Fashion capitals of the United States: New York, Los Angeles and - Columbus? After the two largest U.S. cities, Columbus has the third-highest concentration of fashion designers in the country, a recent study shows.
Fashion capitals of the United States: New York, Los Angeles and — Columbus?
After the two largest U.S. cities, Columbus has the third-highest concentration of fashion designers in the country, a recent study shows.
Even the founder of CMH Fashion Week admitted being initially surprised by the ranking, until he considered why 518 fashion designers are employed in central Ohio.
“I was like ‘Yeah, of course,’??” Thomas McClure said. “Columbus has all these great retailers headquartered right here, .?.?. and we have CCAD that’s churning out fashion designers.”
The coasts still dominate American fashion, with 6,825 designers counted in New York and 3,641 in Los Angeles.
Yet the concentration of designers in Columbus is three times higher than the national average, according to an analysis of public and private employment data by the company Economic Modeling Specialists.
Suzanne Cotton, chairwoman of fashion design at the Columbus College of Art & Design, attributes the ranking largely to the presence of major retail companies, including Limited Brands and spinoffs Abercrombie & Fitch, Express and Tween Brands.
With so many job opportunities, she estimated that 60 to 70 percent of fashion-design students stay in central Ohio after graduation.
Carolyn Martin, a 2011 graduate of CCAD, thought she couldn’t pass up a chance to work in Columbus, helping to start an in-house fashion line for Dressbarn, which bought Tween Brands in 2009.
The 26-year-old has also designed clothing for CMH Fashion Week, a series of fashion shows and events that has doubled attendance in its three-year history. Between fashion events and stores willing to sell area merchandise, Martin thinks Columbus provides opportunities for up-and-coming designers — even if the city still isn’t well-recognized outside the region.
“I don’t think people really understand that Columbus is a well-fashioned city,” she said. “ There’s so much more .?.?. than everybody thinks.”
Designer Lindsay Hearts suspects that Columbus has even more fashion designers than are reflected in the study: She doubts she was counted, as she is employed full time in another industry (tattoos) while working on her rock-inspired, leather-centric designs.
Lately, her Midnight Lady line has taken off, with Hearts invited to show her collection at a New York Fashion Week event for emerging designers and shipping clothing items as far as Finland via Etsy.com.
Hearts has decided to move to Los Angeles to be closer to her clients in the entertainment business. But she thinks she could continue her career in Columbus, thanks to the city’s affordability and design opportunities such as HighBall Halloween and other fashion shows.
“There’s something for everyone here,” said Hearts, 27. “There’s all kinds of design aesthetics across the board.”
Still, a smaller city has its challenges for independent designers: Hearts has been traveling to New York every couple of months to buy fabric not available in Columbus. (“We only have Jo-Ann Fabric,” she lamented.)
And central Ohioans tend to dress more conservatively than some people in bigger cities, said Gary J. Jones, a 33-year-old who designs upscale men’s clothing for his Downtown business, Jones Select Custom Clothiers.
He participated last month in both HighBall and CMH Fashion Week, designing for the latter a red velvet bow tie on a black shirt and a three-piece suit with a scarf and boots, among other outfits.
“It helps me, and it helps fashion here,” he said of such events. “It develops a fashion consciousness for people to be able to accept new ideas.”
Kelli Martin, founder of the Anti.Label line and an alumna of the TV design competition Project Runway, is planning Alternative Fashion Week for those who might find other fashion shows pretentious or intimidating.
The May event might feature tutorials about wearing riskier pieces as well as displays of clothing for women who aren’t model-sized. Martin, 32, hopes to encourage more people to look beyond the malls to local designers.
“There are a lot of people here who do insane stuff that’s awesome, and it needs to be shown,” she said.
“I don’t live in New York or L.A., because you can find the same thing here if you look.”