by MIKE CHAIKEN
Fans of Connecticut fashion will have to wait another year for the return of Hartford Fashion Week.
Organizers of the fashion event, which was held these past two years at Hartford’s Union Station, said they are retooling the event. The goal is to return in 2018 with a new emphasis on the art of creation.
The refresh is intended to reflect the political turmoil of the world, to recognize fashion as an ar tform, and to hand back some more control to the designers, according to a press statement.
In the statement issued Tuesday, organizers said, “Hartford Fashion Week’s mission gets streamlined by focusing on fashion as an art form, first and foremost, with ‘wearability’ as a potential, but not necessary, byproduct. In their updated mission statement, Hartford Fashion Week appeals to what the organization describes as a ‘resistance to fast fashion.’ Fast fashion, or the push toward rapidly prototyped and marketed fashion trends, has inundated the fashion industry with low quality and highly disposable products. In response, Hartford Fashion Week will aim to highlight designers who use fashion as a medium for artistic application and expression.”
“Basically we want to give more control to our designers in the coming years,” said Hartford Fashion Week’s founder Katrina Orsini in an email interview. “When we are in a static venue with set AV etc. (like Union Station) it limits their control of what they can do with the space and how they present.”
“By working with them to give them more control,” said Orsini, “we will help them view their runway (or other presentation choice) as an art event. This would allow them more control over space arrangements, set design, styling, etc. All of these extremely important details will help them put together a show that truly puts forward a complete message or statement of what they want to say with their fashion.”
In regard to why the changes are being made, Orsini explained, there are several reasons. “Most obviously is the political climate. Funding to the arts are being slashed heavily across the board, putting more emphasis on selling, commerce, and capitalism.”
“While selling is obviously important to keep designers– or any artist for that matter– afloat, we know there is a deeper love and meaning inside fashion for almost all designers. We want to make sure they have the means to present that aspect of their process as well,” said Orsini.
“Secondly,” said Orsini, “we believe that the conversations that will happen by viewing fashion in an art lens will help not only our designers but the community as a whole.”
Orsini continued, “In just one example in our community, there are very few schools left in Hartford that do not require uniforms. And while the uniforms are meant to solve problems, this decision is truly only a scapegoat that covers up and doesn’t deal with said problems.”
“Unfortunately, this ‘band aid’ is costing children a vital tool for self expression,” said Orsini. “Without this tool, and with the arts being increasingly cut, how are children growing up in our community learning to express themselves?”
“By bringing in some new designers, upgrading our shows, and recontextualizing the way we talk about what we wear, we believe we can grow not only our home grown designers, but our audience and therefore our community as well,” said Orsini.
In conjunction with this new focus, the press release said, “Hartford Fashion Week has announced Conceptual Couture (http://conceptualcouture.hartford.fashion), a blog and media platform to showcase happenings in the art and fashion world. Media will include interviews, photo essays, and opinion pieces. The company notes it will ‘highlight artists and designers who work at the intersection of contemporary art and fashion utilizing fashion, clothing, and textile design as mediums for expressive communication.”
This evolution of Hartford Fashion Week comes after years of producing acclaimed runway shows for local designers, said the news release. With the organization extending their reach outside of the Greater Hartford area, expect multiple perspectives on the role art and culture play in the local, national, and global community.
Continuing their runway series, the release said, Hartford Fashion Week will premier their first showcase of this new objective in 2018. “The showcase will challenge the community to reconsider the way we look at, talk about, experience, and wear clothing.”
With the new mission, the release said, “As part of the application process for upcoming shows, designers will be required to provide an artist statement along with a portfolio of their work. The organization believes this curatorial approach will help the audience appreciate the designers’ use of creativity and craft in the expression of their ideas.”