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Designer starts Alternative Fashion Mob to celebrate diversity of local, independent designers

A model walks at the Alternative Fashion Week Grand Finale Runway Show June 8, wearing a design by Katelyn McClain. Credit: Courtesy of Vinh Vu

A model walks at the Alternative Fashion Week Grand Finale Runway Show June 8, wearing a design by Katelyn McClain.
Credit: Courtesy of Vinh Vu

While many of the international fashion capitals wrap up their weeks dedicated to upcoming designs and trends, one group strives to present the smaller names of couture.

In comes Alternative Fashion Mob, who is set to host the Threads & Reds Columbus Designer Trunk Show & Wine Fest Wednesday at Camelot Cellars. An accompanying fashion show is to feature the garments and designs of Kelli Martin of Anti.Label, Betsy Stevenson of Elizabeth Ashleigh Designs, Katelyn McClain, a design resident of Substance Lofts and Jacquar Jean-Jacques, a designer who recently showed at New York Fashion Week. Visitors can also shop the designers’ samples and sip wine.

Martin, who was a contestant on Season 5 of fashion design competition show “Project Runway,” is the leading founder and designer of Alternative Fashion Mob, which is “a collection of fashion designers, industry professionals and couture enthusiasts who are dedicated to furthering the fashion industry in Columbus,” according to the group’s website. She initially started to work on a project in January that was geared toward a different kind of fashion week, also known as Alternative Fashion Week. However, it was a few weeks into this venture that Martin and her co-founders, including Amee BellWanzo, Jeffery Speele and Rachel Murdock, decided that a fashion movement that celebrates diversity shouldn’t be confined to a week-long event.

“We really focus on a lot of different community collaborations, and that’s what we do all year round,” said BellWanzo. “We focus on Columbus’ creative class, people who enjoy expressing themselves through style. It’s definitely a lot of younger people, but it’s not just younger people. It’s people who care a lot about the community, who want to support local, and people who are artistic and appreciate creativity, and people who aren’t artists per se, but are interested in being around creativity in their community.”

BellWanzo said this alternative project wants to “grow the industry from a grassroots standpoint.”

Thomas McClure, founder and executive director of CMH Fashion Week, which derives its name from the Port Columbus International Airport code and is in its fourth consecutive year, said he supports this newborn project in the Columbus fashion scene.

He added that Alternative Fashion Mob mission aligns with the CMH Fashion Week mission in some regards.

“Our mission is a two-part mission,” McClure said. “We showcase local and emerging designers and provide scholarships to students, and Alternative Fashion Mob celebrates local designers as well.”

BellWanzo said Alternative Fashion Mob is not only about “giving local, independent designers a platform to showcase their talent,” but it is also about “engaging the rest of Columbus and appreciating our local fashion industry.”

CMH Fashion Week has a strict industry approach in their fashion shows, employing models that fit the standards that the New York fashion industry employs, in order to display the best representation to sell their looks, McClure said.

“(CMH Fashion Week) is definitely a person with means who’s going to go to their events, and that is great. That needs to be there, and that has its place,” BellWanzo said. “Fashion Mob is a group of enthusiasts. We keep our price points low so that the events are really accessible. Our goal isn’t to have a huge, sophisticated show, but we want to have events that really involve people.”

A part of the money raised by Alternative Fashion Mob’s events are donated to the Citizens For Humane Action Animal Shelter, and the rest of it goes toward saving up funds to kickstart the Columbus Fashion Incubator, which is expected to be a space where local designers will be provided with workspaces and resources in the future. BellWanzo said the Columbus Fashion Incubator is a plan that is waiting to happen farther down the road, but not anytime in the near future.

Andrea Degenhart, a fourth-year in fashion and retail studies, who was Alternative Fashion Mob’s first intern, assisted in the series of events that the movement had planned throughout the summer, including Alternative Fashion Week last June.

“When I first worked with them, I didn’t realize how much more event planning it was than fashion, but it was definitely, and still is, an awesome experience to be involved with them,” Degenhart said. “It was cool to open my mind up about that side of fashion.”

Threads & Reds is scheduled to be held 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Camelot Cellars at 958 N. High St.

Columbus Alternative Fashion Week 2014 is slated for mid-April.

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