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The Providence-hosted StyleWeek Northeast is by no means a secret, but it is definitely still a hidden gem to many Bostonians. The team, led by Rosanna Ortiz Sinel, puts on two—count 'em, two—fashion weeks annually, a feat that we have not yet figured out here in Boston. This CFDA-approved series of events and runway shows at the Biltmore Hotel is more of a business operation than a spectacle, all to the benefit of the designers showing and the buyers attending. Though what's also special about the week-long festivities is the opportunity for regular guys and gals to buy tickets for a seat in the Grand Ballroom, and at prices ranging from $30-60 depending on the day and event, there is no barrier to entry for a fabulous Rhode Island night.
How did style week get on the CFDA radar? How had its support changed the program?
We were banging on doors because we wanted industry people and professionals to be on board. The CFDA liked the concept, and they are kind of particular. It is akin to a trade show, which we emphasized could bring money to the Providence community. The CFDA acts primarily as a mentor, looking at it like a professional outlet. This fashion week is not a glorified cocktail party.
Do you anticipate keeping the event as accessible as it is now in the future?
We always want to include the community of fashion lovers. Our event is all encompassing. It is for everyone to enjoy and it's not intimidating.
Top three shows you are looking forward to and why?
This is like picking a favorite child! I have to say Marcel Plante, who is doing a 1930s fetish thing. He really pushes the envelope with showmanship. Also Kent Stetson, a handbag designer, is actually doing a runway show with secret models, who may or may not be human. Finally, Nick Pini is a newcomer to look forward to on closing night, as well as Jonathan Joseph Peters who is also closing. He has an exciting collaboration with artist Phil Shaw.
How does the event advance business for the designers?
It shows them that they need to be financially viable, that you can't just do a show and attract buyers. They need to afford going the wholesale route, or need to stick to custom. We help with their image, giving them press and developing their brand. For example, Jessica Abernethy now has the whole town of East Greenwich, RI buying her custom designs.
What criteria is needed for talent to apply?
They have to be full time, career designers. They must produce a brand new collection specifically for StyleWeek. And finally, I follow my gut direction, and am pretty particular about it—making sure I meet them face to face, and deciding if it's a good fit.
Tell us about some of the special programming, like SEED and RED on the RUNWAY?
RED on the RUNWAY—I am on the board of the American Heart Association, so for this show, we incorporate male and female survivors as our models. They walk wearing outfits from our designers, which are then judged by a panel of eight judges. There is a $1000 cash prize for the winning designer, and it is a fun way to raise money.
SEED—The program is one year old, focusing on student designers. We pick a group of nine or ten students to design one garment based on a set of criteria to be judged by a professional jury.
How can regional fashion schools compete on a national level?
They need to get good press, especially online. It's quite easy now with all the access that technology offers us. Any word of mouth and press, good or bad, is a huge help to get noticed. Students should go to different regional events, but not do everything. Stay true to an exclusive brand image for your collection.
Best part of your role?
Seeing designers flourish and come into their own. I have a "mama bear" sensibility; I love seeing their faces as they come down the runway.
What defines the Northeast as a fashion community?
We really utilize seasons to give us style parameters. There is a lot of individuality, especially in Rhode Island. People dress for how they want to feel, not how they feel. They are becoming less judgmental, and we accept one another.
What shopping must Bostonians check out while coming down to Providence?
Shoppe Pioneer, Lola's Boutique, Capucine, and Nava on Thayer. Everything at Nava is under $100 and it's really forward-thinking stuff.
Tickets are selling out for the shows running from Sunday, January 27, through Saturday, February 2. Scope out the lineup then act fast to snag one of the remaining few, and stay tuned for more coverage of the event.
· StyleWeek Northeast [Official Site]