Model Meadow Batcheldor walks the runway at Richmond Fashion Week wearing a dress by designer Liznel. Photo by Alessandro Latour

Sahara Sriraman, Spectrum Editor 

Models wearing bright floral patterns, mesh and feather sleeves and sequined tuxedos, paraded down the runway. These are just a few pieces designed by a variety of local designers, businesses and shops from the Richmond area that are featured in the fall 2021 show for Richmond Fashion Week. 

The 13th annual RVAFW, which took place from Oct. 4-10, featured events throughout the week that included a two-day RVA Sneaker Fest event and a dinner served by Les Crepes, a local restaurant in Carytown, during a local boutique fashion show. Event organizers then topped off the week with a finale runway show.

Jimmy Budd, the executive producer of RVAFW, stated that this year’s fashion week was special because the Richmond community came together to celebrate arts and fashion.

“I think this year has been so unique because it has tested how resilient we can all be during this pandemic and how to persevere through these challenging times,” Budd stated.

Earlier this year, the spring RVAFW was the first time they implemented in-person events primarily outdoors. They included socially distanced fashion events throughout the week and used virtual streaming equipment for indoor events in order to reduce the amount of people in a closed space as much as possible. 

RVAFW has been an annual Richmond event since 2008, meant to feature the area’s models, designers, businesses and stylists. The event highlights small businesses throughout Richmond through a variety of interactive events and activities throughout the week. 

This year’s finale show took place on Sunday at the Bon Secours Training Center, featuring 10 designers based in the Richmond area, including Verdalina, The Suit Brother, Liznel, Sisters’ Boutique and 707 Fine Clothing.

The event was hosted by Miss Virginia 2021 Heather Marie and NBC12 anchor Anthony Antoine. Every designer’s line was very personal, each drawing inspiration from different parts of their lives and personal experiences, according to the hosts.

“All of the designers were so creative but so unique at the same time,” said attendee Taniqua Jones, who said she’s a longtime supporter of the show. “Everything was beautiful in its own way.”

The show featured models of varying body types, racial backgrounds and heights.

“I thought it was very inclusive, very diverse,” said Britney Reynolds, a VCU alumna and spectator of the show. “I loved that they showed women and men, different cultures and ethnicities.”

Budd stated that it was great to have the week’s events completely in person after two years of having the event online. He stated that although it was extremely difficult to plan during the COVID-19 pandemic, the work paid off. 

“As far as having more attendees in person and a major runway show, I would say it has been very refreshing and encouraging for the future of event planning and people taking necessary precautions to be safe as we continue to navigate through this all,” Budd stated. 

All guests were required to wear masks when entering all events throughout the week, while staff members were given face shields to wear, according to Budd. RVAFW decided to require all guests, designers and employees to follow the same rules, due to the different businesses maintaining different safety guidelines. 

“We saw this pandemic affect everyone one way or another and I think our team has strengthened exponentially throughout this pandemic behind the scenes which has allowed us to spread so much positive energy to our community and to keep people motivated in pursuing their dreams during these difficult times,” Budd stated.

Gabriela Fernando, an employee from Lex’s of Carytown, said the bridal boutique was part of the runway show earlier in the week where they were able to showcase some of their pieces.

“It was amazing to be part of fashion week ourselves and showcase some of the latest fall styles,” Fernando said. 

Lex’s of Carytown dressed Marie for the night in a black and green mesh, sequined Johnathan Kayne gown. 

Fernando said that although the boutique wasn’t part of the finale runway show on Oct. 10, she was thrilled to see all the different designers showcase their work.

“RVA Fashion Week is about inclusivity and I just really appreciate that and it’s really beautiful,” Fernando said. “We’re all coming together after being apart for almost two years because of the pandemic and I think it’s really beautiful to see all the latest fashion from our community.”

Kay Woodson, a model who walked for multiple designers — including Kill the Seam and Liznel — during the finale event, said she was glad to have a loud and engaging audience to walk for during the night.

Now that RVAFW is over, Woodson said she has mixed feelings about the week being wrapped up after working toward it for so long.

“It was a great week, all seven days were amazing,” Woodson said. “It’s bittersweet, I’m definitely going to miss the RVA Fashion Week crowd and I can’t wait for the next one.”