As New York Fashion Week wraps up at Lincoln Center in the Big Apple, Mobile is gearing up for its own week of unique fashion and fun. Though A-list fashionistas like Anna Wintour and Rhianna may not grace the front row seats of runway shows, Dauphin and Royal streets will transform into Mobile’s fashion mecca as Mobile Fashion Week takes over to celebrate its fourth anniversary.

Eccentric hairstyles and high fashion alike will be on display during runway and hair shows, as our own locally grown “fashion houses” and talent are showcased.

It’s hard not to feel the high-energy and enthusiasm from Mobile Fashion Week founder Richard McGill, who spoke about runways, couture and Lauren Conrad with the exuberance of any lover of fashion would.

Lagniappe had the opportunity to sit down with McGill to discuss Mobile Fashion Week and what it means for Mobile, a place he believes is home to many talented people whose talents don’t have an outlet when it comes to fashion.

“Me and all my friends said to do anything in our career paths, we have to leave,” McGill said. “We have to go somewhere else. We have to go to LA. We have to go to New York. We have to go to even as close as New Orleans.”

Therefore, in 2008, McGill packed his bags and headed to the West Coast, where he pursued a career in photography, attended red carpet events and sat in on some pretty high-profile fashion shows.

But he felt something was missing.

“It just wasn’t for me,” he said. “I liked my Southern roots.”

He eventually came home, and Mobile Fashion Week was born.

The fourth annual Mobile Fashion Week kicks off Sept. 21 and the main events begin Sept. 25 with a high-fashion hair show and continue throughout the weekend with “top secret” surprises. McGill promises exciting and of course fashionable events curated by a creative pool of people from right here in Mobile.

“A lot of people around here don’t get to New York for fashion week, they don’t get to LA, they can’t fly to Milan for fashion week, so they have to see it here,” McGill said. “It’s just about creating that atmosphere too because it’s so much fun. It’s something I will always remember. I want to create that here, and we have the talent. We have the people here. We’re just giving them an outlet for it. And it’s new. It’s new and it’s different.”

Mobile Fashion Week first launched in August 2011, but not without “a lot of bumps in the road,” McGill said.

The idea of putting together a fashion show, which stemmed from an event called Fashion Forward that McGill worked on with local booking agency Barefoot Models and Mobile-based photographer Toni Riales, has quickly blossomed into a much-anticipated event for the fashion forward and even the not-so-fashion-forward in the Mobile area.

With 18 models cast for the first-ever Mobile Fashion Week, McGill said he had, perhaps unrealistic, high hopes.

“We thought we could have them all [models] fit into the looks and there would be no time gaps in between it … there was a lot of yelling, there was a push, there was a punch thrown and the show was over,” he said. “But nobody knew that from out front.”

McGill said a lot was learned from the 2011 debut of Mobile Fashion Week and even boasts the success story of designer William Bradley, originally from Chatom, Alabama, who now lives in the fashion hub of Los Angeles where he is working to build and promote his brand.

Bradley still supports Mobile Fashion Week by returning every year, McGill said.

“People loved his clothes, they loved his line and they loved his vision,” McGill said.

In 2012, Mobile Fashion Week received more press, larger audiences and presented its first outdoor show at Fort Conde Inn.

More importantly for McGill and the rest of his crew, they were able to donate more money to their primary charity, Camp Rap-A-Hope.

“We ended up writing a check to Camp Rap-A-Hope for $5,000 that year,” McGill said. “And that was a just a really proud moment.”

According to Camp Rap-A-Hope Executive Director Melissa McNichol, the money from Mobile Fashion Week typically goes toward funding trips and camp activities.

Camp Rap-A-Hope partners with a similar camp in Vermont, which sends two children to Mobile for camp and in turn, Mobile sends two children to Vermont in the winter, McNichol said.

“Not only is it a money donation but it’s creating awareness and the more people that hear about camp and hear that it’s a free organization for kids with cancer, the better. They might not know a child that has ever had cancer and they would have never heard about camp unless that person went to Mobile Fashion Week,” Camp Rap-A-Hope Assistant Director Roz Dorsett said. “It’s word of mouth. It’s awareness. Reaching the kids is just as important as the donations. Mobile Fashion Week reaches such a unique part of the community … all are important but we’re so happy Mobile Fashion week reaches another part.”

McNichol said Camp Rap-A-Hope consistently serves over 150 families per year.

“And it’s right here in Mobile,” she said. “[Richard] is working hard for our area to bring awareness to Mobile period. To show that we do know how to dress, we do know to be cute and we know how to have fun. He’s doing that and we’re using the money right here.”

McGill said there are many different ways to give back to charity and causes like Camp Rap-A-Hope, and it’s all about finding an outlet.

“If you’re a football player, you do touch football for charity, if you’re a soccer player you do this, if you’re a runner you do a marathon,” he said. “What do you do when you’re into fashion? You put a fashion show together. There’s a lot of charity events that have a fashion aspect, and we are a fashion event that has a charity aspect. It’s just really cool.”

In 2013, Mobile Fashion Week donated 3,000 to Camp Rap-A-Hope, $1,500 to Eye Heart World and eight ponytails to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, McGill said.

As far as funding, Mobile Fashion Week is completely nonprofit. According to McGill, money made from ticket sales is donated to charity while production costs are compensated by a “small fee” that boutiques and designers are required to pay in order to participate in the event.

