aspect of that. Add in various universities within the city that bring in all kinds of people from different areas to contribute to sneaker culture.

“But I personally feel the main reason RVA has such a strong sneaker presence is because of its location geographically,” explains Creative Director Ryan Azia. While Richmond isn’t far from the DMV and the Hampton Roads/Virginia Beach area, its location on Interstate 95 makes it a major artery in which styles and trends can make their way through from as far north as Boston, Philadelphia, and New York City and to the south, Miami and Atlanta. “All that and the accessibility of information makes for the perfect sneaker mixing bowl that is RVA.”

Keeping RVA Fashion Week fresh every year is always the top priority for organizers. Budd says that supporting the local community is first and foremost, while also educating, inspiring, and motivating local youth. “The people live here year-round and the ideas and collaborations brewing daily prove that this brand will continue to grow, as well as keep everyone involved relevant,” Budd says. “We’ll always welcome outside talent, but the talent that continues to grow through this city deserves to be platformed and recognized before the rest. They’re invested in our community and help keep things fresh.”

click to enlarge 042a8215-2.jpeg

Every designer featured during the week is selected by the designer board, who look for quality, creativity, and presence, with a focus on local talent.

“Designers are a huge part of each show because their garments are live artwork going down the runway,” says Fashion Director Chanel Nelson. “We want our audience to be intrigued by each piece and blown away by the creativity each designer showcases.”

One of Fashion Week’s flagship events this year is “A Taste of Fabeaucon,” which focuses on finding an entrepreneurial mindset as a creative. “We believe that entrepreneurship is critical to the success of brands in the fashion and beauty industry,” says Nelson, as well as Beauty Director Brittany Johnson. “Our goal is to create a platform to elevate creatives from different expertise that influence the fashion and beauty industry. We want creatives to feel seen, heard and celebrated.”

In terms of community support, this festival’s events will support NAMI Virginia, Girls for A Change, and Making Strides of Central Virginia (The American Cancer Society).

“We’ve seen how this pandemic affected the human mindset, so we’re proud to continually help guide people into a brighter light with NAMI Virginia and Feel Good RVA,” Budd says. “What Angela Patton over at Girls for A Change is doing to empower young Black girls is incredible and beyond admirable. We chose Making Strides of Central Virginia because our leadership team member, Nikki Fiveash, is a breast cancer survivor.”

In multiple ways, Richmond continues to be the beneficiary of 14 years of RVA Fashion Week. Budd thinks he knows why.

“Fashion Week has proven to Richmond that you can build your career here and not have to move elsewhere,” he says. “Throughout the years, more and more people have recognized the endless growth potential as well as how reasonable it is to live here. It’s a creative’s dream.”

RVA Fashion Week runs from Wednesday, Oct. 5 – Oct. 9 at various locations. Go to rvafashionweek.com for more information.

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