A feast for your eyes: Local fashion designers, models go virtualTampa Bay Fashion Week, Sept. 23-26

How do you do a fashion runway show in the middle of a pandemic?

Tampa Bay Fashion Week, now in its 13th year but going virtual for the first time this week, is getting ready to show you with style and verve.

After months of sweating the details while riding the roller coaster of uncertainty that we've all experienced and trying to prepare for the unpredictable, Tampa Bay Fashion Week will stream a variety of panel discussions and models wearing the latest from local fashion designers throughout the Tampa Bay Area, says Founder and Organizer Nancy Vaughn. 

“We’re grateful to people in our fashion community who are optimistic and hopeful about coming together in this re-imagined way. The pandemic has drastically impacted the fashion industry -- along with many others -- but the designers and the industry are creatives,” Vaughn says. “When times are difficult and challenging, creators create and re-create. So we’re looking forward to what the designers have put together, and we’re mostly just happy to be able to do something -- anything -- that feels positive during this rather erratic 2020.’’

This year’s Tampa Bay Fashion Week designers cover a wide range of women’s fashions and emphasize body-positive looks. The event, after more than a decade, has helped establish the Tampa Bay Area as a viable market both financially and artistically and has ignited the careers of local designers. Certainly, no exception, Invisa'U Intimates, designs by Bonita Brantley, will reveal some stylish boudoir and loungewear during the 2020 online event.  

Elizabeth Carson Racker’s tagline boasts "Fashion Forward, High Quality, and Affordable Garments for the Woman of Today." Cheyvonne by A.C. Larry, will show off a size-inclusive brand of swimsuits and ready-to-wear fashion.

Alicia Calero’s 2021 collection takes inspiration from imagery associated with European springtime. Essence Flowers will show her 2020-21 collection.

Diversity, creativity on display

Tampa Bay Fashion Week provides space for communications and collaborations among fashion industry professionals. These connections have benefited designers, models, hair and make-up artists, stylists, photographers, event producers, buyers, students, and other fashion enthusiasts. Several positive outcomes are resulting from designer collections being picked up by local retailers to commercial work and portfolio builders. 

“Last year exclusive designer capsule collections were sold by The Shoppes at Bayshore at Tampa International Airport in a pop-up store,” Vaughn says. “The collection launched during Fashion Week, and a percentage of sales went to My Fairy Godfathers Foundation, an organization that helps build confidence among women and girls who have faced adversity.”
This year, throughout Tampa Bay Fashion Week, Sept. 23-26, Misred Outfitters, LabelSwap, Closet of Classé,  and other participating boutique shops will offer discounts in tandem with the event.

The four-day fashion extravaganza kicks off Wednesday, Sept. 23, with a live-streamed welcome party hosted by the effervescent Jorge Alvarado, host of The Jorge Show and co-host of Mocha In the Morning. At 6:15 p.m., a dance party follows with music by DJ Lady Shay, who will get attendees moving whether they’re in heels or pajama slippers.

On Thursday, Sept. 24, a designer panel will convene at 6 p.m. to discuss the fashion industry in 2020. Designers include Brantley, Calero, Carson Racker, Essence Flowers, and Larry. The moderator is Dolly Donshey.

Aubrey Jackson, TV host and owner of PositiviTees, will interview Karla Hartley of Stageworks Theatre in Tampa after the panel at 7 p.m. on Thursday. Hartley, Stageworks’ producing artistic director, has always had her finger on the pulse of Tampa Bay’s arts community with respect to its diversity, and she has come up with resourceful ways to keep her theater afloat.

One example is Stageworks’ upcoming Fashion Meets Theatre fundraiser. The event spotlights the designs of Dé Johnea Bianca, Wandering Wardrobe, and House of Dani, who have created fashions inspired by six Stageworks shows, including Psycho Beach Party, The Great Gatsby, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, Twelve Angry Men, Ain’t Misbehavin’ and The Revolutionists! Event details can be found at Stageworks Theatre Fashion Show.

The remainder of Thursday evening will consist of designer interviews and make-up clinics.

Runway shows will sashay the catwalk from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday evening.

The Model Moments Panel kicks off the final Fashion Week day on Saturday. Designer presentations conclude the event at noon.

“A big thing for me is representation,” Vaughn says. “People have always been able to see themselves during Tampa Bay Fashion Week, and after this past difficult year, we’re ready to celebrate.”

Schedule and ticket information

Attendance is free; register online in advance to receive login and streaming details.

Wednesday, Sept. 23,  Opening Night Dance Party (Online)
  • 6 p.m.: Welcome to Tampa Bay Fashion Week; host: Jorge Alvarado, Host of The Jorge Show, Co-Host of Mocha In the Morning Show
  • 6:15 p.m.: Dance party hosted by DJ Lady Shay (Can’t dance? Just come listen to good music with us!)
Thursday, Sept. 24, Fashion Panel Discussion (Online)
  • 6 p.m. Welcome to attendees and introduction
  • 6:10 p.m.: Tampa Bay Fashion Week 2020 Designer Panel outlined above
  • 7 p.m.: TV Host Aubrey Jackson chats with Karla Hartley of Stageworks Theatre
  • 7:30 p.m.: Special guest, Cedric Brown, fashion designer of the kimonos Lady Mae wears on Greenleaf
  • 7:45 p.m.: Make-Up Tutorial by Edwinie “Eddie” Francois, make-up artist, facial specialist, and Hair & Make-up Director for TBFW.
  • 8 p.m.: Color Styling Session by Jaime Diehl, fashion stylist.
  • 8:30 p.m.: Fashion cryptocurrency with Bonita Brantley, #TBFW2020 fashion designer
Friday, Sept. 25, Designer Fashion Presentations (Online)Saturday, Sept. 26, Panel & Designer Fashion Presentations (Online)
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Read more articles by Julie Garisto.

A graduate of Largo High, USF, and the University of Tampa's Creative Writing MFA program, Julie Garisto grew up in Clearwater and now has a home in the Ocala National Forest. Between writing assignments, she's teaching English courses at Saint Leo University and other colleges. Julie has written arts features in Creative Pinellas' online magazine ArtsCoast Journal, Creative Loafing, Florida travel pieces  (Visit Tampa Bay and Visit Jacksonville), the Cade Museum, and features and reviews in the Tampa Bay Times. Her previous journalistic roles include arts and entertainment editor for Creative Loafing, staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, and copy editor for the Weekly Planet. Lately, she's been obsessed with exploring Florida's State Parks, small towns, and natural springs.