“With the fact that a boutique is saying, ‘Hey, I believe in Camp Rap-A-Hope and I believe in Mobile Fashion Week enough to be a part of this and pay money to be a part of this and help put this on,’ it’s just a powerful moment,” McGill said.

With lighting and production generating the most expensive costs for the event, McGill said a number of extra ways to make money for charity will be added to this year’s event including $5 Mobile Fashion Week T-shirts, with all proceeds going to Camp Rap-A-Hope.

Additionally, Mobile Fashion Week teamed up with Fairhope-based J. Edward cosmetics in a collaborative effort to create a lip gloss to support Camp Rap-A-Hope and childhood cancer awareness. Five dollars made on every sale of “Glamazon” gold gloss, chosen to represent the color for September Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, will go to Camp Rap-A-Hope.

“Like camp, we don’t want kids to feel like they need to be empathic and everything be sad. We don’t want to do that at the fashion show. It’s not about being sad. It’s about celebrating life, celebrating fashion, celebrating everything,” he said.

McGill said one of the big, long-term goals of Mobile Fashion Week is to have the city of Mobile help fund the event at least a “little bit,” but for the time being, putting on a great fashion show and donating as much money as possible to charity is the primary focus.

Now, as Mobile Fashion Week 2014 gets ready to kick off its fourth year in high gear, 48 models are preparing to walk the New York-style catwalk. According to McGill, over 100 models tried out, some even traveling from as far as Birmingham, Destin, Florida and Georgia.

“I really didn’t realize our reach got that far,” he said. “When the reach is that wide and they’re coming in for that, we’re doing something right. It might not be received right now because people don’t understand it right now, but it’s going to be big. It’s still going to be big.”

So, whether it’s high fashion or blue jeans, the West Coast or the Gulf Coast, Mobile Fashion Week creates a diverse community, focused on making everyone feel included while giving Mobile creatives an outlet to display their hard work.

“What I think [Richard] has accomplished is bringing in things that we would never see and never get to participate with or even grasp,” McNichol said. “But he also has somebody on the runway that we can go buy and wear to work or to a football game. It’s such a great environment with crazy, awesome style but also real.”

“It’s cool to think that there are people here who are that talented,” Dorsett added. “It’s impressive all around.”


MFW Charities

Camp Rap-A-Hope
Camp Rap-A-Hope provides a free, week-long summer camp in Mobile to children between the ages of 7 and 17, who have or have ever had cancer. Each year, children from all across the Gulf Coast are given the opportunity to enjoy a typical summer camp environment that includes activities like swimming, kayaking, horseback riding, arts and crafts and many other activities depending on the camp’s theme for the year. Camp Rap-A-Hope also offers other events for fun throughout the year, including family fun days and holiday parties.

Camp Rap-A-Hope is a member of Children’s Oncology Camping Association, International (COCA-I), whose mission is to strengthen the international community of camps for children with cancer and their families through networking, advocacy, education and other resources. Of the 84 pediatric oncology camp members of COCA-I, Camp Rap-A-Hope is one of 30 camps that have been awarded the Gold Ribbon Camp designation, which is an honor given to camps that have demonstrated a high level of commitment to serving children with cancer and their families. http://www.camprapahope.org/

Pantene Beautiful Lengths
Beautiful Lengths is a partnership between Pantene and the American Cancer Society to facilitate the donation of free wigs to women battling all types of cancer. Founded in 2006, the role of Pantene and Beautiful Lengths is to help women grow strong, beautiful hair and provide the funds to turn this hair into free, real-hair wigs for women with cancer.

So far, Pantene has donated 24,000 free real-hair wigs to the American Cancer Society’s wig banks, which distribute wigs to cancer patients across the country. http://pantene.com/en-us/experience-main-section2/beautiful-lengths

Eye Heart World
Eye Heart World is a nonprofit charity established to raise money to support social causes, with the organization’s current focus being human trafficking. The group’s Facebook page states there are approximately 1.2 million new human trafficking victims annually and worldwide it is estimated to include between 20 to 27 million victims.

Eye Heart World helps raise money for their causes through the designing and selling of handbags and other products. Each bag bears an orange rose, representing the color for human trafficking awareness, and proceeds from each bag sold goes directly to the partner initiative chosen during the checkout process. Partnerships include GEMS, Not For Sale and the A21 Campaign.

Schedule

Opening Night: Hair Show
Date: Thursday, Sept. 25, 6-9 p.m.
Venue: Atchison Home Furnishings,
921 Dauphin St.
Tickets: $30 general admission, includes preshow shopping event and ticket to event

Fashion’s Night Out
Date: Friday, Sept. 26, 6-9 p.m.
Venue: Hargrove Engineers, 20 S. Royal St.
Tickets: $30 general admission

The Finale
Date: Saturday, Sept. 27, 6-9 p.m.
Venue: Hargrove Engineers, 20 S. Royal St.
Tickets: $30 general admission

Weekend passes are also available for all events Thursday-Saturday:
$75 general admission; $125 VIP includes entry to all events, (Friday) front-row seat, (Saturday) front-row seat, VIP roof-top after party, drinks included sponsored by Fairhope Brewing Co., VIP swag bag and MFW T-shirt.


Stores for Line Up
Ruby Blue • Hemline (Saturday) Plato’s Closet • Covered • Apricot Lane (Saturday) • Hourglass • Brown Eyed Girl • Been There • Private Gallery (Saturday) • Lotus Boutique

Designers for Line Up
Destani Hoffman • William Bradley (Saturday) • Ashley Gunkel • Lauren Dufilho • Harold & Mod