Nolcha Fashion Week: New York “is an award winning fashion week event, now in its 5th year, held simultaneously with New York Fashion Week and consisting of four days of runway shows, eco-accessory exhibition, fashion business seminars, and networking events. Filling a void during New York Fashion Week, Nolcha Fashion Week: New York has emerged as a solid platform and a reputable outlet for showcasing top-tier designers, a globally-minded and diverse group originating from countries that include Italy, Brazil, United Kingdom, Venezuela, South Korea, Russia, Sweden, Colombia, USA, China, Dominican Republic, among others. It is officially listed with Mercedes Benz Fashion Week as the two recognized fashion weeks in New York by NYC Economic Development Corporation (1).”
Nolcha Fashion Week certainly know how to make an impression, with talent and credibility in equal measure each season. The target audience is invite-only over the four day event: celebrities, media, retailers, trendsetters, fashion professionals, executives, industry names and investors, and over 3000 invite-only guests attended last season. Their support and endorsement for the first INNOVATION USA awards in 2011 were extraordinarily valuable and gave the winning designers a giant step up in the industry – who were thereby able to present their work on an internationally-recognised platform.
The designers have been overwhelmingly grateful. When Meghan Sebold decided to quit her job in ad sales, she knew the road ahead would be a difficult one. There is nothing simple or straightforward about breaking into the fashion world, especially if one chooses to go the route of fair trade and using only organic materials. It often means greater challenges in sourcing, higher opportunity costs to the founder and having to deal with a general of lack of understanding about the movement. But at the Ethical Fashion Forum’s first New York show at Nolcha Fashion Week, Meghan and two other incredibly talented designers were able to showcase their beautiful, ethical fashion collections on an international stage. The world was watching and learned the story of each award winning designer, each of whom was passionate about their line – with each piece tailor made and its own tale behind it. The love put into each article of clothing was palpable, something I’ve never seen before, and the press and visitors certainly picked up on this.
Afia caught my eye first, as the clothing was cut from striking, ethnic Ghanaian cloth. Meghan Sebold’s collection of women’s ready-to-wear clothing had been selected and sewn in Ghana. These pieces used classic prints and fashioned them into more urban shapes to flatter today’s women. Meghan had visited Ghana while studying abroad, had been inspired by the prints and decided to take her business there. Independently, she has stimulated a sector of the economy which many women can contribute to, in turn giving them financial means and a sense of stability that is currently lacking from her own life. She was elated to receive the INNOVATION USA Award from Ethical Fashion Forum and felt that EFF had been a partner in her success. With an exciting future ahead for her line, Meghan promises to continue to conduct business in a sustainable way and hopes to extend that to other small businesses.
Nolcha Fashion Week: New York has emerged as a solid platform and a reputable outlet for showcasing top-tier designers, a globally-minded and diverse group”
Light fabrics with movement and intricate embroidery led me soon after to Soham Dave’s collection. The collection of womenswear is all hand made with biodegradable materials, hand dyed and hand embroidered in India, Soham’s homeland. These stunning items are all available at a reasonable cost, with a price point of $350 – Soham’s vision being for everyone to be able to afford fair trade and organic clothing. The passion of India is seen in the manner in which these clothes are created; Soham tends to stay true to traditional methods of embroidery and dyeing while favouring more timeless styles of clothing. Soham’s vision for the line is to eventually open his own stores internationally which would sponsor an eco-friendly learning centre for up-and-coming fair trade designers. After two, well received, collections, it seems that this could happen sooner than originally anticipated.
After two more ethnic costumes, I wandered over to Carrie Parry, whose mod style stood out from the rest. Her line had echoes of many different eras, which caught my eye while we spoke. The recent Central Saint Martins – University of the Arts London – graduate got started after experiences in the fashion industry that led her to decide to make a change. Currently she is based in Brooklyn, New York and uses sustainable fabrics from around the world; she suggests that finding the fabrics is half the battle. In her current collection her cloth is primarily from India and Japan. The silk in her blouses is all hand woven in India into 1960s French film silhouettes. Carrie has a dual goal for her line: she hopes to change people’s lives and not only those from whom she buys and the employees for her line, but also those to whom she sells. Her INNOVATION USA win from the Ethical Fashion Forum means more support from the community and respect from other reputable eco-friendly fashion designers. This recognition is a crucial step towards Carrie’s imminent success.
New York as a whole is yet to embrace the fair trade aspect of the fashion scene, but NOLCHA Fashion Week’s Ethical Fashion Forum showing this year was well received. It is vital that the centre of the United States fashion world begins to inspire both the industry and consumers that how clothes are made is just as important as the designs and where they are from. The community of fair trade and organic brands is steadily growing but there is always room for further growth. In speaking with these three very different fashion designers, all of them highlighted the importance of having an influential and respected partner present, such as the Ethical Fashion Forum, for them to ally with. Each designer spoke to the support which they had received in their dealings with ethical fashion in New York and how supportive the network of partners was, and Ethical Fashion Forum is equally delighted to now be a part of this community to provide more help to these young people – who are changing the face of fashion.
(1) Nolcha website, http://nolcha.com/nolcha-fashion-week/about. Accessed 6 October 2011