Think of it as going to the Olympics. No one gives bobsled a try for the first time at the Games. You train, establish support networks, learn from setbacks, work on your technique and morale. Then you enter the fray and navigate the sports system to compete at increasingly higher levels. Likewise, no designer presents their first-ever collection at the haute couture week. Getting to a debut in the fashion big leagues (Paris, London, New York, Milan) requires laborious teamwork. While we can acknowledge the Olympic Games as the world’s largest fashion diplomacy platform, the athletes find their way there through a series of local, regional, national, and international events. A similar professional circuit is emerging for American fashion designers working in womenswear, menswear, footwear, jewelry, and accessories. Beyond NYC, three US destinations have captured the global industry spotlight: LA Fashion Week, Miami Swim Week, and MAGIC tradeshow in Las Vegas. However, domestic talent thrives in all 50 states.
For a decade, regional fashion weeks have been gaining momentum. The trend has accelerated in recent years thanks to changing consumer priorities and post-pandemic focus on local initiatives. The idea of buying locally has transcended its farm-to-table food industry origins. Moreover, the exponential growth of social media and e-commerce capabilities has created vital alternatives for designers to reach customers and sustain their businesses bypassing established retail systems. The Internet has democratized access to fashion not only for buyers, but for anyone interested in this business. You can start marketing and selling products on your phone.
Many fashion startups see fashion weeks as an exciting “next level” opportunity to cultivate their communities offline and test the waters on entering wholesale or international markets. Beyond the fun of it, regional and local fashion weeks accomplish several socioeconomic and cultural objectives:
- Identify local talent and put it on the path to reaching larger consumer audiences.
- Boost local hospitality and travel industries by encouraging event-driven domestic and international tourism.
- Buoy retail sector during the non-holiday revenue slump by creating an occasion for destination shopping.
- Strengthen auxiliary trade networks: casting, hairstyling, makeup and other beauty segments, dry cleaning services, security, catering, and so on.
- Serve as local talent incubators to nurture promising talent as it matures in terms of creativity and entrepreneurship.
- Foster an engaged culture of communication in the arts between the governing bodies, the media, and other industry actors.
- Nurture a sense of belonging to, among, and within the local creative communities.
- Provide safe spaces for self-expression to marginalized, underrepresented, and at-risk identities.
Here is the coast-to-coast list of leading fashion weeks in the United States powering sustainable interconnected local fashion ecosystems.
The Portland, OR based event celebrates its 10th anniversary with carbon-neutral certification. The mayor’s initiative has expanded into a #FashionTech competition, a business accelerator, and a talent incubator. American Fashion Podcast sees its potential to be the nation’s biggest emergent talent platform.
Next edition: October 5 – 7, 2023
The Mile High runway belongs to “one of the fastest growing fashion platforms in America. The media-savvy event delivers on its promise to provide an “all-inclusive, uplifting, and supportive” environment for all the participants as its audience and reach have doubled season to season.
Next edition: May 2024
For 16 years the platform has diligently pursued the mission of “connecting continents through fashion” as Tyler Perry Studios put Atlanta on the global filmmaking map. Make sure to also visit SCAD FASH (Fashion + Film Museum) as a testament to the city’s great style renaissance.
Next edition: September 26 – October 1, 2023
This year the platform marks twenty years of elevating the nation’s capital as the seat of fashion power. From the First Ladies to foreign dignitaries and the Smithsonian, style heritage shares the spotlight with the latest trends in a district with the second youngest population in the country.
Next edition: September 29 – October 1, 2023
This all-volunteer event brings fashion lovers from across the Tennessee valley to Huntsville. Among the highlights, its runway features Next Top Model walk-off winners. Alabama Fashion Alliance offers professional development opportunities through its membership program.
Next edition: September 15-17, 2023
Fashion. Education. Community. These are the three pillars of the biggest industry platform in the Southwest. Since 2008, it has been running various seminars, meetups, and talent searches culminating in a biannual weekend of runway shows at the appropriately named Chateau Luxe.
Next edition: October 20-21, 2023
From sewing workshops to a 10-part fashion film to a biennial, this platform runs on “big ideas with a community focus.” The learn-make-show talent development strategy makes Springdale an unlikely must-visit destination for American fashion enthusiasts. Y’all better come now.
Next edition: June 2023
San Diego is home to both the longest running independently owned fashion week in the world and the oldest fashion film festival in North America (on hiatus in 2023). It takes “not just a week of shows, but a whole year of events” to appreciate the richness of California style(s).
Next edition: October 7-8, 2023
Build it, and they will sashay. In 2006 designer Berny Martin envisioned Indianapolis as a style gateway between the US and the world. His two-way runway approach has brought international designers to the Midwest and Midwestern designers to New York, Johannesburg, and Paris.
Next edition: March 2024
Mid-20th century, Kansas City was the garment capital of post-war America dictating style and retail trends before NYC took up the trendsetting baton. Since 2010, KCFW has been building on its storied Midwest heritage becoming one of the original CFDA Connects platforms in 2021.
Next edition: September 16 – 23, 2023
The platform “cultivates fashion as an integral part of the Boston lifestyle.” Tapping into the area’s illustrious academic pedigree, the season opens in partnership with the Cambridge Science Festival and incorporates augmented reality experiences by Hoverlay AR for cool hi-tech vibes.
Next edition: September 30 — October 7, 2023
Detroit is not resting on its famed Motor City and Motown laurels. Since 2015, the platform has been revving up the Great Lakes fashion community to anchor new creative economies in the region, in part through its outreach and commitment to transparency in designer participation.
Next edition: June 13-16, 2023
Since 2015, the platform has been celebrating the styles and talents of the Twin Cities, one of the most diverse metropolitan areas in the US. Its First Nations Fashion Day is part of the growth programming focused on five areas: education, innovation, reputation, business, and investment.
Next edition: April 2024
“Nice to meet you,” says the landing page. Since 2008, this unabashedly expansive mindset has powered the growth of the platform into the fourth largest fashion event in the US. Paying it forward, the weeklong Omaha Fashion Camp teaches teens about the ins and outs of the industry.
Next edition: August 21-26, 2023
Putting the Oh in Ohio, Columbus “ranks third in the number of resident fashion designers” behind NY and LA. This phenomenon could be credited to the platform’s “launch and sustain” mission. Since 2010, the event attracts nation’s top talent to city “fueled by relentless optimism.”
Next edition: September 24 – 30, 2023
“Take notice, world. Richmond is on the rise.” What began in 2008 as a VCU student event grew into a statewide all-volunteer platform for the local arts talents. Its educational roots are strong as evidenced by the Fashion Symposium held in partnership with Henrico County Public Schools.
Next edition: April 2024
The Next Great American Fashion Week?
Could your community benefit from consolidated fashion support? What would it take to launch and sustain a fashion week in your neck of the style woods? Start the conversation. Join the movement.