The Boston fashion industry

Publié par le 11 avril 2013

Around the time of the last Montreal Fashion Week, some people looked at the Quebec fashion industry with a critical eye. Industry professionals and observers wondered how to overcome the industry’s difficulties: how to export, appreciate and showcase local fashion? After a trip to Boston (a city sometimes deemed similar to Montreal), we set to find out what was alike and what was different between the fashion of the two cities.

Just like that of Montreal, Boston fashion evolves in New York’s shadow. When he moved to Boston in 1989, Jay Calderin didn’t know anything about Boston fashion. “Coming from New York, I thought there was no fashion scene at all,” he says. Calderin has since then founded Boston fashion week. Little by little, he discovered a magazine here and a few designers there, but had the feeling that Bostonians didn’t know about local fashion.

For Krista Casey, one of the photographers behind the Boston Street Style blog, now is just more of the same. “Boston fashion is not publicized enough,” she says, “I feel like it’s a little bit elitist. Students and young people don’t know the names of the designers showing at Boston fashion week.” Her colleague David Kavaler abounds: “Fashion’s Night Out was more what we think fashion should be: accessible. We’re bummed that it’s cancelled, even though it could have been better organized.”

Krista Casey and David Kavaler of Boston Street Style
Krista Casey and David Kavaler, the photographers behind Boston Street Style / Picture by Marie-Eve Rochon

Emily Geaman blogs at So Anthro. She wants to support upcoming, independent designers trying to get their lines off the ground. But the official programming at Boston fashion week just doesn’t speak to her. “I attended a few small fashion week events, but none in the big tent. Those simply aren’t styles I write about,” she says.

Fashion Week

Boston Fashion Week was founded in 1995. It runs very differently than the one in Montreal. Everyone at Boston Fashion Week is a volunteer and the designers don’t spend a dime to appear on the official calendar. Thus, Boston Fashion Week does not produce shows, it promotes those put together by designers.

Therefore, some designers hold their shows in unusual venues, like restaurants. Jay Calderin is fond of this mixture of genres. “We are trying to bring forward the idea that fashion is a lifestyle. Sure, there are designers and retailers, but spas and restaurants are also a part of this,” he explains.

In 2011, Boston Fashion week was centralized in a single location: the tent. “There are still events happening in various locations,” Jay Calderin says. “But the tent is the focal point and it brings more attention.”

Jay Calderin, founder of Boston fashion week and instructor at Boston fashion school of Design
Jay Calderin, founder of Boston fashion week and instructor at Boston fashion school of Design / Picture by Marie-Eve Rochon

Montreal designers often bemoan the absence of buyers at fashion week. (Buyers are professionals who choose what clothes will be sold next season in the store for which they work. Welcoming buyers at their fashion show possibly means more selling points for designers.) In Boston, buyers don’t seem to be any more present, but that doesn’t worry Jay Calderin. “A fashion show can be entertainment. It can be a present that the designer gives to its customers,” assesses Jay Calderin.

Designer Daniela Corte has showed at Boston fashion week a few times. She paints a mixed picture of the event. “I love Boston, but it’s been a little hard getting the kind of support for fashion here that hey have in New York, Los Angeles or Paris. It’s a work in progress though and it has gotten better each year,” she says.

The next Boston fashion week will be held from September 27 through October 6.

Providing support for young designers

If there is one area in which Boston fashion seems to be doing particularly well, it’s when it comes to supporting emerging designers. The official Boston fashion week is only held once a year, during fall, while for spring, all eyes are on the Graduate fashion week. “We want to shine a light on students because there are so many fashion programs in the area, maybe even more than in New York!” Jay Calderin explains, himself an instructor at Boston fashion school of design.


Fabric at the Boston fashion school of design / Picture by Marie-Eve Rochon

The Launch is another initiative to help young designers. It is a joint program by FGI (Fashion Group International of Boston) and Boston Fashion Week. It provides 5 aspiring designers the opportunity to show at fashion week. People can’t apply though, as they have to be recommended by the head of department at their fashion school. 24 finalists are selected amongst 8 participating fashion programs. Then only 5 are chosen and they are helped throughout summer in the process of creating a 12-piece collection to show at the fall fashion week. “We started this project because we feel there are a lot of self-taught young designers who, even though they are really creative, don’t have the basics in terms of technical knowledge,” Jay Calderin says. “We want to reward craftsmanship and push forward the students who know to do really great garments.”

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Accommodation for this trip was sponsored by WIMDU, an apartment rental online service with more than 150,000 offers from all over the world.

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