A billowing white tent sets the scene, a first impression of what’s to come.
This week, Harriett’s Park Avenue Fashion Week organizers hope to serve up the highest fashion, hanging gracefully, modernly, beautifully and even sometimes a little eccentrically on models trained to represent the city like there’s no better place for fashion on Earth.
They say it’s their chance to show everyone that Winter Park shouldn’t be ignored when it comes to dressing well. And the atmosphere Fashion Week creates changes the city for a week, transporting residents and visitors to a place that’s high profile and fashion forward.
All the parties, the clothes and the celebration of creativity add an extra spark to the Avenue, said Paige Blackwelder, chair of Fashion Week and owner of Tuni on Park Avenue.
“You can tell that there’s something in the air,” Blackwelder said. “It really shows off Winter Park in a great light and definitely a different light. … Winter Park has style and it has fashion.”
Susan Johnson, owner of Bella, agreed.
Many Winter Park boutiques will be showing looks at Harriett’s Park Avenue Fashion Week’s Runway Show. Fashion Week is Oct. 14-20, with the Runway Show as its finale on Oct. 20 under a 20,000-square-foot New York Fashion Week-style tent. For more information about all the events and special deals, and to purchase Runway Show and party tickets, visit parkavenuefashionweek.com
“There are very few communities that have what we have here in Winter Park, and I think Fashion Week is very much a reflection of that,” she said.
And the best people to style the runway show under the great white tent, which is Fashion Week’s finale event on Oct. 20, are the stores that line Park Avenue. Many boutiques will be involved, each showing 10 looks that represent their store’s unique style.
“You get to pull out all your creativity,” said Blair DeLongy, vice president of retail operations for the three men’s stores in the show: John Craig, Current and Peter Millar.
DeLongy said she takes it as an opportunity to surprise the audience — last year she had Orlando Magic player J.J. Redick strut down the runway. She said each of her stores’ looks will encompass a vibe from head to toe — dapper Gatsby, effortlessly cool and sophisticated Americana.
“It’s time to let your store shine,” she said. “I’m excited to see all our ideas come to life.”
Self-proclaimed new girl on the block, Lisa West of Charyli is using Fashion Week to show off her store’s style, which is a fresh hint of West Coast fun among all the East Coast and New York-inspired clothes featured at other stores in Winter Park. This is her first year at Fashion Week, and she’s working hard to create a name for herself in the fashion community.
Participating Winter Park boutiques include:
Lilly Pulitzer, Charyli, Tuni, Coralia Leets Jewelry Boutique, Bay Hill Jewelers on Park, Bajalia, iLashWorks, LaBella Intimates, Synergy, John Craig Clothiers, Current, Peter Millar, Eyes and Optics, Bebe's/Liz's, Sultre, Bella, Cerise, The Collection Bridal, Things & Fashion, and Blue Door Denim Shoppe.
“It’s affordable and trendy but different; they’re not going to see it anywhere else on the Avenue,” West said. “I want to stand on my own with my own look.”
Being a part of Fashion Week is a great way to get noticed, and to elevate your store’s image in the minds of customers, Blackwelder said. It brings people in the door long after Fashion Week is over.
Debbie Farah, whose Bajalia store will feature accessories on the runway, said she joined last year to “be discovered.” And after the show was over, she put her looks in her store’s window so that audience members could connect the dots and take what impressed them on the runway and make it their own.
“It’s not just about that night,” said Farah, whose store is the only fair trade business in the show.
All the boutiques said that being a part of Fashion Week brought more people into their stores, and that it also brought each other into fellow Fashion Week participants’ stores. They said it’s been a good way to build relationships, network and join together for a common goal outside just their own four walls.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to all get together and collaborate,” said Traci Kabran, owner of Sultre. “We all have the same love.”
And that love all bubbles over on the night of the Runway Show, with many ladies biting their nails with anticipation, fiddling with last-minute adjustments and letting out that last nervous whoosh of air as their hard work takes a walk. DeLongy, for one, said she can’t control the jumping up and down or the screaming with pride and happiness.
“The minute those girls walk out — I love it … when you see it done and all together it’s so exciting,” Blackwelder said. “And after the last girl walks, I start to think about next year.”