RVA Fashion Week

The time has come once again for Richmond fashionistas to show off their talents.

Designers at this year’s RVA Fashion Week are crediting a variety of sources for inspiration, from Caribbean culture to jellyfish.

RVA Fashion Week, which kicks off on Sunday, April 28 with the City Skyline Trunk Show, a free event, and concludes on Saturday, May 4 with the invite-only Valentine’s Museum Fashion Gala, will feature designers from the Richmond area and beyond.

Major events during this year’s RVA Fashion Week include the Carytown Fashion Showcase, a free event, on May 2, and the Designer Showcase on May 3. Tickets for the Designer Showcase are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. A front row seat is going for $40 and students can get in for $15.

Jameson Deloatch, this year’s fashion director, said the show has a “large array of diverse fashion” that can be seen in Richmond.

“There’s no base look for Richmond,” he said. “You could be walking down the street and see various different people.”

The designers showcased some of their work at a recent media preview. 

One designer is Laurianda Christina Jenkins, whose clothing company is here in town and boasts “girly girl clothes for girly ladies.”

Jenkins wants grown women to feel as excited about wearing a dress as they might have when they were little girls.

“So I’m kind of transferring that same feeling that we used to have when we were younger to now when we’re adult,” she said. “We can still maintain that innocence and that excitement about what we have on.”

Richmond native and RVA Fashion Week newbie James Williams, 21, will showcase clothes he made from designs he drew when he was in middle school. Williams, who gets inspiration from his many travels – including a recent trip to Austin, Texas, for South by Southwest – said he felt it would be a “more organic approach” to coming out as a designer by starting off with designs he drew so long ago.

He doesn’t have formal training – although he did have a t-shirt line – but he’s far from feeling intimidated by his more-established fellow designers.

“They’re in their own boat, I’m in my own boat, so it’s easier for me to be an individual,” he said.

Williams hopes that RVA Fashion Week will help him get his name out there.

“I’m an artist so I really just want to get my art out at the end of the day,” he said.

Richmond native Kamala Bhagat, 25, will showcase her collection “Soul Rebel.” Bhagat, who formerly modeled for RVA Fashion Week, took the title from the Bob Marley song of the same name. Bhagat admits to loving all things Caribbean, particularly Jamaica.

“I love the Caribbean culture,” she said. “I felt like in one of my past lives I was this island lady somewhere in the Caribbean.”

Bhagat, who works on an inquiry basis and promises customers a one-of-a-kind creation, said she is impressed by the way Jamaican women are not afraid to step out of the box and take risks, including when it comes to incorporating color. 

“I love that they’re not afraid of expressing themselves through their clothing,” Bhagat said.

Another Richmond designer in this year’s show is Michelle S. Ramon, who will showcase her “Celestial Harbor” collection. Ramon credited jellyfish and their flowing movements as her inspiration. One piece she showed off at the media preview was a short blue ruffled wrap, which is meant to be worn over a bathing suit.

“I really love jellyfish so I wanted to take some of the way they look and the way they float around in the ocean as part of the inspiration for the collection,” she said.

Ramon also designs Lolita Fashion, which is not to be confused with the Vladimir Nabokov novel “Lolita” or its subject matter. Ramon described Lolita Fashion, which is popular in Japan, as modest but also “very, very feminine.”

Ramon, who was raised in Fredericksburg and eventually moved to Richmond for college, appreciates how individual styles are accepted here in the River City.

“I have lived in other cities since being in Richmond, and walking around outside, you get different looks when you’re wearing Lolita Fashion, and I’ve always felt very comfortable in Richmond because people don’t tend to look at you weird,” she said. “They just look at you and they go ‘Oh, you’re different. Whatever.’ and then they go about their day, or they’re like ‘Oh, I like that.’”

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Cristina Merrill is totally digging Richmond’s art scene. You can follow her on Twitter @CMerrill26.

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