BFW allows UA students to gain experience, showcase talent



“I don’t necessarily think there needs to be this one metropolis that defines what fashion is,” said Joshua McKinley, designer from “Project Runway” Season 9 and featured designer at Birmingham Fashion Week on Friday.

Held Feb. 23 through March 2 at downtown Birmingham, Ala.’s Pepper Place, Birmingham Fashion Week combines local and national fashion designers to showcase the talents of rising stars.

International designer Tibi and “Project Runway” designers McKinley, Anthony Ryan Auld and Heidi Elnora all showcased recent collections alongside local emerging designers at Birmingham Fashion Week’s eight-day fashion celebration at Pepper Place in Birmingham, Ala.

With glassy eyes and excitement in her voice, Kelly Druce, a senior majoring in fashion design, explained the importance of allowing local designers the opportunity to exhibit their collections after she was announced a top-seven finalist in the emerging designers competition.

“Seeing my stuff on stage was amazing,” Druce said. “I thought for sure I was going to cry because I usually do. I wasn’t really expecting to make the top, so I was really surprised.”

Druce was chosen along with two other UA students, Stephanie Nunez and Claudia Gonzalez, to show their designs alongside internationally famed fashion designers.

“We don’t have many opportunities [to show] in the South,” Druce said. “Something like this is giving us up-and-comers an opportunity to be seen and for people to know about us. What else would I do if they didn’t have these smaller ones? It’s really giving us an amazing opportunity.”

McKinley, who showcased his menswear line complete with neon and sequin accents, praised Birmingham, Ala., for nurturing local talent and putting on a successful event.

“Not everyone has the opportunity to pick up and leave the place that they’re at, but they still need an outlet to perform and do what they love to do, so I think that it’s great for Birmingham to have such passion and people behind an amazing project,” McKinley said. “It’s definitely on a level that’s working its way up, so it’s great to be involved in something like that and come here and showcase something that might not necessarily be what something designers down here do, but something that’s happening on a global scale.”

Anthony Ryan Auld, winner of “Project Runway All Stars” Season 2, showcased his streamline futuristic designs Friday. Auld is an LSU graduate and plans on returning to Baton Rouge, La., to open his home base.

“We live our lives around clothing,” Auld said. “That’s why I think these fashion weeks are important and I really try to take the time to go to as many as I can and I’m invited to. People tell me, ‘you’re going to have to move to New York or L.A. to be the next so-and-so,’ and I don’t like being told what to do or what I can and cannot do, so right there there’s the challenge already.”

Druce interned last summer at Mood Fabrics in New York City and said she saw the “Project Runway” designers scouring the store for fabrics but never got to speak with them. She explained how great it was to finally meet them this week.

“It’s crazy,” Druce said. “Anthony is from the South and showed at Fashion Week New Orleans, which I’m showing at next month and he made it really big, so it just shows I can do that, too.”

Although Druce did not win the emerging designers competition, she said she was happy to be a part of Birmingham Fashion Week. Druce’s collection consisted of four looks all inspired from her favorite movie, Wes Anderson’s, “Moonrise Kingdom.” She started sewing in January and will create a new collection just in time to show March 21 at New Orleans Fashion Week.

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