Metro, Features

The Founder Of Boston’s Fashion Week On Building A Community In Style

Shopping, fashion shows, luncheons, parties—Boston Fashion Week (BFW) is in full swing. By the end of this week, a crowd of hundreds will have attended over 50 events throughout downtown Boston.

When Executive Director Jay Calderin founded BFW in 1995, his initial goal was to build a fashion community—something that was lacking in the Boston area.

“I think of myself as a community organizer more than anything else because it’s about spending the year having these conversations with people and really sharing with them the value of all this,” Calderin said. “I hear from a lot of people who work in the industry that this is the one time of year they really get to see each other and celebrate what they do, because the rest of the year we’re all busy working and building our businesses.”

BFW relies on this camaraderie to operate on a minimal budget. Every year, each designer puts on a different type of show depending on how much money and energy he or she is willing to spend on the event. This instability provides variety from year to year and calls upon the fashion community to work together.

“The goal is for us to get people to step up and be a community … I consider it, since the beginning, civic initiative,” Calderin said. “I want there to be a thriving fashion community here, and you can’t just do that with money. You have to do that with relationships.”

BFW events mostly take place in downtown Boston such as catwalks at Copley Place or jewelry shows at the Museum of Fine Arts. In past years, however, BFW has hosted events as far out of the city as Hyannis, Mass. in Cape Cod. The event encourages communities to take the liberty to celebrate fashion in their area.

“BFW isn’t just about something that happens in downtown Boston—it’s really a time of year and state of mind where we are focusing on fashion and celebrating what’s home-grown,” Calderin said.

Although the glamour and sparkle of some of these shows may be intimidating to outsiders, many events require purchasing tickets ahead of time, and a large number of the shows simply require an RSVP. This open style of attendance strives to fulfill Calderin’s goal of creating a community around the industry. By broadening the spectators, that community not only grows, but it also thrives.

The new motto that BFW has established, “Boston fashion is smart,” appeals to the unique academic identity of Boston. This city is oriented around business, law, science, technology, and academia.

“What we realized over the years is that we were trying to apologize for all the things Boston naturally was … but what we found was that fashion actually permeated all those things and more,” Calderin said. “The Boston fashion consumers are smart. They don’t follow trends blindly, they appreciate good work and look for ways to tie it into other parts of their lifestyle.”

One event in particular embodies this idea of fusing industries. Ministry of Supply is both a fashion and technology startup. The company manufactures a line of business clothing made of smart fabric, intended to anticipate the physical stresses of a workingman’s day. The line of performance apparel is waterproof, wrinkle proof, stain proof, temperature regulatory, and odor absorbent. Ministry of Supply’s event during Boston Fashion week is a casual celebration of the new technology over drinks, as well as a walk-through of its innovative concepts with the co-creators Gihan Amarasiriwardena, Kit Hickey, and Aman Advani.

Having grown in size, popularity, and participation of local designers, Calderin believes he has accomplished his first goal, and he intends to strive for further success in the years to come.

“Now, it’s about experimenting with new ways to deliver fashion, to build these relationships with other communities, to build what we started over the past couple of years with tech—science, the arts, and education,” Calderin said.

Striving to partner with education and mentor upcoming generations, BFW has kicked off the week for the past six years with Launch, a show featuring five new designers, all students or recent graduates of one of the many prestigious fashion programs in the region. The five selected for the 2014 exhibition are Jeffrey Dickerson, Chynna Pope, Dominique Quinque, Ty Sinnet, all from the School of Fashion Design, and Maryanne Meservey from Mount Ida College.

“Every 10 years I try to think of a new goal to infuse into Fashion Week,” Calderin said. “He has successfully fostered a fellowship around an industry, a partnership between trades, and a tradition among Bostonians. This year marks BFW’s 20th anniversary, and with a fortunate past and a bright future, the Boston fashion community cannot wait to hear that next goal.”

Featured Image by Jordan Pentaleri / Heights Graphic

October 8, 2014