In Kala Wilburn’s world fashion isn’t just about flowing garments and colorful fabrics.
The intricate industry behind memorable runway show highlights and glamorous galas is at the heart of Wilburn’s ongoing efforts and professional advocacy. As a major goal of next month’s annual Vehicle City Fashion Week, she’ll feature designers with whom she can collaborate, using her career experience to prepare them for advancement into the broader business of fashion.
Scheduled Nov. 12-17, the 2018 event will include several designers Wilburn plans to showcase to promote their specialized, manually crafted styles, along with others who represent Flint’s homegrown talent.
“We’re focusing a lot this year on people who are actually creating their own garments by hand,” she says.
Working with designers and “developing them so they’re actually using it as a trade show” is Wilburn’s aim for exposing styles at the finale event Nov. 17. Details of location and time are pending, but the Saturday showcase will likely be held downtown or in the cultural center.
The Monday through Saturday event schedule will include the annual “Fashion Against Violence” workshop, the “Beauty and the Beat” networking event and showcase for cosmetologists and grooming professionals, a family outing at Flint Farmers’ Market, and more.
Additional, related programs that will help preview and promote Vehicle City Fashion Week begin at 6 p.m. Oct. 22 with a “little bit of food, little bit of fun, little bit of music,” Wilburn says, inviting the community to her Fannie Lucille studio’s open house at Ferris Wheel, 615 South Saginaw St. The event is open to the public.
“I’m really pushing for people to wear local brands, just to kind of support the culture of designs in the community,” she adds.
Wilburn will unveil Fannie Lucille clothing items at the open house.
On Oct. 27 and Oct. 28, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wilburn will participate in “Halloween in the Garden” an outdoor event where children create their own custom clothing piece.
“They won’t be sewing, but they’ll go through the design process and be a designer for that day,” she says.
Wilburn will also give the youth tips for safe and smart ways to dress during their trick-or-treat hours, and when traveling through the community.
Following the programs, Wilburn will turn her attention again to preparing for Nov. 12-17. The week will feature entertainment, education and networking. Compared with previous years’ efforts, there will be a greater emphasis on cultivating the fashion entrepreneurs who participate, she says.
The effort sparked the formation of the FASHIONHUB collective, created to help elevate and lift Flint’s fashion culture and independent designers, retailers and related support professionals. Its collaborative partners include Jackie Berg, the founder and publisher of TheHUB and Ebonie Gipson, the founder and principal of I’m Building Something Consulting, which has helped to support the growth and development of more than 200 small Flint-based businesses.
“We follow up with them and some of them do well, but some of them have trouble finding the resources, after producing their collections at good costs,” adds Wilburn. “Selling these pieces to Michigan-based boutiques, which is a goal, isn’t something they always know how to do.”
She says introducing designers to the next phase, beyond the spotlights of Vehicle City Fashion Week, “so they not only have the experience, but the real, true, trade process of getting their collections to the attention of buyers” holds great value.
“It really helps them to learn and it helps the community to understand that fashion shows aren’t just for the display.”
Another goal is increasing audience attendance this year. Wilburn would like to see about 600 spectators at the finale, compared with an average of 350 at previous shows. Even those who aren’t able to attend Vehicle City Fashion Week festivities are invited to sponsor tickets for youth who might not otherwise observe the gala honoring homegrown, ambitious professionals.
“I know everybody has a busy schedule and everybody can’t attend,” says Wilburn, “but to sponsor a young person who might be interested in any part of the fashion industry might help spark their dreams.”
For additional information about 2018’s Vehicle City Fashion Week events, visit the Vehicle City Fashion Week and Fashion Against Violence Facebook and Instagram pages.
Editor’s Note: Vehicle City Fashion Week supporters include Central Michigan University, N2SA (No Two Stripes Alike) Threads Fashion Show (CMU), TheHUB Flint, I’m Building Something Consulting, Park Place Studio, Rynelle Walker Photography, Euro Effex and Harambee Wellness.