Broadway and all its shops have the privilege of playing host to what's become
one of the most anticipated local events of the year.
The SLC Fashion Stroll makes its seasonal return, showcasing the finest that Utah fashion has to offer. And this year a new twist as artists now take place in the Style Wars competition, looking to feature an array of new and fascinating creations I got the chance to chat with the event's runway coordinator Jenni Singleton and artist/PR master Anna West about the stroll and tomorrow night's events, as well as thoughts on local fashion. Thanks to Sarah Wager for the majority of the pics.
Sarah Wager, Jenni Singleton, Anna West, Todd Powelson and Matt Monson
Gavin: Hey ladies. First off, tell us a bit about yourselves.
Jenni: My name is Jenni Singleton. I am the Fashion Stroll Runway Coordinator.
Anna: My name is Anna West and I am a fabric artist, I also do PR and marketing work for arts and crafts events in SLC. For my day job, I do PR work for Crowell Advertising.
Gavin: How did you both become interested in fashion and design?
Anna: I’m interested in fashion and design because of my own artwork. I crochet, sew and embroider costumes, sculptures and clothing. My website is Illusial.com, if you would like to check it out.
Jenni: I have always been interested in fashion for the psychological aspect. I love the history of fashion, as well as, the power and expressiveness that fashion can hold. I think that fashion is the most expressive art there is because it is something everyone participates in, knowingly or not. I am in awe of what a silhouette and hem line can communicate.
Gavin: Jennifer, you were at the SLCC Fashion Institute. What made you decide to go to SLCC?
Jenni: I’m actually not at the SLCC Fashion Institute as a student anymore. My involvement with the Fashion Institute is with their annual Raw Couture fashion show. I also am involved with some of the students and instructors in events outside of the Fashion Institute.
Gavin: How was the program there for you?
Jenni: The program was amazing for me. It was exactly what I needed. I started at the Fashion Institute knowing what I loved about fashion and design, but not knowing where to really go with it. There is such a broad spectrum and I really didn’t know where to focus. The program taught me exactly where my strengths were and where my weaknesses were. I realized that my talent was in putting fashion out there on the runway. I worked on one fashion show and was hooked.
Gavin: What are some of the things you've done while there?
Jenni: The most amazing things were actually the people. I have met the most amazing people at there and have gone on to work with many of them outside of the school. I have worked on fashion shows for Macy’s department store. I had the opportunity to coordinate the Live Green fashion show for the Downtown Alliance last Spring. I have also worked on some fashion shows for the University of Utah as well as many charity organizations. Every year I assist in coordinating the Institute’s annual Spring show Raw Couture and the Spring and Fall Fashion Strolls.
Gavin: Anna, you do more work on the promotions side. How did that career come about for you?
Anna: I went to Utah State and got a Master’s Degree in Health Education. Since I graduated, I have mostly done marketing and PR work for public service campaigns. It’s a lot of fun.
Gavin: What are some of the projects you've worked on that we'd know?
Anna: On the arts side, I’ve done all the PR for SLC Fashion Stroll, Craft Lake City, Transfusion Hype Dance Company, and my boyfriend’s artwork, Todd Powelson. On the professional side, some of the brands I’ve worked on include the Catch the Answers Campaign, the Castle of Chaos, West Yellowstone, CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), and going way back to the start of my career the Back to Sleep Campaign.
Gavin: You also do designs for bags and created the now infamous bullet-bra. How did you come to do designing as well?
Anna: I’ve been making my own artwork for years. My brand is called Illusial Studios. I learned how to crochet and sew in high school and I’ve just never stopped. Crochet seems to be my best talent. The Bullet Bra is from a series I did called “Self Defense,” where I made clothing items that could double as weapons by weaving industrial bits of metal into the fabric.
Gavin: When and how did both of you becomes involved with Fashion Stroll?
Jenni: My first show was the Winter 2007 show. I saw a flyer up for it in a store on Broadway maybe a day or two before the show and went to check it out. I loved everything about the stroll. I had just started working on fashion shows and knew this was something I wanted to be a part of. I contacted Matt Monson, who was the coordinator of Fashion Stroll and the owner of Model Citizen at the time. I told him I loved the entire event and wanted to help and I’ve worked on every stroll since then.
Anna: The first time I went to Fashion Stroll, I showed a costume on the runway that I designed for a professional dancer named Moria Chappell. The outfit is a black crocheted lace bra and matching skirt with beadwork and flowers. It was held on a very snowy night in December of 2007. That is how I met Matt Monson and I started showing my crocheted work in Fashion Stroll pretty regularly.
