Written by Madoline Markham
Birmingham Fashion Week took its runway showcase of local talent and national designers to new levels in its new venue, Boutwell Auditorium, this year. Here are just a few of the highlights of three nights of high-energy fashion.
1. Welcoming Madeline Stuart
A special guest was the first to walk the Birmingham Fashion Week runway this year: Madeline Stuart, the first globally recognized model with Down syndrome. Stuart had originally travelled to Birmingham to receive an award from Kulture City for her work in Uganda helping people understand that intellectual disabilities are not curses, and the people at Kulture City helped connect her with Birmingham Fashion Week.
The Brisbane, Australia, native’s modeling career all began about 15 months ago when her mom took a few photos of her and posted them on a Facebook page. From there her following took off like wildfire, and now she has three-quarters of a million followers on social media. Since then she’s not only been featured in New York Fashion Week, travelled the globe, and graced magazine covers, but she’s also inspired people to stay drug free or decide to go to college. “She is an average person they can relate to,” her mom Roseanne says. “I’m happy that she is happy, and I’m proud of how she helps people who feel alone. She expresses herself through photos, and loves to give hugs to everyone.”
The energy around the runway escalated when 2015 Emerging Designer Shan Latris’s collection hit the runway, each one as stunning as its predecessor. Hemlines long and short added distinct character to each design. On some, a transparent sheath served as an over or under layer in color palette using either black or vibrant deep violet to coordinate with the rest of the dress. This crowd favorite was a black full-length dress with a high front slit that boasted a gold lace collar and thick border around an opening in the middle of the chest.
3. Meet and Greet with Designers
Designers like By Smith mixed and mingled on the show floor just like the rest of us. Smith Sinrod attended the Friday night show with her niece from Montgomery, who sported one of Sinrod’s hand painted scarves while Sinrod herself wore a black jumpsuit from her fall line. The New Orleans resident and 2009 University of Alabama graduate showcased her prints in dresses, tops, and scarves—along with a set of solid prints—and more that are all made in New York’s Garment District on the runway Thursday night.
4. Bradford’s Latest
Previous BFW attendees were watching out for what Bradford Billingsley would bring to the runway this year. “He is what Birmingham Fashion Week is created for and what it’s about,” emcee Tara Gray said, a few tears later. This Vestavia Hills High School student and B-metro style icon is making fashion waves all over, so much so that Lisa Morgan (who met him four years ago when he was shopping at Bergdorf Goodman) flew down from New York City to present him a “Fashion Avenue” sign after his runway show Friday night.
5. A Bit of Surprise
Among the talented Emerging Designers were a few that had us talking. Alan Slattery’s handbag designs and Julie Maeselle’s fresh takes on denims and more took home top honors. Intriguing in a different way, Birmingham native Travis Mackey’s models brought gothic style in not only their hair and makeup but also the darker theatrics as they eerily walked the runway.
6. Bridal Grande Finale
BFW co-founder Heidi Elnora’s innovative bridal lace designs hit the runway with acrobatics and other dramatics to close out the week, and BFW “alum,” Vestavia Hills High School graduate, and Victoria Secret model Baskin Champion starred in the center of it all. And all of this just before fireworks erupted, with gold tinsel covering the runway “scene.”
The show ended on a heavier note with Elnora asking for financial support for staff after seven years of being completely volunteer-run; otherwise, they said, this will be Fashion Week’s last year (and what a shame that would be for everyone!).