Cincinnati Gets Fashionable

If you ask Nathan Hurst, founder of Cincinnati Fashion Week, the origins of the event all seem so humble.
Hurst was studying nursing at Cincinnati State in June 2009 when he decided to change directions. In his free time, he was dabbling in fashion design, a fact he didn't share with many people. His designs are altered clothing: sweaters become tights, shirts become skirts, sleeves become pockets. When a friend saw the clothing, he pushed Hurst to showcase his designs on the runway and in August 2009 he had his first show at CS13. That led to two other local shows and a show in San Francisco.

"After I got back from San Francisco, Teren [Posey] said 'So what are you going to do now, big shot?' and I said 'We're going to host a fashion week,'" says Hurst.

According to Hurst, Posey didn't believe him at first. However, after some serious discussion, they began scribbling notes about their plan. From there, a Facebook fan page went live in November and now there are more than 4,500 fans. From correspondences through the Facebook page, many of the nearly 200 volunteers have been recruited, including Amy Kirchen, who is responsible for Designer Outreach.

Kirchen became a fan on Facebook and started a dialogue with Hurst after she offered her help. She attended a few meetings with the other would-be directors and was given the responsibility of recruiting designers for the show. She was expecting her second child in mid-March and says her responsibilities for fashion week keep her occupied "around the clock." However, she worked diligently to finalize the list of designers before her due date.

"I have complete confidence that this will be a success," says Kirchen. "That's why I've dedicated all my time to it."

Her first meeting with the Fashion Week team was just after the New Year and by early February she had finalized the roster of designers replete with signed contracts, pictures of the featured designs for the show and from the designer's past shows, resumes and contact information. . Kirchen is a featured designer herself and will be juggling managing the designers during the show and managing the launch of her spring collection and her label. She said she hand-picked the group of designers for the finale show that were all unique, with designs running the gambit from classy to quirky, sexy to trashy and designers flying in from as far away as Nigeria.

"I tossed and turned every night until I could get what I wanted," Kirchen says.

Kirchen feels the designers' commitment to Cincinnati Fashion Week says a lot about the validity of the show.

"These designers are trying to get their names out there and they believe Cincinnati Fashion Week will be successful and it would be worth their time to come show here," Kirchen says.

In retrospect, Hurst says he feels this way as well. His vision for the show has grown as support has increased, and Fashion Week has become a way for him and those involved to reach out to the community.

"I want to improve the quality of life in Cincinnati. It's a fashion week because that's what I like," says Hurst. "Everyone that surrounds me wants to bring that same change to Cincinnati."

Cincinnati Fashion Week has partnered with other organizations in order to achieve this end. Hurst says the event is "truly a collaborative effort."  Along with Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, a non-profit dedicated to educating individuals to be good stewards toward the environment, Cincinnati Fashion Week is promoting a city-wide clean-up day. They are also promoting a clothing drive. However, Hurst had not planned on this type of community response.

"I didn't think about the weight of it," says Hurst. "I knew I wanted to do something, I just didn't know what."

Hurst has made a full-time commitment to realize the potential of his vision, and has learned a lot from the experience already.

"How can you think about all the things you need? I didn't think about money, I didn't think about a web email address, I didn't know what an LLC was. Everyday is a crash course in something that I didn't know existed before," says Hurst.

However, many things have fallen in line. Cincinnati Fashion Week started out as just an idea between friends and has become a phenomenon, according to Hurst, not because those involved had a great deal of wealth or power, but because the community received the idea with such vehemence.

The CW is producing a commercial for the event and Kiss 107 FM is planning the after-party for the finale show, as well as featuring the event on radio programming. According to Hurst, these companies saw the popularity of the event reflected on the Facebook page and decided to sponsor the event.

Hurst's humble beginnings should be seen as an example, he says. Cincinnati has the resources to give those individuals with a good idea the outlet to realizing their potential.

"I've had to figure stuff out to make it a reality," says Hurst. "I'm just doing it. Even if you don't know what you're doing, just take a step and do it."

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Photography by Scott Beseler
Nathan Hurst's CS13 fashion show
Nathan Hurst (photo by Michael Reece)
Amy Kirchen (provided by Amy)
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