A year ago, Danielle Vaughan stood at the counter of Lola Boutique and mentioned the idea of an entire fashion week in Northwest Arkansas.
“OK, let’s do it,” said Jade Terminella, owner of Lola.
“That defines our working relationship,” says Danielle. “I have an idea, and Jade says, ‘OK, this is what we need to do to make it happen.’”
In the coming months, the framework for Fashion Week began to take shape over kitchen table discussions. After lots of talking, lots of notes and a little red wine, Fashion Week was born.
Fashion for philanthropy was already an existing theme among the local runway shows, and the two women decided early on that philanthropy would be the backbone of the event.
“One hundred percent of proceeds are going back to nonprofits,” says Jade. “This is strictly a charity event.”
Unity was soon added as the second component of NWA Fashion Week, which would be needed to enlist the forces of artists, designers and volunteers — not to mention competing businesses. “We know that our success lies in the success of community,” says Jade.
Fashion and philanthropy combined in 2007 when Jade launched Strut for a Mutt, a charity runway show that featured Lola’s hottest items and dogs from the Fayetteville Animal Shelter that needed homes. The success of Strut for a Mutt helped establish fashion as a platform to change social interests and give back to the community.
Strut for a Mutt was created to raise money and awareness for the high euthanasia rates in NWA animal shelters.
Jade, who has three dogs, shares the statistics, “An average of 14 pets are killed every day in Northwest Arkansas shelters, simply because there aren’t enough homes for them all.”
Jade says being a part of the fashion community is about setting social trends beyond clothing and accessories.
“Everyone looks at us to see what the newest and greatest things are. It’s an opportunity to make giving back cool, to make it hip,” she says.
“A Chihuahua or terrier is just as cool from a shelter as from a puppy mill,” she says.
“The only solution to overpopulation is to spay and neuter pets so they can stop breeding,” says Jade. To aid pet owners who can’t afford to spay and neuter their pets, Spay Arkansas opened a clinic last May.
Danielle, whose father is a small business owner, wanted to teach people the importance of local businesses. Working in advertising for years in Northwest Arkansas, she had developed strong relationships with boutique owners. She envisioned businesses in the local fashion industry forging and celebrating their own niches, not as competitors, but as partners in fashion.
When the idea of Fashion Week began to catch hold in Northwest Arkansas, it spread like wildfire. During the casting call, hundreds gathered to stand in line for the chance to model in the runway shows.
“I never imagined that it would be this big this soon,” says Danielle.
With great expectations also came great work, and the women have spent the last six months working their day jobs and coordinating Fashion Week in their spare time.
“I had no idea what it was going to take,” says Danielle. “It’s been a huge responsibility, but it’s been really rewarding.”
Because the event is entirely nonprofit, the team is mostly comprised of volunteer labor and donated supplies. The host of Fashion Week and interior designer, Chris Goddard, has coined the informal Fashion Week motto, “Girl, we’re makin’ love with nothin’,” quips Danielle, quoting Goddard.
“We’re spending the bare minimum so there is more to contribute to the nonprofits,” explains Jade.
The goal is to raise $40,000 for local charities.
Both women stress that the success of Fashion Week has been a group effort. “We surrounded ourselves with a really good team,” says Jade. “So many different people have stepped up.”
“We are the sum of our parts. None of us could do this on our own. Each of us brings something unique to the group,” says Danielle, who explains that it has also been a unique opportunity for the creative community.
“When creative people come together, it’s powerful what they accomplish,” she adds.
“I think fashion is something that everyone has a strong opinion about,” says Jade, “and I think that’s the underlying thread.”
Fashion Week is not only bringing businesses together, but is exposing Fayetteville to a variety of trends and styles. “It’s a broad spectrum,” says Jade. “You’re going to see a lot of different things at Fashion Week.”
Though Fayetteville has yet to reach the cutting edge of fashion — like Paris, Milan or New York City — there is a variety of shopping and style that both Danielle and Jade would like to see celebrated and supported. “There’s no reason to go out of town to go shopping,” says Jade.
As for life after Fashion Week, Jade says she would like to see “all the stores and designers banded together to help each other’s businesses and build a cooler fashion scene in Fayetteville.”