Gavin: What was the first one you were a part of like for you?
Anna: Seeing my costume on the runway with snow falling all around was nothing short of magical. Though I did feel bad for the model because she was freezing!
Jenni: The first stroll for me was absolutely crazy and chaotic. I was so disorganized but I loved every minute of it. I loved getting to know so many talented local fashion designers, artists, and boutique owners. Five strolls later I still feel the same, except now I’m more organized. We have such a great group that puts this event together. I love Matt and Anna, I have worked with them on every stroll I’ve done and they have so much great energy.
Gavin: What would you say the impact of it has been on SLC and local fashion in general?
Jenni: I think that its really given local designers and artists a place to show what they are all about. This is a hard industry to get noticed in, especially in Salt Lake City, which isn’t really on anyone’s fashion radar. As the stroll has grown, I think it has grabbed people’s attention and shown them that we have extraordinary talented local designers and artists. We have so many local designers that have all of these great pieces of work and don’t know what to do with them. They want to show them but don’t really have a way to. Its the perfect venue for both the designers and artists as well as the fashion craving public that want to know what is going on and support local fashion.
Anna: SLC isn’t the place that springs to mind when you think about fashion, but the fact is we have a great fashion design program at SLCC that is home to a lot of talent. Even some high schools have fashion design classes. There are a lot of us small artists who always have to be making something and Fashion Stroll gives us an outlet. I think Fashion Stroll has brought a lot more attention to the fashion design community. Those of us who are involved with it have been amazed to see how much it has grown over the years.
Gavin: The next one kicks off this week, tell us about the theme and what we can expect to see.
Anna: Fall Fashion Stroll, presented by The TRUTH, on Sept 25th will be action packed. We will launch the first-ever Style Wars competition, which invites local fashion designers to team up with models, hairstylists and make-up artists to create a statement according to the theme “psychedelic with a modern edge.” Style Wars will hit the runway at 6:30. At 8:00, Transfusion Hype Dance Company will perform. And at 9:00PM The TRUTH is congratulating a former smoker with a makeover that The Electric Chair is putting together. The makeover includes a new hairstyle, make-up, wardrobe and, best of all, a smoke-free lifestyle. The ex-smoker, Alisa Wolcott will strut the catwalk showing off all the benefits of quitting smoking including a decreased risk of cancer and heart disease, fewer wrinkles and more money in her pocket. These activities are all in addition to the fashion shows at 7:00, 8:00 and 9:00PM.
Jenni: The Fall Fashion Stroll on Friday will have a new addition to the runway component that hasn’t been seen before. We are adding a style competition called Style Wars. It is a competition for local designers, hair stylists, make-up artists, and models. Entries consist of one outfit that shows their take on the “Modern Psychedelic”. For our three Fashion Stroll runway shows we will have many of the favorites returning, but we also have a huge number of new designers who have gotten involved. So people are going to get a chance to see a wide variety of fashion from a wide variety of artists.
Gavin: Who are the designers you have on board? And who are some of the judges coming?
Jenni: We have quite a few local designers and artists participating, some of the participants include Shift Clothing, Jordan Halversen, Krista Nielson, Danka Clothing, No Plain Janes, Catherine Goes Couture with Mimi Eggers from Luxe-Redux, Aequitas Clothing, Amy Royer, and Discrete.
Anna: Style Wars will be judged by a team of talented professionals including fashion judge Krista Nielson, hair judge Amanda from Highlife, a make-up artist and a modeling expert.
Gavin: What other events will you have going on down Broadway this time?
Anna: We will have artist’s booths all up and down Broadway selling locally-made clothing and other goods. Thanks to our sponsor, the Downtown Alliance, we will have a whole bunch of new vendors this time around.
Jenni: Broadway is always a fun street on Fashion Stroll nights. There will be a DJ, vendor booths, a band, a dance group, and some of the most fantastic people watching ever!
Gavin: Going a bit local, what's your take on the local fashion scene, both good and bad?
Jenni: Our local fashion scene is very eclectic, which makes events like this so much fun. We have such a talented group of designers and artists, but lack a lot of resources and attention. While Salt Lake City may not be seeing their own fashion week anytime soon there are many people involved in a grassroots way trying to bring that much needed exposure to our fashion community. The main (and most important) thing I see is that people want it. People want our local fashion scene to succeed, they want to be a part of it, so we are seeing the support grow more and more.
