In the two days after Sunday's conclusion of the inaugural Fashion Meets Music Festival, the texts and calls to Melissa Dickson's cellphone remained steady. The messages tended to fall into one of two categories: positive support ("We want to be in this for years to come," said the band O.A.R) or constructive criticism (the event was too spread out, ticketing proved confusing, where was the fashion?). Festival organizers plan to use both the support and criticism to improve on the event for next year: They will be back in 2015, they say, and already have scheduled the second annual festival for Sept. 4-6 ( Labor Day weekend again).
In the two days after Sunday’s conclusion of the inaugural Fashion Meets Music Festival, the texts and calls to Melissa Dickson’s cellphone remained steady.
The messages tended to fall into one of two categories: positive support (“We want to be in this for years to come,” said the band O.A.R) or constructive criticism (the event was too spread out, ticketing proved confusing, where was the fashion?).
Festival organizers plan to use both the support and criticism to improve on the event for next year: They will be back in 2015, they say, and already have scheduled the second annual festival for Sept. 4-6 ( Labor Day weekend again).
“You have to have an expectation,” said Dickson, communications director for the Downtown festival, which blended concerts, fashion shows and shopping.
“We started very, very large. Where we ended up, we think was a success.”
The festival, held Friday through Sunday at various venues, drew nearly 60,000 people for the three days combined, Dickson said — about half the number that organizers had hoped to attract. The event, privately funded, suffered a loss financially, although she declined to specify the amount.
In March, when co-founder Bret Adams originally announced plans for the festival, the Columbus lawyer and sports/entertainment agent said he hoped it one day would become as popular as South by Southwest in Austin, Texas — a 10-day music, film and interactive festival that last year drew 155,000 visitors who spent $218 million.
Dickson pointed out yesterday that the inaugural South by Southwest, in 1987, drew only 700 registrants. Likewise, she noted, Coachella — an annual music and art festival in southern California that dates from 1999 — lost almost $1 million in its first year.
She acknowledged that the festival has a long way to go, a sentiment echoed by some festival patrons, vendors and artists.
For Westerville resident Jeremy Stuhlfauth, the biggest disappointment: Fashion never actually met the music.
The 26-year-old Westerville resident traveled Downtown with his girlfriend and parents on Sunday afternoon several hours before the Cold War Kids performed, he said, but a confusing layout, closed marketplace and lack of beverage options left them with little to do before the concert.
“If you were walking on Nationwide Boulevard, you couldn’t really see the fashion,” said Stuhlfauth, who was surprised by the smaller crowds. “We thought there would be boutiques and stuff on the streets.”
In fact, the Retail Marketplace — where fashion vendors shared their wares — was stationed at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, nearly a half-mile from the music at McFerson Commons and Lifestyles Community Pavilion, and fashion shows at the Studio Movie Grill.
Horacio Nieto, a Columbus fashion designer who presented his men’s and women’s and bridal lines, agreed that festival goings-on felt a bit scattered.
“If I gave them advice, I’d put it all in the convention center and use the convention center the whole weekend,” Nieto said.
Organizers already plan to move the marketplace closer to the music — probably outdoors along Nationwide Boulevard and other streets in the Arena District — and host runway shows on McFerson Commons while concerts are taking place.
“For the O.A.R show (on Friday night), we had 8,000 people on that lawn,” Dickson said. “With the arch, obviously, we can turn that into a really cool runway — that is where music will meet fashion.”
Festival organizers also plan to clarify ticketing policies, she said. With some events being free, some requiring a ticket and VIP options available, a number of patrons struggled to discern what was what.
Despite the hiccups — which began in July, when founders had to break their contract with headliner R. Kelly because of backlash about the R&B singer’s past — the festival had its bright moments, some said.
Nieto said the event gave Columbus area musicians and designers the rare opportunity to showcase their talents on a large stage and amid nationally recognized artists.
Besides O.A.R., bands such as New Found Glory and Switchfoot served as headliners.
Kid Runner, a local band, performed twice on Saturday. Although the afternoon show was sparsely attended, the after-party show at the Basement was packed.
“It was one of our favorite shows,” Kid Runner guitarist Kurt Keaner said. “The festival was right in our neighborhood.”
Plus, the band got to take in a show of one of their idols: Local Natives.
Keaner and his bandmates can’t wait to perform a year from now.
“The promoters realized what mistakes they made. I’m stoked to see where it goes next.”