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Fabric: Fashion for Everyone

Fashion is more than what we wear. It reflects who we are by making a silent statement to everyone we meet. But fashion doesn’t just happen. Whether your style is black tees and frayed jeans or a one-of-a-kind find from a boutique or thrift store, there was a long journey from the hands that made [...]
J.R. McMillan

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Fashion is more than what we wear. It reflects who we are by making a silent statement to everyone we meet.

But fashion doesn’t just happen. Whether your style is black tees and frayed jeans or a one-of-a-kind find from a boutique or thrift store, there was a long journey from the hands that made them to back of your closet or the bottom of your laundry bin. FABRIC wants to make that journey a little less daunting, from creators to consumers. What started as an ambitious experiment above the Idea Foundry is slated to evolve into a dedicated destination with shared workspace, a retail outlet, and an event venue for the multi-disciplinary demands of the city’s sometimes scattered fashion industry.

We went straight to the source for second act details of this novel co-working initiative from Amee Bellwanzo, Cofounder and Business Director for Alternative Fashion Mob, and FABRIC.

What was the inspiration for FABRIC? How did it come to be?

Alternative Fashion Mob came together in 2012 with the goal of giving a platform to independent local designers of all styles, in part by creating an ‘underground movement’ with Columbus’ style-savvy public to generate excitement for the local fashion industry in our city. Our goal has always been fostering local designers as small business people. The more we work with our designers, the more we’ve seen there are a lot of resources they need to really succeed as small businesses, and thereby really create an industry of independent fashion labels in Columbus—where there are currently a few big brands, and a lot of independent designers who are making clothing on a very small scale.

What did you learn from your experience at Idea Foundry? How did it change or refine your concept for FABRIC?

It was kind of our proof of concept. Our classes sold out, we had more requests than anticipated for photo studio rentals and other resources. The public came to events we held there—even though the location wasn’t the easiest. We kind of figured, if so many people are willing to navigate through the Foundry to join us in this old warehouse, there must really be a need for what we’re doing.

How is FABRIC similar and unique from other co-working concepts in Columbus?

FABRIC, as a co-working space, is focused on fashion designers and related industry pros, such as stylists and photographers. So that’s one point of differentiation from other local co-working spaces. It will also have a storefront where the public can purchase those designers’ clothes. While there are a few stores in town where you can purchase all kinds of locally made goods, from t-shirts to crafts to salsa, there are no stores that specialize in fashion. We’ll also have a designer-worthy selection of fabric and other raw materials used to create fashion. This will be a resource for designers, but will also be great for the hobbyist-level designers and sewers, who currently have only one or two big-box fabric stores that have more of a crafter market than a true fashion-forward ideal. We’ll have a photo studio—which fashion designers and other people can use or rent for fashion shoots, product catalogs, and creative projects.

What element of FABRIC will surprise people most?

Our space will be open to the public for fashion-related classes—for all levels, including professional designers to hobbyists and beginners—and all topics in the fashion industry including fashion photography, modeling, hair and makeup artistry, etc. We’ll also have an event space, which will be used for general purposes, including rental—but there will also be set times that the space is used for fashion events. It will come ready with a rollaway runway, so we hope it’s a great resource for all the fashion organizations in town. Essentially, FABRIC Columbus will be a true community center for creative activity and inspiration, where professionals and the general public can come together to be inspired and excited by local fashion.”

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Clothing and Community: Black Fashion Expo

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Expect nothing but instead appreciate everything.

The statement is a mantra that Black Fashion Expo founder Bobby Couch lives by, describing the event for designers of color to set up shop and showcase their products on a grand scale. While he juggles multiple hats as a creative director at Art of Republic and as an assistant with traveling dinner party, The High End Affair, his intention with creative umbrella Fashion is Columbus and brainchild Black Fashion Expo was to be inclusive and celebrate fashion brands that deserve a larger following. After the inaugural BFE in February, Couch hosted the expo’s ‘Intent’ theme in October at Gravity, as a marketplace featuring panel discussions and live attractions and demonstrations that showcased fashion that goes beyond the runway.

