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‘Project Runway’ alum, local designers to make it work on CMH Fashion Week runways

From a high fashion afternoon tea inspired by the Prêt-à-Portea in The Berkeley in London to a runway bridal show, this year’s CMH Fashion Week is packed with events that highlight local fashion talents.

Those talents are something Thomas McClure has been trying to cultivate for almost a decade.

When McClure, the founder and executive director of CMH Fashion Week, moved to Columbus from Dallas in 2006, he said he saw potential for growth in the city’s style and fashion scene.

“When I first moved here, all I saw was people in sweats,” McClure said. “Columbus was and is a football city. If you look at the progression from 2006 to 2014, we have come a long way and I think CMH Fashion Week has helped lead that fashion culture.”

McClure founded CMH Fashion Week in 2010, known then as Fashion Week Columbus. In two years, the nonprofit organization structured an executive board, as well as a new mission statement and name.

“(CMH) is our airport code. We are Columbus and we are a little bit quirky which is awesome, so why not call it CMH Fashion Week?” McClure asked.

CMH Fashion Week focuses on showcasing local and emerging designers and provides scholarships to students studying fashion design, according to its website.

This year, the fashion show is set to headline “Project Runway” season six contestant Althea Harper, who attended the University of Cincinnati School of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning. According to the CMH Fashion Week website, Harper’s work experience include affiliations with designers including Zac Posen, Anna Sui, Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood. Her celebrity fans include Heidi Klum, Kerry Washington and the Kardashians, the website said.

Harper is slated to headline the finale runway show on Oct. 18 and participate in a meet and greet Q&A session on Wendesday called Philanthropy Meets Fashion.

“This is such a great event, I would love for OSU fashion students to be a part of it,” McClure said. “I remember last year, Nary Manivong did the same event. The young designers learned so much — he told his story and inspired young designers to keep going and have a great attitude and a humble attitude.”

Designer and Columbus native Rachel Chertoff is also set to showcase her line, named Years of Refinery, during the finale show. She said her line is inspired by the successes and failures in her past year after moving to Columbus from Buffalo, N.Y. 

“My designs are personal experiences, things that I have throughout my life,” Chertoff said. “It can be a milestone in my life or just one day. (Years of Refinery) is my way of telling that story through my designs.”

Chertoff said she deliberately designs imperfections into her clothes, like different yarn gauges, to portray emotions such as distress. Her skills in sewing, knitting, construction and visual composition ties her collection together.

“You’ll see (cohesiveness) based on silhouettes, color schemes and details in each look,” she said. “I try to make sure those details can be seen so that people can tell it’s a cohesive collection.”

Designer Lubna Najjar focuses more on trends rather than emotional connections when making her designs. Najjar is also slated to showcase her work in the finale show, and will have a collection in the bridal runway show.

Her bridal collection, named Beyond Bridal, covers looks for bridal events that range from bridal showers to reception gowns.

“Beyond Bridal is just what my collection is,” Najjar said. “It’s not just a bridal gown. Everything in the collection is anywhere between all the dresses that lead up to the wedding, so it’s not just a bridal gown.”

Najjar’s collection for the finale show, named Ipanema, features trend-ready designs that are feminine and made to make a woman feel beautiful, she said.

The name Ipanema draws inspiration from a Brazilian song, originally recorded by Stan Getz and João Gilberto, named “The Girl from Ipanema.” Ipanema is a fashionable neighborhood located in Rio de Janeiro.

“It is a song about a really exotic girl who’s really beautiful and a lot of people don’t know where she’s from. She has her own little look and she kind of captivates everyone who looks at her,” Najjar said.

She said she is inspired by history and culture, and not necessarily by trends. “I try to be trend-friendly, but really, I don’t really care about what everybody else is saying is trendy,” she said.

This year, CMH Fashion Week is pairing with the Human Rights Campaign, Columbus Federal Club and Wall Street Night Club for a special show featuring drag fashion. 

McClure said this is a new market that the fashion week hasn’t ever touched before.

“No one ever thinks ‘Hey, there’s a whole population of performers who need clothes and custom-made outfits that not only fit them but are adorable,’” he said. 

Because of the high physical demands of drag performances, the costumes need to be practical and appealing, he said. The drag show, hosted by Helena Troy of The Glamazons, will be showcasing drag fashions as well as CMH Fashion Week and Human Rights Campaign shirts. 

“Every year we aim to make the experience better, bigger, and bolder than the year before,” McClure said.

Each event at CMH Fashion Week is located at different venues and dates between Oct. 12-18. Event ticket prices range from free to up to $1,500 for four box-seats.


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