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Fargo Fashion Week: Local designers and boutiques storm the runway

On August 19, Project Fargo Fashion Week – an affiliated contest – showcased designs by local designers. Photo by Marisa Jackels / Special to The Forum1 / 2
One of four designers who participated in Project Fargo Fashion Week on Aug. 19 will be announced as the grand prize winner on Sept. 5 when Fargo Fashion Week kicks off. Photo by Joshua Barduson / Special to The Forum2 / 2

FARGO — Jani Skala began sewing her own patterns at a young age. Using white fabric with small, intricate red flowers, she remembers sewing a tube top.

"The next week or something we saw on MTV that Christina Aguilera was wearing the exact same thing but in a different pattern," says the founder of Fargo Fashion Week (FFW) and owner of Jani Anni Jewelry. "I was like, 'They stole my idea!' "

Skala had always wanted to attend New York Fashion Week, but knew it was too expensive.

"She was inspired by big cities, fashion week all over the world and she asked herself, 'Does Fargo have a fashion week?'" says Kayla Cote van Rensburg, owner of Cote Creative and Dak & Co, and executive board member for Fargo Fashion Week.

"It all started in December with an idea," Cote van Rensburg says. "Then she just started developing further and got a team of wonderful ladies from all over Fargo."

What started off as an idea to do two small shows — one for fall/winter and one for spring — turned into a large event. Skala eventually partnered with Ultimate Image — a model and talent management company — to produce the event.

"It really kind of snowballed and now it's huge," Skala says of the event and 12-person executive board.

Four days of fashion

To find models for the show, the Fargo Fashion Week team hosted volunteer casting calls.

"Anybody could come. You could have experience or no experience, and we came up with models through that," Cote van Rensburg says.

As for the fashion that appears on the runway, Skala says it's a mix of designers and local or regional boutiques. As a four-day event, each night has a music influence.

"There's different days you can go and different themes for everybody to enjoy," Cote van Rensburg says.

Tuesday, Sept. 5: "Hometown Heroes"

Geared toward veterans, "Hometown Heroes" night is country-themed. St. Paul-based artist Jake Nelson will be performing.

"He just came on the radio a couple weeks ago, so he's blowing up and I'm super excited about that," Skala says.

These four Project Fargo Fashion Week contest winners debut on the runway:

  • Trai Pratt: Pratt is an art student who views fashion as art and creates avant-garde dresses.
  • Emily Bloom: Inspired by vintage patterns, Bloom puts a modern twist on classic looks.
  • Hope Johnson: A high school student, Johnson is inspired by vintage styles.
  • Sarah Olson: Olson's designs are inspired by all aspects of life, reflecting on the contrast between day and night.

"He or she will win $500 to hopefully continue making some awesome stuff," Skala says.

Local and regional designers as well as boutiques will showcase clothing on the FFW runway. Photo courtesy Joshua Barduson

Wednesday, Sept. 6: Urban Chic RAW

Wednesday is for adults, containing music not appropriate for children.

"I put 'raw' on there and made a little video that said 'explicit content.' I really want it to be the urban part of Fargo, and I don't want any filters on there," Skala says.

O Tha Don will be performing with the runway looks inspired by hip hop.

"We have some designers coming in from Minneapolis as well," Skala says. "LaShonda Malone is one of them. She does awesome stuff. I love the fashion you don't normally see around here."

Zero Gravity — specializing in pole and aerial fitness— will perform a show for VIP guests from 5 to 5:30 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 7: Retro Pop

"Thursday is Retro Pop — all the N'Sync fans can come out with pop from the '80s and '90s," Cote van Rensburg says.

Several local boutiques with share the runway with girls who signed up for Rachel Stone's Fashion Girls Club.

Friday, Sept. 8: House of Rock

"This will be kind of our finale night," Cote van Rensburg says. "It's a rock-n-roll theme. Our looks will be kind of edgy and fun."

Fargo Fashion Week's Woman of the Year award will also be announced that evening and Zero Gravity with perform another show for VIP.

Because several board members have close family and friends who have served, partial profits from Fargo Fashion Week will go to the nonprofit organization, American Heroes Outdoors.

"This year I chose American Heroes Outdoors because of what they do," Skala says. "They bring veterans out into nature and I think that's huge, especially because I have PTSD myself. Being in tune with nature is huge when you have anxiety issues and stuff like that."

Skala herself is a veteran.

"I was in the active Army for six years. I was overseas twice — so I've been to Afghanistan and Iraq. I have chronic PTSD so I deal with that," she says. "I want to inspire people, if possible."

Though both Cote van Rensburg and Skala say it's almost impossible to choose which component of Fargo Fashion Week they're most looking forward to, both agree the event is necessary.

"I really think Fargo needs this," Skala says. "We have a lot of bridal shows and what not but we don't have fashion shows. We need to bring more fashion into Fargo."

Planning for FFW has been happening for months. Photo courtesy Joshua Barduson / Special to The Forum

Girls Fashion Club

To inspire young girls, Fargo Fashion Week partnered with Rachel Stone, a FFW executive board member and owner of P's & Q's Etiquette — an organization that empowers young girls — to create the F.F.W. Fashion Club.

"The program teaches girls to have confidence and independence," Cote van Rensburg says. "It also includes bits on nutrition, exercise, beauty and table etiquette."

Participating girls will ride in a limo to the show, receive a backstage tour and get their hair and makeup done before strutting down the runway, wearing their creations.

"What (Rachel) does is really amazing," Skala says. "I wish I would have had a program like that when I was younger."

Woman of the Year

Nominations have been open, so the Fargo Fashion Week's Woman of the Year will be announced on Friday night and awarded $5,000 to spend at participating businesses.

"There are so many women out there who are underprivileged and have worked through life's trials and tribulations and found strength through that," Cote van Rensburg says.

From the very beginning, this contest has been Skala's pet project.

"It's really out there to inspire women," she says. "I come from a very poor family. My mother has alcohol issues, and I have PTSD from the military but I keep on pushing. I want to inspire women like me — who have been through trials and tribulations — to keep pushing and know that someone cares."

If You Go

What: Fargo Fashion Week

When: 6 to 9 p.m. Sept. 5-8 with VIP early admission at 5 p.m. (Friday's show runs until 10 p.m.)

Where: Avalon Events Center, 2525 Ninth Ave. S., Fargo

Info: Tickets are $10 online (or $20 at the door) for general admission, $30 for VIP, $70 for Ultimate VIP and $100 for VIP Week Pass. For more information, visit fargofashionweek.com or email fargofashionweek@gmail.com.

Alexandra Floersch

Alexandra Floersch has worked for Forum Communications since February 2015. She is a content producer and photographer who enjoys writing about finance, fashion and home.

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