“When you’re curating an experience that’s new, there’s a level of anticipation, but people know that every component of what’s happening will likely be unexpected,” Couch said. “It’s important to conform that Black fashion is also Columbus fashion. Until we can say it’s time to celebrate the success of Black artists with an inclusive and diverse audience, it’s important to continue celebrating one another to drive their goals and business.”

An avid Beyoncé fan, Couch has taken cues from the singer to drive his own business, noting Beyoncé publicized her decision to leave a Reebok board meeting after there were no people of color present. The singer ventured into a joint athleisure partnership with Adidas instead, and Bobby supports her decision, noting that Black voices on design teams are the first step into the process of inclusion.

“Some of the larger luxury brands definitely started the shift from the Gucci blackface sweaters to blackness and wokeness being a trend. Sometimes it just takes conversations like those to ruffle the feathers of the white supremacy and implement change, even if just temporary,” he said. “During these times of gentrification and the restoration of urban areas, [Black Fashion Expo] wants to ensure there are safe spaces curated specifically for those coming from inner city schools to create their own footprint.”

In agreement with Couch’s sentiments is founder of clothing line Ohio Girls Do It Better and BFE contributor, Chanel Jack. “There are major dangers of Black designers leading majority white teams because it keeps the cycle going and lessens our opportunities as a culture,” she said. “When a Black designer does have the power to change the narrative, it is important to bring other Black creatives to the top with them.”

While Columbus fashion is still on an incline—the city is also a leading hub for fashion with LBrands, CCAD, and Fashion Week Columbus—Couch is forward-thinking with offering services to further benefit the city. With a full team of curators behind Black Fashion Expo, Couch credits Art of Republic, StarstrukT Apparel, Cloud City 614 and more for fulfilling his vision of propelling local Black fashion to greater heights. He also wants the favor to be returned to other brands, as StarstrukT Apparel is a hub for listening parties and shopping alike, and Sole Classics continually hosts a seasonal Streetwear Flea event. “It costs nothing to repost your friend who’s an entrepreneur, [their] business or pop-up flyers on social media; that’s a great start,” Couch said.

There are still gripes with apects of Columbus fashion, as noted by hosts of BFE segment “Thread Talk”, Genevieve Effa and Xiao Mei. “I’ve noticed there are so many more designers and brands that aren’t getting attention. The fashion scene can be improved best if more of those with a fashion platform in the city collaborate more often,” Effa said. “Whether that’s creating an event where designers or brands can apply to be a part of it, or just throwing a mixer for designers and fashion brands to network, the best way to really show why Columbus is ranked third in the fashion industry would be through collaborating.”

“Those in the fashion industry are standing their ground more than ever. From their morals to their values and principles, many Blacks are comprehending the importance of unity within the Black culture and Black fashion industry,” Mei adds. “Columbus offers diverse people of different backgrounds, but lacks flavor in apparel. It is a comfortable city and not many are willing to step beyond their comfort zones—even in their clothing.”

In the process of opening his first storefront in next year with an artistic coworking space, Couch envisions that fashion in 2020 will be a transition into theory, uniform and minimalistic silhouettes being intertwined with substantial fabrics. “Eco-friendly and more vegan leathers will be used in the projects I’m endorsing [as well as] the freedom of the late 90’s when it comes to styling and editorial execution,” he said. “Less is so much more.”

Couch plans to resume Black Fashion Expo next February, and much like his idol, Beyoncé, 2020 will be the year to officially get Columbus fashion in formation.

Donations and request for sponsorship information can be found online at fashioniscolumbus.com. Follow on Instagram at @blackfashionexpo.

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Local designer offers shopping tips for fashionista on your list

Regina Fox

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Ever since she was a little girl, Joan Madison has had an affinity for fashion. From making custom-fitting Barbie doll outfits when she was in elementary school, to developing her natural talent at the acclaimed Fashion Institute of Technology, to landing designer positions at The Limited and Express, to eventually opening her own bridal boutique in Reynoldsburg, Madison has amassed over 20 years experience in the fashion industry. Madison shared some of her insights with (614) to help those holiday shoppers looking to cross gifts for the fashionista in their life off their list.

(614): If you're having trouble identifying your friend's unique style or items that would fit into that style, what are some staple pieces that everyone can love and use?

