Two signature catwalk events showcasing Savannah’s local fashion scene are going on hiatus this year, though organizers insist it won’t be the last of either.
In announcements early last month, organizers of Savannah Fashion Week, which usually takes place for a week in mid-spring, and Savannah’s Fashion Night, a one-night event in the fall, said they wouldn’t happen in 2015.
“We have been getting lots of requests for information regarding this year’s Savannah Fashion Week runway show,” read a March 6 posting on Facebook, “and we want to let you know that we are taking a much earned break from event planning this year — but will come back in 2016 with some exciting news!”
One of the co-organizers of that event, Tara Kirkland of Custard Boutique on Whitaker Street, said she and the other retailers had too much going
on to execute the program this year.
“Ultimately, the people who founded it and did all the work putting the event together were volunteering their time,” she said. “In order to continue to get bigger and better every year, it takes more and more time.”
She said they all got together and decided to take a break this year to focus on their own projects. Custard, which is celebrating its seventh birthday this month, is planning giveaways, promotions and a party for the end of the month.
Last year’s event included dozens of trunk shows and pop-up stores with regional fashion and jewelry designers, culminating in a fashion show on May 1 in Forsyth Park.
Another fashion week organizer, Zia Sachedina, owner of Zia Boutique jewelry and accessories on Broughton Street, said this year he had the opportunity to do his first solo fashion show at the Jepson Center, coming up on May 15.
“It’s going to be a recap of my 10 years in business,” he said.
The design aesthetic will draw from Sachedina’s own multi-cultural heritage — raised in Kenya, his mom is Japanese-American and father East Indian — and feature nearly 30 looks.
He said he hopes Savannah Fashion Week will come back in 2016 and continue the growth it had experienced.
“In order to do it properly and keep the momentum growing, we needed to step back,” Sachedina said. “I think we would like it to become as big as Charleston Fashion Week.”
He said the biggest issue is that the organizers of Charleston’s event have a dedicated public relations and marketing team to do their fundraising, whereas the retailers involved with the Savannah event had to do all that while running their own businesses.
For Savannah Fashion Week co-founder Heather Burge, that includes two retail locations of her BleuBelle boutique and a new gig at Gulfstream.
Satchel’s owner, Elizabeth Seeger, another organizer, is expanding her wholesale business of custom leather
handbags, and Leah Lancaster Riffle is also busy running her Bull Street stores Red Clover and the newer Harper Boutique.
Seeger said, if anything, it shows the event succeeded in bringing attention to the local businesses.
“It all started when the economy was really down and people weren’t shopping a ton, and we wanted to bring attention back to Savannah,” she said. “That was one of the biggest reasons we started the event. Now that things are better and we all have grown, we all needed a break.”
For Seeger, recently profiled in Fortune magazine, that means keeping her Liberty Street location stocked and maybe extending her reach beyond an Atlanta showroom to Dallas.
“We’re really focusing on production this year for our store, and our sales and traffic have been up,” she said.
Sachedina said it’s a good sign that downtown businesses are able to keep up with the growth.
“When I first opened on this block in 2005, it wasn’t anywhere what it is now,” he said of Broughton Street. “I’ve noticed an incredible shift. Whereas there used to be significant downtimes in January and summertime, now there’s never any down time.”
A separate event held in the fall, Savannah’s Fashion Night Out, grew out of New York Fashion Week. Started by Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour in 2009, the event was created for the similar purpose of rallying retailers, both national and local, during the recession.
After Vogue pulled the plug on the event in 2013, local organizers took the initiative and kept it going for another two years.
Its most recent installment, on Sept. 4, 2014, attracted nearly 5,000 pedestrians who strolled up and down a closed-off Broughton Street to shop more than 30 retailers.
Co-organizers Bree Thomas and Erin Wessling said in an email they also needed to take a step back to prioritize and reorganize after growing the event each year. After relying solely on local sponsorships and retailers, the duo are looking for bigger investors.
“The most important issue is finding investors and backing so no additional strain needs to be added to retailers and sponsors when keeping up with the growing event,” they said.
“We, like Savannah Fashion Week, have an incredibly small team that coordinates, organizes and executes large scale events with little budget,” they said. “We hope that over the course of the next year, both of these events will come back bigger and stronger than ever.”
Wessling and Thomas said they hope people will remember that the most important takeaway of these events is to support homegrown shops and designers.
“We are all trying to make sure the amazing creatives of Savannah have a platform to stand on,” they said.
On the web
For full list of all retailers who’ve participated in both events, go to savannahfashionweek.org and savannahsfashionnight.com.