Catwalk in the River City

Designers, models, and special causes are all in the spotlight during Richmond Fashion Week.

Photos by Michael Hostetler Photography

Although the Richmond of today is dotted with cool coffee shops and breweries by the block, in 2008, the rumblings of the city’s renaissance were just beginning. Among those early shakers was a small group of Virginia Commonwealth University students and alumni, spearheaded by Jason Primrose, looking to bring opportunities to River City creators. Thus, Richmond Fashion Week was born.

“Richmond was not a market where designers, models, photographers, bloggers felt like they could make a living doing their craft or get looked at by a larger market,” says James Budd, the event’s executive director, who took the reigns after Primrose moved to Los Angeles in late 2010. 

Things have changed a lot in a decade. Although it’s still run entirely by volunteers (including the board of directors), Richmond Fashion Week has grown to more than 1,000 participants and boasts events at venues throughout the city, including Maymont, The Jefferson Hotel, the Hippodrome Theater, and Gallery 5. While fashionistas and aspiring designers, models, and artists alike enjoy runway shows, panel discussions, and networking opportunities, teams of organizers and charities also shine a spotlight on special causes. Events include WEAR RVA, which provides scholarships for local high school girls; Runway2Life, dedicated to mental health awareness; and the Henrico County Public Schools Fashion Challenge, a partnership between the district, Henrico Career & Technical Education, and RVAFW, which sees representatives from each of the high schools participating in a variety of styling and designing challenges. 

At this year’s event, running Oct. 5-11, attendees can look forward to an even wider variety of shows and gatherings, because the RVA Fashion Week team has invited the entire city to participate. “Anyone that I think has been doing awesome shows themselves … I connected with all these people,” says Budd, adding that everyone he asked said yes. 

Since its inception, the ever-growing event has seen previous participants move on to fashion capitals such as New York and London. Budd, however, does not plan on being among them—his purpose is in Virginia’s capital. “People will ask, ‘What’s your endgame?’ and really, I don’t have one,” says Budd. “I want to continue to provide a platform and spotlight for these individuals.” RVAFashionWeek.com, RVAFW.com


This article originally appeared in our April 2020 issue.

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