This week marks the first ever Hartford Fashion Week. Local designers will showcase their latest looks on the runway at Hartford’s own Union Station during this first weekend of October. Before the newest trends are put on display, Hartford Fashion Week opened up a conversation with the public about fashion and culture in Hartford, Connecticut.
I was fortunate enough to be a part of the conversation during the opening panel discussion for Fashion Week, Fashion and Culture in a Small City. Joining me on stage were panelists, Arien Wilkerson of Hartford Denim Company, Carmen Veal of Carmen Veal Events, and Associate Professor Ray DiCapua of UCONN. The conversation did not focus on the latest fall trends or projections about the colors and looks of 2016. The focus was on fashion as a form of art and expression. A true conversation it was with a highly engaged audience sharing their own stories and commentary throughout the program.
How does fashion help curate a small city like Hartford? Fashion can open up a conversation, it can bring people together, and it can cause confusion or debate. Fashion is how we express ourselves. Whether it is conforming to social norms of the workplace or breaking free of the expectations of society and showcasing the true you. As the conversation continued in this direction, it was clear that panelists and many audience members saw fashion as a form of art and one that is often overlooked or brushed aside as something that doesn’t fit in with the traditional forms such as painting, sculpture, or dance.
As the program continued into a conversation about how Hartford’s own fashion industry could thrive, topics like leadership, institutions, education, and the violence Hartford has faced this past year could not be avoided. The talent and the drive exist in Hartford. It is just a matter of keeping the conversation going beyond Hartford Fashion Week.