In just five days, little ol' Austin, Texas will throw its very first Fashion Week. From July 13-19, local salons, designers, boutiques, and lounges will host a movable feast of fashionable wares, complete with trunk shows and a local Fashion Awards ceremony. Like SXSW, the events are all over town and the schedule is pretty damn extensive, with stores and designers debuting new lines and hosting sample sales. In true Austin fashion, our vintage stores will be a big part of the festivities, which sets us apart from Fashion Weeks elswhere in the world.
AFW's founder, Matt Swinney, was kind enough to pop by Austin Eavesdropper to dish on all the haps.
1. First things first, Matt: What are you wearing?
Seriously? Actually, I'm wearing uber-preppy plaid shorts and a very stinky polo shirt, because the glamour side of this job is getting to distribute Fashion Week pocket guides and posters to hundreds of people in 100+ degree heat. Loads of fun.
2. Matt, you're the founder of Rare Magazine as well as Austin Restaurant Week. Tell us about your background in those capacities, and how they prompted you to start Austin Fashion Week?
3. How long has Austin Fashion Week been in the works? Were there any early conversations that inspired you to take this on?
You know, not as long as you'd think probably. Working on Austin Restaurant Week and helping to make that successful gave me an understanding of what it takes to pull off similar events (on a scale perspective). I've always wanted to do a big event driving tons of foot-traffic into local boutiques. In Austin, the sheer number of local boutiques and salons here is unlike any other American city, on a per capita basis. People need to not forget to walk in the doors of those retailers, lest they're not there when you really need them. Doing this in a down economy is even more important in my mind.
4. This next statement is going to shock a lot of people: Austin, Texas is different than New York City. It's even more different than Milan and Paris. Why did you feel it was important for Austin to have its own Fashion Week?
5. How do you see Austin, Texas fitting into a larger fashion community?
It absolutely fits. See Kendra Scott. See Anthony Nak. See Cat Swanson. See Jenny Hart. See Jen Perkins. See Austin Craft Mafia. ALL of these talented men and women (and many others) have put us on the map.
I've had people ask me to define "fashion in Austin." What I love about it is that we are fashionable almost because of our lack of fashion. For us (I'm speaking generally), it's not about what's "hot" or "in." For us, it's about what we feel comfortable in. Hell, it's 1000 degrees here, so of course we're going to wear flip flops to work! That doesn't mean we don't have fashion. It just means we're comfortable throwing a $5 vintage tee with a $300 pair of jeans. I think that's admirable. When I'm in Dallas, I have friends that literally would not walk out of the house in a baseball cap on and no makeup. Here? That's Saturday at Kerbey Lane with all the "fashionistas" of Austin. In Dallas? That's not "fashion" -- that's WORK!
6. How will our fashion week be different than other, older fashion weeks elsewhere in the world?
7. Who are some of the special guests that will be present at AFW?
Kayne from Season 3 of Project Runway will show some pieces from his newest collection at the Austin Fashion Awards. We'll also be hosting 6 designers who just finished up in the Fashion Merchandising School at UT. There's another REALLY big surprise guest that I can't tell you about yet, but I can tell you there will be a seriously cool pop up shop coming to town the 2nd half of Fashion Week. The lovely and incredibly talented Jenny Hart from Sublime Stitching will emcee the Fashion Awards show.
8. What are the big highlights of AFW that people absolutely should not miss?
9. Who are some of the people and companies in Austin that are helping to make AFW possible?
10. Give us a brief sneak preview of the AFW Red Carpet Fashion Awards.