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Cincy, Styled

Cincinnati Fashion Week's return legitimizes the city’s chic status

By Jac Kern · May 4th, 2011 · Visual Art

An average day for Nathan Hurst can include anything from evaluating models at a casting call to meeting with international designers. If you’re picturing this fashion wonder-boy traipsing around New York City, you’re a bit off. Hurst works his fabulosity in the Queen City.

At 23 years old, Hurst successfully produced the first Cincinnati Fashion Week (this year running May 9-15) in 2010, learning and building partnerships every step along the way.

“I knew that I wanted to bring something unifying to the city,” Hurst explains. “In my eyes it was definitely a risk, but one I was willing to take in order to see my dreams through. My first year goal was to complete the production, even though I didn’t have any instructions. Through the whole process, I learned that my dreams were actually shared by a large community of people.”

This year, Hurst carefully crafted and selected events, locations and designers with hopes that this community will grow even larger. One important partnership is with A-Line, Cincinnati’s new monthly women’s magazine (owned, like CityBeat, by Lightborne Publishing). The debut issue of A-Line (a-linemagazine.com) is on stands now, but it officially launches with Cincinnati Fashion Week this Monday.

“I have been so eager for the rest of the city to see A-Line come to life,” Hurst says. “What amazing work their stylists did in the editorial spread! Not only does their efforts speak volumes, but the content they cover is definitely ‘need to know’ information.”

There are many examples of fashion thriving in Cincinnati — hey, DAAP-grad Althea Harper was runner-up on season six of Project Runway! “But is there really enough interest and talent to dedicate a week to it?” you might wonder as you see Ed Hardy invading local dudes’ closets, one bedazzled trucker hat at a time.

Jonathan Mezibov and Laura Dawson, two internationally recognized designers with local ties who will be featured during CFW, tend to think so.

Mezibov grew up in Cincinnati and created his own label in 2008. His line of men’s shirts has appeared everywhere from Hyde Park’s Alligator Purse to GQ Japan.

Mezibov recognizes the power of the Internet as a reason cities are on a more level playing field when it comes to fashion.

“We are all now influenced by many of the same things, whether you live in Omaha, L.A. or Cincinnati,” Mezibov says. “I have met people (in Cincinnati) who are as on-the-pulse as those I know in New York.”

[Read more of Mezibov's interview here.]

Before Laura Dawson had a “transformative experience” studying fashion design at DAAP, she figured Cincinnati was much less open-minded and progressive than larger cities across the globe.

“Having spent 10 years in New York and two years in London,” Dawson says, “I have been in the wrong on this assumption more times than I could count.”

Now, after launching her own line of playful-yet-smart women’s clothing, Dawson is looking forward to coming back. She even cites The Brush Factory and Soho Boutique as two of her favorite local spots to shop.

[Read more of Dawson's interview here.]

Who would expect successful designers like Dawson and Mezibov to be pumped up for a show in Cincinnati? Nathan Hurst.

Hurst’s vision is broader than one week out of the year. His dream is for a fashion movement in the central Midwest. Besides helping to build a more thriving fashion community, Hurst’s goals include bringing fashion opportunities traditionally tied to larger, coastal cities to Cincinnati by moving more designers’ products onto local shelves.

“I’m focused on creating something sustainable — to retain, grow and diversify talent in Cincinnati,” Hurst says.

Drawing and maintaining a legitimate fashion scene will inevitably bring people to Cincinnati, and help keep some people who otherwise would have relocated. This trend would directly lead to increased capital in Cincinnati — and everyone can agree the city could use a little extra cash money.

This is especially important to Hurst because he used to have the mindset that he needed to move away to follow his passions.

“For the longest time, I didn’t pursue a dream because fashion seemed so far away,” Hurst explains. “I could live somewhere else and probably, at least initially, have it easier, but I chose Cincinnati because there is real potential here. There is something churning in the Midwest right now, people are ready for a change and that change starts here.”

The fine details of this year’s CFW will be seen on the runway. Explaining how this year’s events will compare to last year’s, Hurst says, “(This year’s) Fashion Week is wearing higher stilettos and she can run a mile in them!”

CINCINNATI FASHION WEEK kicks off Monday by co-hosting a Launch Party with A-Line at the former Contemporary Arts Center space, 115 E. Fifth St., Downtown. Get party details here.

The Christian Moerlein Brewing Company Event Center (1621 Moore St., Over-the-Rhine) hosts a Men’s Fashion Refinery featuring Jonathan Mezibov’s line Tuesday. Get the full Fashion Week schedule here.



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