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This fall’s RVA Fashion Week looks to get creative online.

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According to fashion maven Diana Vreeland, “Fashion is part of the daily air and it changes all the time, with all the events. You can even see the approaching of a revolution in clothes. You can see and feel everything in clothes.”

And local fashion will take center stage when the 12th annual RVA Fashion Week begins in early October. Over the past dozen years, the goal of this homegrown event hasn’t changed. It’s always been to highlight and celebrate the thriving design and fashion scene that flourishes in Richmond, as well as introducing talent from surrounding areas. For the first decade, the Fashion Week team produced every single show, which encompassed 90 to 100 events between spring and fall.

The pandemic changed everything when Spring Fashion Week was postponed with no clear plan to reschedule. From May through early August, organizers considered all the relevant factors to decide whether to move forward with the fall week. After giving the core organizers the time to think it through, everyone voted to move forward.

“A lot of us hopped on a Zoom call and from that point, we literally went from 0 to 100 mph,” executive producer James Budd says. “It was an extremely constructive conversation and brainstorm session, but to date, this was definitely the most challenging fashion week to plan and help facilitate.”

RVA Fashion Week runs Oct. 5 through 11 with both live and virtual events, including runway shows, panel discussions and personal development workshops. Almost every event will have a virtual element. Because angles are tricky with online events, Budd says they’ve had to be realistic with themselves on how to keep people engaged.

“Doing a standard runway angle shot is not appealing virtually, so people can expect a lot of up-close footage and in-person interviews,” he says. “We’re excited to be working with some new equipment to help make our vision a reality.”

The Identity Design Fashion Education Panel will be held live at Stony Point Fashion Park and is intended to give people in the fashion industry the opportunity to share their stories to inspire others.

“Creatives are often defined by what they create, and not by who they had to become in order to unleash their creative potential,” explains Chanel Green, owner of StitchbyChanel, the presenter of the panel. “This movement inspires other artists to step outside of their comfort zone, share their stories and be the designer of their own identity.” The storytellers for the panel were chosen to share wisdom, personal experience and industry knowledge.

Mental health awareness runs throughout the programming, including a Runway2Life virtual fashion show. Heather Marie Van Cleave of Runway2Life says the organization strives to bring together beauty and fashion to continue the conversation on mental illness and help prevent suicide. “They’ll be giving resources and speaking on topics to help those struggling with their mental health so they can feel beautiful on the inside, as well as showcasing fashion to help them feel great on the outside,” she says.

For those who have difficulty seeing the relevance of fashion during a pandemic, Budd insists that you can still be fashionable from home, as well as at the minimal number of places we might travel to nowadays.

“You’d be surprised how your mindset and outlook changes when you take the time to get dressed up and look in the mirror,” he says. “You’re instantly implanting a great image in your mind, which could be the positive energy to keep you going during these difficult times and help build self-confidence you might have thought that you lost.”

With so many restrictions and cancellations across the arts and entertainment world, Richmond might need Fashion Week more than ever this fall, if only for the hope, energy and positive outlook it offers. The organizers are hoping people will be motivated to tune in and see the hard work and focus of the many talented people behind the scenes.

“I think we’re showing that there are ways to keep people safe, motivated, engaged, relevant and connected in this challenging time that we live in right now,” Budd says. “I see a lot of our programming ideas being implemented into future RVA Fashion Weeks.” Like Spring Fashion Week, which has already been scheduled for April 26 through May 2.

RVA Fashion Week runs October 5 – 11 at various locations. Learn more at rvafw.com.

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