Since 2007, Virginia Fashion Week has anchored mid-fall with a showcase featuring local, regional and international designers.

But don’t look for a week of activities this year. The style extravaganza that Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim once honored with a proclamation is tentatively set for April while organizers work to secure substantial sponsors, VAFW’s founder and director Ann Leister says. In the meantime, the plan is to hold singular events at intervals. A daylong fashion show is scheduled as part of The Ultimate Show for Women beginning at 10:15 a.m. Nov. 7 at the Virginia Beach Convention Center.

The absence of fashion week feels disorienting, like being stood up for a date. Virginia Fashion Week has always taken place between early October and early November.

Yet it is a wise decision to hold off. It takes big bucks to promote and put on a decent regional fashion week that attracts higher-caliber talent in an attractive and accessible setting. Leister, who owns Splash Model Management, said during an interview at VAFW’s five-year mark that it takes at least $20,000, but that she has put it on for far less, mostly out of her own pocket and with proceeds from designer registrations.

Fashion week starts out with small events in locales outside Hampton Roads, typically in Charlottesville and Richmond, then kicks into high gear toward the end of the week with shows in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Norfolk. Some years more than others, the ramifications of a shoestring budget have been distressingly apparent. VAFW’s first show, held at the then-Contemporary Arts Center in Virginia Beach, featured mostly T-shirt designers. The following year it was held at the much-too-large and unsexy Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk. The lineup included more couture and ready-to-wear designers, and a mix of promising models, but the recession had begun to set in, and major sponsorships were difficult to obtain.

Still, Leister and her handful of principal team players forged on, keeping the show big and moving to the swanky Oceanfront Sheraton for the finale shows in 2009, and to Norfolk’s Waterside Festival Marketplace in 2010 and 2011. Waterside’s whimsical art, focal-point escalators and riverfront backdrop provided an air of counterculture and drama that juxtapose so well for fashion shows.

And in 2011, just days before the fifth Virginia Fashion Week, the city of Norfolk officially recognized the event for its cultural contributions. The honor fed VAFW’s momentum, only for it to become stalled by a finale weekend that vacillated between a fiasco marred by delays, glitches and crude designers one night, and stellar presentations by seasoned professionals the following evening, and a no-show audience for an ill-advised bridal show the following day that also got off to a shamefully late start.

Not to be counted out, fashion week came back with a roar in 2012, fueled by a fresh shot of energy from a lineup that featured new, younger and international talent. It also was buoyed by a new venue for its weekend shows: the Selden Arcade. Its art-deco ritz was far superior to the feel of Waterside, which by then was marked for closure for a waterfront development.

There may not have been sufficient sponsors (as evidenced by the anemic VIP bags), but everything looked good. Selden seemed to be the perfect venue for a fashion arts event.

And then construction on the new, neighboring library complicated the logistics. So in 2013 and again in 2014, Leister took a gamble and moved the finale shows to the campus of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, some 45 minutes away from the epicenter of South Hampton Roads.

Although the city of Williamsburg got behind the event with local marketing, by 2014, the distance from South Hampton Roads and campus logistics seemed to have taken a toll on attendance. The crowd went from standing room only for the Saturday afternoon show in 2013 when it was held in the hard-to-find Trinkle Hall, to filling about half of the seating in a room with bad lighting and a sterile feel in the 2014 shows at the Sadler Center.

At the 2014 shows, it also couldn’t be missed that some of the more seasoned models had moved on, and some of the newer ones had not had the opportunity to be trained by VAFW’s signature model and runway coach, Jeanette “Cookie” Dabney, who died in January 2014 following an aneurysm suffered backstage at a fashion show.

The sizzle was missing. Still, the designs and the entertainment, overall, were quite good. But a fashion extravaganza can’t simply be good; it has to be spectacular. Dabney can never be replaced, but a couple of her protegees – Shalea Poole and Shantol Hill – are in fine stride to be heiresses of her scepter. Give it to either.

Most of all, a title sponsorship is sorely needed, like that of Baker Motor Company Charleston Fashion Week or the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week for the New York slate of branded shows. Virginia Fashion Week needs the cash cushion to be able to say no to designers who aren’t up to par, and yes to demanding ones who come at a cost but are worth their salt. It needs a consistent quality of models and the revenue for a savvy setting. It needs backing.

It not only needs backing; it has proven that it is deserving. VAFW, more often than not, has differentiated itself from the slew of seasonal retail fashion shows featuring off-the-rack goods as well as the undignified presentations by fashion designer impostors and show producers. It has served as a launch pad for models and emerging designers, including Alexius Diana and Shaune Lumaban, who went on to find success in New York. Through the guidance of Dabney, dozens of youngsters morphed from shy and awkward to exuberant and graceful.

And at its best, VAFW gives local audiences an opportunity to see worthy original fashions and fuels emerging artists with the drive to do their thing.

Here’s hoping spring brings a new beginning.

Full Figured Fashion Week under way

Meanwhile, Virginia Full Figured Fashion Week, which is not affiliated with VAFW, is under way this week with events being held in Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk and Chesapeake. The activities include a health and wellness fair, a networking mixer, a “borrowed from the boys” fashion show, a lingerie presentation and the finale runway show, which will be at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Chesapeake Conference Center.Read more at:green prom dresses uk | yellow prom dresses uk

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