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TheRootDC
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Posted at 10:40 AM ET, 09/12/2012

D.C. Fashion Week: Executive director Ean Williams on what to expect, the impact of fashion bloggers


A model walks the runway during a D.C. Fashion Week event in 2010. (Damion Miller)
When you think of Washington, the words “fashion capital” probably don't come to mind. A government hub with people clad in black, gray and navy suits during the day, D.C. is better known as a seat of power rather than a who's who of the best dressed. However, there is a burgeoning fashion scene here that includes bloggers, designers, boutiques and trade organizations determined to put D.C. on the style map. 

Perhaps one of the biggest efforts in helping achieve this goal is Washington's answer to New York's bi-annual homage to everything fresh and new in fashion: D.C. Fashion Week (DCFW).

“Attendees can expect to see an eclectic mix of designer talent from India, Nigeria, Serbia, Thailand and, of course, the U.S.,” says Ean Williams, executive director of D.C. Fashion Week, about this season’s events. “It's a representation of the rich cultural diversity that our great city offers.”

DCFW, created in 2004, has evolved from a weekend fete at an area hotel into a seven-day affair with runway shows held in some of the city's most prestigious embassies and exclusive venues, including the Embassy of France and the Washington Club. This season’s events run from Sept. 17-23.

DCFW will highlight spring/summer 2013, and there will be a big emphasis on the Eco Fashion Exhibit, which serves as the week's kick-off event and takes place at the World Bank's International Finance Corp. building on Mon., Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. The exhibit puts a group of young designers to the test by challenging them to create an entire collection using sustainable fabrics.

“This helps a lot of the newer designers who've never done anything like a 'fashion week' get acquainted with the process, while also showing them that there are alternative textiles they can work with,” Williams says. Another important initiative is the Metropolitan Emerging Designers and Indie Artists (MEDIA) showcase happening at The Washington Post Conference Center on Sat., Sept. 22 at 6 p.m. It mashes fashion (via a collective runway show featuring 14 designers) and live musical performances.

Each year, D.C. Fashion Week picks up a little more steam thanks to collaborations with local media, such as WPGC 95.5 FM, Howard University's Hilltop newspaper and Shy Magazine. Williams also says they've made strides in increasing the visibility of DCFW by reaching out to the local fashion blogging community.

“Initially, we didn't really understand [fashion bloggers'] impact about getting out the word. Before, we would throw a networking party and people would say, ‘D.C. has a fashion week?’ ” Now, Williams and his team get it, and it's these partnerships that have helped increase attendance to signature events such as the Fashion Industry Networking Mixer, where fashionistas and creative types come dressed to impress to get their picture taken and sip cocktails. This season's mixer  will occur at Dirty Martini on Thurs., Sept. 20 at 6 p.m.

“Washingtonians truly do have a strong fashion sense and are trendsetters, too,” Williams says. “There's a thriving industry here that's supported by fashion journalists, designers, models, beauty experts and stylists.”

 To see a complete list of D.C. Fashion Week events, go to dcfashionweek.org.

 Andrea N. Browne is a journalist based in the Washington, D.C., area with a penchant for great style .

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