Model Lauren Brooke Jenkins struck a fierce pose at the end of the runway after strutting designer Mondo Guerra’s work. Jenkins, adorned head to toe in an extravagant tin ball gown that reflected Guerra’s bold and innovative use of fabric, captivated the audience with each step she took before letting the applause wash over her. This is Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week.

NWA Fashion Week began Thursday, March 28, at Ledger in Bentonville. Attendees gathered in the event lounge and mingled with fellow fashion enthusiasts before taking their seats behind the catwalk.

University of Arkansas Pine Bluff merchandising textiles and design students Khameria Clark and Havilland Ford said they were excited to attend the show and were anxious to see the designers’ full collections.

 

“I’m ready to see how the clothes really reflect the designer,” Ford said. “I’m ready for the textures, the color, the music that they choose to go along with their collection, how they chose the hair, the makeup and just seeing how it all comes together.”

INTERFORM, a creative nonprofit whose mission is to empower local artists, opened the show with a video message emphasizing the evening’s theme of community. The event’s hosts, Jaclyn House and Tony Waller, took to the runway to introduce the evening’s first designer and winner of Project Runway All Stars’ debut season, Mondo Guerra.

Guerra kicked off the evening with an adventurous new collection. Each piece was characterized by a combination of bold patterns and appeared to have drawn inspiration from the fashion trends of the ‘90s. Model looks were complete with feather accessories, crimped hair and thick-rimmed glasses.

Designer Julie Perkins was next on the runway, introducing her collection “Contemporary Tradition,” which featured traditional Native American designs paired with contemporary fashion.

Perkins’ previous work at the Cherokee National History Museum inspired designs that combined modern silhouettes with traditional native patterns, ribbons and skirt designs. 

Following Perkins, Rainbow Fashion, a local LGBTQ+ fashion organization that provides free clothing, partnered with designer Honnah Sartin to debut their collaborative collection, “Out of the Closet.” The collection is intended to encourage people to be themselves and uses recycled and upcycled materials to promote environmental sustainability.

Designer Carena Hasara followed the nonprofit’s showcase with her collection, “Speciō,” pulling inspiration from Italian Renaissance art. Her collection combined historical garment construction techniques with modern silhouettes, Hasara said.

One of the most cohesive of the evening, Hasara’s collection featured models styled in heavy black boots and spiked hair to contrast with the elegant white and beige pieces that seemed to float down the runway.

 

Prior to intermission, Walmart debuted a new collection inspired by Y2K fashion, accompanied by a live music performance from local artist Jasper Logan. The collection combined Y2K trends with modern streetwear, incorporating cargo pants, head-to-toe denim and camouflage patterns.

Designer Prajjé Oscar’s collection started the second half of the show, which he describes as designed for “a downtown cool woman with an uptown flair.” Patrick Holcomb followed Oscar with a collection focused on sustainable fashion and repurposing second-hand clothing.

Holcomb elevated common streetwear items with paint, dye and artistic prints, blurring the line between art and fashion. Two models held framed prints as they strolled the runway, which were both incorporated into Holcomb’s designs throughout the collection to create unique patterns.

The show’s focus then shifted to highlight amateur designers who completed the INTERFORM Learn program. The INTERFORM Learn program provides NWA locals with the opportunity to learn basic sewing skills completely free. INTERFORM’s sewing workshops are available to all people, regardless of skill level or age.

Designer and model Fei Debrum said she became involved with INTERFORM a few years ago through their Learn program, and since then, she has built her own collection to be debuted on opening night.

“I just made it for myself,” Debrum said, “but my goal is to be able to make clothes to sell as a career because as I get older, I believe no one wants to hire me anymore, but this is something that I want to do that is so exciting.”

Donovan Tippet, a West Fork resident, said he became involved with INTERFORM Learn in hopes of learning how to construct tents, backpacks and other outdoor gear that would aid him in his career as a welder. Since his participation in the program, Tippet has shown his work at the Momentary and was one of the featured Learn designers in the evening’s program. 

“One day it just dawned on me,” Tippet said. “I had this revelation that sewing and welding seem very different because the mediums are so different, but the genus is identical in that you lay this stuff out and attach it with a machine and make it one piece.”

The evening concluded with a collection from Project Runway alumnus Viktor Luna, whose work has been featured in New York Fashion Week, Elle Magazine and French Vogue.

The collection incorporated unique fabrics and structural elements into traditional men’s formal wear, staying true to Luna’s signature punk rock aesthetic. Luna’s bold take on menswear earned a standing ovation from the audience before the show’s opening night came to an end.

Fashion week sponsors returned to the stage to close out the show, encouraging the audience to share their favorite looks of the evening under the hashtag #Returntoform. The show closed March 30 and featured work from even more local artists and award-winning designers, centered around the themes of creativity and industry.