Last weekend marked a big moment for the creative scene in Columbus. FMMF, the Fashion Meets Music Festival, officially launched, spanning several blocks of downtown Columbus and featuring a 3-day lineup loaded with fashion and events and concerts. Marketed as "the nation's largest fusion of fashion and music," the event, though grand in concept, had many snafus, starting with a community protest of the festival's main headliner, R. Kelly, who was eventually dropped from the lineup. And though there were some gripers on social media and an obviously lower attendance than anticipated, I think this is all par for the course for a first-year event. There have been polar reactions to FMMF, but despite anything you may have or have not heard, I hope that in years to come, FMMF will become a really amazing addition to Columbus.
A photo of Circa Survive's performance via the FMMF Facebook page.
Going into the weekend, one thing that I was most excited for was the opportunity to meet and interview Althea Harper, a Dayton-native whom you probably recognize from Project Runway Season 6 and Project Runway All-Stars. She showed the resort collection from her eponymous label at the FMMF Gala Thursday night (the last photo is of the designer herself).
One thing I really love about her line is that she creates all of the prints through photographs that she's taken. This collection, in particular, was created with images of tropical fish in the water.
But I was also just really impressed with her as a human. She was so nice and has such a strong point of view as a designer. Here's a little bit of our Q&A:
So how would you describe your brand?
I think what maybe sets me apart from other designers is that I always pay attention to a woman's form. (At Althea Harper), we really combine drape with structure and that tailoring is really evident, I think, in the bathing suit line. That, and the vibrant colors and prints, are really the standout elements of the brand.
And I could see your garments working for a lot of different body types.
Yeah, I love that. I think that's definitely one of the stronger points of the line. I love doing trunk shows and seeing how the pieces look on different shapes. You have to kind of figure out what works for you as a woman. I don't want the women that I design for to get noticed for something like "oh my god, that dress is so cool." I want them to get comments like "you look amazing" or "you look so beautiful." I want (my garments) to enhance that person, not for them to be a hanger for the clothes.
I'm dying to ask you, because I know you've worked with so many incredible designers, have any of them had a particular influence on your work?
Yeah, I think the biggest influence for me was probably working at Alexander McQueen. One of the things they told us working there was that everything should have a purpose. So, like, if you're going to do a bow somewhere, don't just put a bow on a dress to make it look cute, have that bow have a meaning, like to hold the strap together. It just makes the design so much stronger. And you'll see it in (Alexander McQueen's work), like if there's bead work, it's done to engineer the body. And another thing was just the way that he treated people. A lot of times, I think when you work for an idol, you know, someone that you look up to, your expectations a lot of times are let down. And then when someone is actually really nice and really talented you kind of leave with more respect, and that's how I felt working there.
So as someone who is also from Dayton and knowing that there is not exactly a fashion industry there, I'm very impressed with you and how you've been able to build your brand over the years. Do you have any advice for people, Midwestern or not, who are trying to get into fashion?
I think you have to hone in a little bit. Like I'm focusing on Resort wear. I also love doing blazers and more evening-wear things, but you can't be all over the place. You have to hone in on one thing and then keep it consistent. Because I think that's the thing a lot of times with designers- they have collections all over the place, but then it's like "but what are you known for?" It's hard to start out a lifestyle brand. It's much easier to start out a niche and then expand from there. I think that's the biggest thing with branding, like just keep it tight and then you can always grow.
You can see a little more from FMMF on my Instagram. And while I spent the majority of the weekend at the fashion events in work mode, I did venture out to a few concerts on Sunday and snapped a few Street Style pics.