Every year, fashion week presents an opportunity for designers both new and experienced to take to the runway with fresh couture and show-stopping styles. Although Washington, D.C., is not an established fashion capital, the city still impresses when it comes to putting on a runway show.
D.C. Fashion Week is in its 14th year and 28th season, but the history of fashion week is much older. The idea originated in Paris, when designers would hire models to go to events wearing their clothes. New York City held the first official fashion show in 1903. Forty years later, the first New York City Fashion Week was born, though the term “New York Fashion Week” did not become official until the 1990s.
DCFW was founded in 2003 by Ean Williams, a menswear designer for his brand Corjor International. In a 2016 interview with Afro, Williams proclaimed that his mission was to establish D.C. as a center of international fashion.
“D.C. is just so diverse and so cultural and is home to so many embassies, that it just wouldn’t be right if we only focused on D.C. talent.”
Besides the international focus, DCFW is distinct in its economic feasibility for designers. Hosting a show in one of the fashion shows in a “big four” city — New York, London, Milan and Paris — is expensive, with brands easily spending $200,000 on a show. In the fall of 2011, the Marc Jacobs show at New York Fashion Week cost at least $1,000,000.
No numbers are available for how much DCFW designers shell out to present their collections on runway shows, but as of 2016 it was the lowest priced fashion week in the United States. Still, nothing about DCFW appears cheap. The 2018 Spring/Summer preview show featured nine designers, each with a unique take on the upcoming trends.
One of the most memorable designs from the DCFW’s media preview Feb. 21 was from the Valdecio Collection. The model strutted down the runway while wearing gold patterned separates that resembled luxurious and versatile pajamas — ones that could be worn to both an after-party or a long flight. The full show was presented at the International Couture Collections Show on Feb. 25.
Although Williams hosted the preview, he also offered a glimpse of his own collection, also being shown at the International Show. As expected from the founder of DCFW, he did not disappoint, displaying a fierce sheer dress with gold details.
Fashion Week in one of the “big four” cities is an exciting opportunity for designers to have their work seen by fashion insiders, such as press, peers and potential clients or buyers. Although those cities are largely considered the main haute couture hotspots, other cities have come to interpret fashion week differently.
Berlin Fashion Week, for example, features a “Bread and Butter” trade show, which focuses on ready-to-wear fashion unique to Germany. Portland, Ore., uses its fashion week to highlight eco-friendly designers.
For D.C., international appeal is reflected in its citizens’ fashion. Beyond the basic black and gray suits that pepper Capitol Hill, D.C. is brimming with culture and creativity, lending itself to nontraditional garments from all around the world.
Another exciting aspect of DCFW is the diversity that is seen on the runway and among the designers. In the past, the fashion industry has been criticized for creating unrealistic beauty standards. Size 00, 6-feet-tall, white women occupied the majority of runway shows.
Recently, however, designers have been making more of an effort to create inclusive fashion, and unconventional models like Ashley Graham and Winnie Harlow are being featured in fashion spreads and on the runway.
DCFW appears to be way ahead of the curve. The models represent the real men and women of D.C. and are of all different sizes and races. The future of fashion is hopeful for people of all backgrounds.
Besides the preview, DCFW consists of four shows, each focusing on a different fashion grouping. This year, the four shows were Eco Fashions and Next Generation Designers, the Haiti Fashion Designer Showcase, the Metropolitan Emerging Designers and Indie Artists Showcase, and the 28th International Couture Collections show.
This season, be prepared to ditch the plain pantsuit in lieu of a more fashion forward approach — if DCFW has taught the nation’s capital anything, it is that style can thrive even in the most unexpected places. Exciting designs are coming to life close to campus as well.