Fashion Week on a Mission

 In Feature, Style

STLFW furthers its mission by helping local designers connect with national fashion influencers.


The eighth season of Saint Louis Fashion Week united the local fashion community with national industry influencers like never before. The season, which featured an unprecedented 30 events over 10 days, focused on fostering connections and exposing the true talent that resides in St. Louis.

Building a Local Network In a city with countless designers, fashion professionals, bloggers and industry vets, there is no shortage of homegrown inspiration. On the eve of Project:Design!, Nina Ganci, owner of the iconic St. Louis knitwear brand Skif International, hosted a meet-and-greet at the beautiful Heirloom Room on Cherokee Street. In addition to Project:Design! competitors, attendees included established local designers Paulie Gibson, Anna Friss, Laura Kathleen and Michael Drummond. The veterans, each in different stages of their careers, swapped stories, discussed challenges and shared advice with emerging designers. “St. Louis is a cozy place to expand your fashion dreams,” Ganci says. “If you stay true to yourself and be persistent, success will follow.”

Connecting With National Influencers Perhaps one of the most notable differences from past fashion weeks was the presence of nationally influential fashion professionals. Distinguished guests included New York Fashion Week creator Fern Mallis, New York-based casting director and show producer Drew Linehan, and fashion blogger Keiko Lynn Groves. And St. Louis designers were in the stars' sights, attending exclusive events that ranged from a private dinner with Fern Mallis at Scape to a garden party at the home of Rungolee designer Anjali Kamra.

Putting Our Best-Dressed Foot Forward In an effort to support the St. Louis fashion community, The Fashion Fund was created in 2013 to assist up-andcoming designers in taking their careers to the next level. The fund enabled the emerging design competition Project:Design! to raise the stakes, contributing $2,500 cash to the super-sized $30,000 first-place prize package. The fund also awarded St. Louis designer Emily Koplar of Wai Ming the honor of showing her line at Dallas Market.

Moving Up Securing buyers is an important step in building a designer’s success. Before the doors opened to the public at Industry Night—the largest and newest fashion week event—buyers, bloggers and industry professionals were treated to an exclusive, invite-only screening of four local designer collections. The lounge featured private designer presentations and buyers' packets, placing relevant designer information directly into the hands of new customer bases.

Continued Growth Fern Mallis, who is an advocate for the importance of regional fashion weeks, was impressed with St. Louis’ cooperative effort, quality of work and overall production of STLFW. “Regional markets are a great breeding ground. It gives everyone an opportunity to see their collections on the runway, see it on models, have it photographed,” Mallis says. “[Everyone involved] can keep learning and growing from these experiences. All of these regional weeks are good for the cities, they are good for people’s egos and it has people talking about fashion—has people excited about it. It’s all good for the business.”


4496_1481.jpgKeiko Lynn Groves at Rungolee private luncheon and fashion presentation

4497_1481.jpgFern Mallis at designer dinner at Scape

4498_1481.jpgNina Ganci at Project:Design! dinner at Heirloom Room 4/ Fern Mallis behind the scenes at Project:Design!

4499_1481.jpgFern Mallis at designer dinner at Scape


Photo credit: Wesley Law & Matt Kile

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