JM: Some staple pieces that everyone loves and uses are items that match the season! I love to accessorize! If it is fall [or] winter, I love to go for soft cashmere scarves, gloves or even winter sunglasses—they make the perfect accent as a thoughtful gift or for a stylish friend, and you can never go wrong with items that make you warmer in the cooler months. If it is spring [or] summer, I love to match accessories that add a touch of color or metallic to anyone’s wardrobe. Items like handheld purses, fanciful flats and color-pop earrings are always my go to faves for everyone, no matter the taste.

(614): For those working on a tight budget, what pieces make the best gifts?

JM: I like that even on a budget, these gift ideas work! What I like most about these staple pieces are that these items come in a variety of colors and prices. I like that I can buy all of my favorites, no matter the budget!

(614): For bigger ticket items—let's say a handbag or coat, for example—how can the average shopper distinguish a quality item from one that is simply overpriced?

JM: As a couturier, I find it necessary to first examine the stitching on any garment. Make sure it’s lined, and that all plaids, stripes, or patterns match. Most people think it is about the textiles, but what sets a unique piece apart is the time and expertise it takes to engineer and craft a high quality garment, to really pour into the work, while also embodying the design and detail. Good quality is also evident in the fit of the garment, the hanger loops, and the overall hanger appeal. Often, overpriced items skip these components and this part of the process.

(614): What are some of your favorite shops and boutiques around Central Ohio that offer thoughtful, accessible fashion?

JM: One of my favorite boutiques around Central Ohio that offers thoughtful and accessible fashion is Minka’s Furs in the Shops at Worthington Place, and I also love to draw inspiration and support many of our local festival artisans. And we also offer holiday party dresses and evening gowns here at Joan’s Bridal Couture.

(614): What are some of your favorite trends you've seen this winter season?

JM: There are several trends I like this winter season, including anything in sequin with bling. Metallic is also still popular, [as is] wearing shades of green and earthier tones with a pop of color. For extra warmth, try layering your sweaters, dusters, and shawls. Additionally, anything with fur, and the reemergence of leopard prints [are current trends].

(614): What are some "fast fashion" items common during the winter that shoppers should avoid and why?

JM: Remember "fast fashion" doesn’t last—we are in an area where you want to wear that cute sport coat year-round, and have it for next season as well. Fast fashion is based off of trends as feelers, and I like a more traditional approach. Some "fast fashion" items to avoid this winter would be garments made in cheap polyester knit fabric, like scarves, crewnecks, and leggings. After being worn once, the garment starts to pill. The quality will be evident in the weight of the knit. Alternatively, go with a natural fiber like wool, which is a bit pricier but will last longer.

This conversation has been lightly edited. Visit Joan’s Bridal Couture at 7382 E Main St., Reynoldsburg or online at joansbridalcouture.com.

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Short North shop offers convenient ways for men to boost wardrobes

Mitch Hooper

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Fashion trends come in waves, and at the moment in men’s fashion, it seems no wave is bigger than streetwear. It’s a combination of sleekly-designed hoodies and shirts with versatile bottoms. Graphic t-shirts—both long sleeve and short—have found new life with unlikely brands collaborating such as Supreme and Carhartt. It’s no longer a crime to walk out of the house wearing a groutfit (an all-gray outfit) and earth tones provide unique color options. And shoes? It seems shoes show no sign of slowing down as the “rare” value of finding a high end pair of Jordans or Yeezys is a race to the top. If there were a male version of Carrie Bradshaw, he’d be wearing streetwear.

This trend is no secret to our city either. Right in the heart of the Short North is Madison USA, a men’s fashion store with everything from your next favorite crew neck to a pair of shoes that might cost you upwards of $650. It’s all worth it in the end if you get that clout. Our photographer, Zane Osler, hooked us up with a few looks for men this season to get a leg up on the competition. Four Pins, if you’re reading this, put us on your fit watch 2019 list.

Brand: Darryl Brown. Top: White painter coat, $750. Pants: Paint Trouser, $308.
Brand: Aime Leon Dore. Top: Kanga Hoodie Sweatshirt, $137. Hat: Waffle Stitch beanie, $60.
Brand: Aime Leon Dore. Top: Crewneck sweatshirt w/pocket, $112. Pants: Camper pants, $112.

Madison USA is located at 1219 N. High St. For more information and to see what's new, visit madison-usa.com.

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