Anna: I think what we are doing with Fashion Stroll is very unique – an all local, community-based, everybody-is-welcome, kind of fashion show. I think Salt Lake is home to a lot of talented artists and designers. From personal experience, I can say I know how hard it is to have a day job and then work by night trying to promote the arts and create artwork. I admire everyone who does it, since they are really trying to hold down two full-time jobs. Also, I’d like to say that I see a lot of talent coming out of SLCC’s fashion program.
Gavin: Anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?
Anna: I think we really need to work together to grow the scene. We need the public to keep coming out and supporting events like Fashion Stroll. Supportive sponsors, like ours really help make events like this possible. In fact, I’d like to give a big shout out to our sponsors and encourage everyone to support them.
Jenni: Yes, more attention from the local media and people like yourself! I would love to see more fashion editors popping up in our local newspapers and magazines. Our crowds are getting bigger, but there are still many people who haven’t experienced it. People need to become more involved in their communities, whether it’s in local fashion, local art, local coffee shops, or local markets. I hear so many people say that they would love to become more involved but just don’t know of many events and opportunities. So we need to continue events like SLC Fashion Stroll and getting the word out.
Gavin: Being how you both design, what are your thoughts on doing business in this current economy?
Jenni: I think this current economy is incredibly hurtful to anyone in the artistic community. The starving artist is not just a cliché it’s a reality. In a normal economy this is an industry where success is measured by whether or not you have a “day job”, so a recession can wipe out a designer’s or artist’s business and dreams. I have unfortunately seen many people give up and succumb to the day job over the last year and a half. More now than ever I get questions about jobs in fashion.
Anna: It’s hard to compete with big box stores, but I want to thank those who have made a commitment to buy locally-made items from our talented artisans. Personally, I have a lot of supporters and even fans who save their money for handmade artwork. It’s a tough economy and I don’t know a single person who isn’t suffering from it in some way. The arts have really been hit hard, but still we have people and sponsors who support our work and I’d like to offer those folks a big “Thank you.”
Gavin: What are your thoughts about local retailers and how they deal with local products?
Anna: Fashion Stroll is organized by Matt Monson, who is reopening his all-local boutique under the name SLCitizen. It is opening up right inside the Main Library. If you are a local artist, I encourage you to go in and show Matt your artwork and see if you can sell there. And for everyone else, I encourage you to shop at the store and buy local!
Jenni: I love the local retailers in my area. I am fortunate to live in a very local friendly area. I can walk to local markets and boutiques. I like the emphasis that my neighborhood puts on the local retailers. There is a great local first attitude in Salt Lake City. The best example is SLCitizen, they sell only local designers. This is a shop that is truly passionate about the local fashion scene.
Gavin: Do you have any favorite clothing shops you like to work with or shop from?
Jenni: Hmmm.. that’s a tough one for such a short space. Well my favorites are SLCitizen, Aequitas Clothing, Shift Clothing, Danny Nappi, Jordan Halversen, and The Green Element to name a few.
Anna: My favorites are SLCitizen and Craft Sabbath. Craft Sabbath is held the first Sunday of the month at Nobrow Coffee. I will be one of their guest artists on Sunday, October 4th, so come out to Nobrow between noon and four and check it out. Another local artist I am a big fan of is Kali Mellus. She makes jewelry and belt buckles out of resin and industrial materials and you can find her work at Craft Sabbath.
Gavin: What can we expect from both of you and Fashion Stroll the rest of the year?
Anna: I’ve just recently learned to screen print and I expect to be doing more of that this year. I’m also working on some elaborate crochet projects that I hope to finish in 2010. As for Fashion Stroll, Spring Stroll will be held in April. I don’t know yet what we will be doing, but I do know it will be great!
Jenni: Well for me, I don’t even know what to expect from me for the rest of the year. I never know what things I’ll be doing or involved in. I know that the SLC Fashion Stroll will continue to get bigger and better. We are constantly working on being more innovative with the Stroll and really bringing the best local fashion event possible.
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Jenni: Nope, just our wonderful sponsors.
Anna: For more information about Fashion Stroll, visit our website. My artwork is posted at Illusial.com. I’d like to send a big Thank You to our sponsors who help make all of this possible: The TRUTH, Planned Parenthood, In This Week, Highlife, Henries Cleaners, Wilhelmina UTG, XMission, The Downtown Alliance, Yudu by Provo Craft, Salt Lake Community College, SLCitizen and W Lounge. The TRUTH makeover was donated by The Electric Chair, Hawaiian Spray Tan, Nectar Massage Sanctuary and Henries Cleaners. And for all you local art fans, please check out ToddPowelson.com.