DC Fashion Week showcases diversity with fresh new faces on the runway in 37th year

Media Credit: Krishna Rajpara I Assistant Photo Editor

Williams said he wanted this year’s show to represent a variety of body types and ethnicities to reflect the diversity of the District.

Local and international designers presented their vibrant and bold spring and summer collections at the International Couture Collections Show last Sunday as part of the 37th annual DC Fashion Week.

The week kicked off with the Fashion Industry Networking Party at Saint Yves nightclub last Thursday, which Executive Director Ean Williams said was vital for emerging talent in the industry to come together and has resulted in fashion showrooms, modeling shoots and agencies. Last Sunday’s show served as the grand finale of DC Fashion Week and consisted of exaggerated, bold colors and intricate prints, a preview of which trends might take the forefront of this spring.

Leading up to Sunday’s finale, Fashion Week events included the Washington Menswear Collections last Friday followed by The Washington Emerging and Ready2Wear Designer Collections last Saturday. Williams said this fall marked DC Fashion Week’s third season back in person after the COVID-19 pandemic with a record number of models registered, surpassing 1,000 in total. Williams said DC Fashion Week has continued to grow in popularity as it showcases new voices and talents in the industry.

“It’s growing every season – it’s been surprising, especially post pandemic,” Williams said. “We have more media outlets covering, more models, more designers, more vendors, more corporate event sponsors. It’s a vibrant and robust moving machine, so we’re very blessed and grateful.”

Williams said he wanted this year’s show to represent a variety of body types and ethnicities to reflect the diversity in the District. He said many of this year’s designers, who are new to DC Fashion Week, helped showcase new talent and increase diversity, which is noticeably lacking on the runway in the fashion industry.

“The majority of our designers are new to fashion week,” he said. “They’re from all different parts of the DMV area and of course around the globe. A lot of new fresh faces.”

I headed to the National Housing Center Atrium in Dupont Circle last Sunday to catch the finale of DC Fashion Week. From gowns with eccentric, colorful patterns and intricately woven textures to more muted streetwear, here’s what local and international designers showcased on the runway for next year’s spring and summer collection:

Shortly after I arrived at the venue, local artist THE FIX gave an engaging musical performance for about an hour before the show began, covering songs like Britney Spears’ “My Prerogative” and Silksonic’s “Smoking out the Window.” The bustling environment enlivened the crowd of about 300 attendees who conversed among themselves while waiting for the show to start.

All 140 models walked the runway at the start of the show, wearing a series of all-black outfits primarily consisting of dresses and jumpsuits paired with black stilettos. Although the all-black color scheme could seem monotonous, many models incorporated dynamic cutouts and lacy textures in their outfits which engaged the audience through the variety of the models’ individual styles from elegant evening wear to casual streetwear.

The work of BeTheOne, a Ukrainian designer, hit the runway first. The show was appropriately soundtracked to Dua Lipa’s hit song of the same vein, “Be the One.” A vast array of models showcased lingerie-esque silk robes and shawls with bright colors and eccentric geometric patterns paired with headpieces, like eye-catching sparkly crowns. A deep purple, sparkly mermaid-style gown with embroidered textured detailing was undoubtedly the standout piece of the collection due to the complimentary shades of purple and flattering silhouette on the model.

Krishna Rajpara | Assistant Photo Editor

The show continued with Shop the Runway, a designer from Maryland, with Beyonce’s “Halo” as the soundtrack. The collection began with all-black couture designs, similar to those used to introduce the models, and later transitioned to all-white outfits, like bodycon dresses with lace cutouts before spanning to predominantly floor-length gowns in hues like bright orange, striking green and deep blue. The final dress showcased in the collection was a black gown with tulle detailing and a surgical mask made up of black rhinestones on the model.

Krishna Rajpara | Assistant Photo Editor

Troy Anthony, a sustainable New York-based designer focused on taking “wearable couture to luxurious new heights,” opened with a stunning periwinkle and blush-toned gown with an exaggerated poofy skirt. The show’s general color scheme consisted of various tones of blue and blush, a preview of which hues might take the forefront of this spring’s trends.

Next was the Nigerian brand Obioma Fashion, which blends traditional African styles with Western fashion. This segment featured upbeat traditional Nigerian music with complex percussion rhythms. The majority of the pieces incorporated the traditional African Ankara fabric, characterized by bold and extravagant colors and prints. Though each piece utilized various cuts, colors and styles, nearly all of them incorporated the same geometric pattern in colors like red, yellow and white, each paired with black.

Krishna Rajpara | Assistant Photo Editor

Eryn Boggs, previously known as iconiclicense, describes her designs as “wearable avant garde.” The spring collection featured whimsical yet inventive styles, including multiple pieces with a multicolored swirl pattern that stood out from solid color designs. The segment concluded with two models who walked side by side – one adorned with a bubblegum pink, short leather dress, and the other with a hot pink, floor-length leather gown with a dramatic, overstated skirt.

The show closed with Corjor International, a custom evening wear designer based in the District. The segment showcased deep pink hues and slowly transitioned to a more muted, mauve tone before a delicate blush to bring the evening to a soft close. An instrumental orchestra version of “Industry Baby” played as the models walked, a nod to Lil Nas X’s live performance of the song as he closed the Vogue World: New York show earlier this month.

Krishna Rajpara | Assistant Photo Editor

Through DC Fashion Week, Williams hopes to inspire residents and natives of the District to view D.C. as a fashion hub rather than purely a political destination. While D.C. may not be quite as creative as fashion capitals like New York or Milan, this year’s fashion week proved that the District is indeed a stylish city.

“Fashion is for everyone, it’s accessible to everyone,” Williams said. “D.C. is a fashionable city – we have politics, of course, we have tourism, but we have a lot of amazing creative artists here in the nation’s capital.”

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