Nova Scotia is known for its beautiful scenery, amazing beaches, succulent seafood and fantastic festivals. However, since 2008 for a few days in late summer, early fall Halifax becomes the epicenter for East Coast Fashion with regional designers engaging with those in the fashion industry and having the opportunity to showcase their designs with the rest of the nation spotlighting the amazing talent we have within the East Coast Fashion Industry. We chat with Angela Campagnoni, Founder and Executive Director of Atlantic Fashion Week about how her career as a model at fourteen has transitioned her into the successful executive director of AFW and how the event provides an innovative stage for designers of various calibers to showcase their collections to a diverse audience of fashion industry connoisseurs and professionals.
The days are still warm, but the nights are starting to cool off, but for Angela Campagnoni things are just starting to heat up as she gets ready for season thirteen of Atlantic Fashion Week. AFW started as a concept in 2007 after Campagnoni purchased a modelling agency in Halifax called City Models, but you have to go back to when she was fourteen and came into the fashion industry as a runway model that her passion for the fashion industry began. From her experience as a model, Campagnoni’s interest and passion continued to grow for the industry, seeing her go and graduate from Dalhousie University’s Costume Design Program in the nineties. From there she continued to evolve her fashion experience whether it was her own business or with local clothing manufacturers as a designer or product engineer expanding her understanding and knowledge of the industry. Then in 2007, when she purchased City Models and was still working as a designer in the industry, she had the idea that she wanted to combine all of her experiences to elevate the fashion industry on the East Coast. Campagnoni says, “I had the crazy idea, now I have models, I have all this fashion experience, I know what it is like to be a designer, plus start and grow a business in the fashion industry. So, I said what can I do with all this and my answer was, we (Halifax) need a fashion week.” She was not sure how many designers there were locally or if they would get involved but she knew there was going to be a fashion week and she was on a mission to take the East Coast fashion industry to the next level and offer a venue for which local designers could spotlight their work and their industry.
Campagnoni, who is a self-proclaimed big picture thinker, by that we mean that she puts the cart before the horse. So, when she got the idea for AFW, first she created her pitch for the event, then went out and secured sponsors. “Businesses were looking for something different to get involved with, they came on board with the concept and wanted to be involved, now I just had to come up with the designers.” She goes on to say, “Looking back at it now, wow, I really did that backwards, I should have come up with a business plan of how we were going to do this, but I just jumped in with both feet and didn’t worry about the fine details as that is what stops people from moving forward with the ideas that they have because they get bogged down in the fine details, then they start to second guess themselves and then they walk away from it, my vision was what AFW would look like after five years and how it would help local designers and the East Coast fashion industry get exposure. I was not focused on how hard we would have to work in the first few years to get it there, I just wanted it to happen.”
In 2014 Campagnoni sold her modelling business and put her focus entirely on AFW and her husband’s growing fashion brokerage business. This new focus helped Campagnoni make changes to the event each year to keep the event fresh and exciting. Some aspects get expanded year to year as others are scaled back a little with the intension to make the event more inclusive while keeping true to her vision to put the East Coast Fashion Industry in the spotlight. “People always ask me, ‘why do you still do this’ and I say it is a little bit of crazy and a little bit of passion and I think in the fashion industry you need a good combination of both,” says Campagnoni.
Combination seems like a good word to use for AFW, as each night has young designers just graduating along with up and coming designers paired up with established designers, this creates excitement for both the designers and for those attending the events as they are going to see everything merged together, which gives them exposure to designers that they might not have heard of, and then they walk away after the show wanting their clothing and a new fan of their designs and a customer of the brand. Which is what the event is all about, building and growing the industry.
This year’s opening night will have the Halifax Shopping Centre partnering up with AFW, in a new way as they will be the host of the event that will take place under the skydome area to spotlight the amazing renovations that have been completed at the centre. This event will have seating for 150 to 200 people and will be an all ages events which is something new for AFW as most events in the past have been nineteen plus events. It will also see both ticketed and free seating offering the opportunity for everyone to be part of this amazing week with a more casual vibe, but still giving attendees a full-on production.
AFW partners with designers to offer full-on runway experience, with exposure to buyers and customers in the industry to showcase the amazing designer talent that is here on the East Coast. AFW offers these designers the opportunity to be part of a successful industry production that can get a buzz going around about their designs and brand which can launch their careers to the next level.
For designers looking to get involved with AFW, there is an application process. Usually four months before AFW there is an online application where designers can go online and apply to be part of AFW. Once the application deadline closes, they are reviewed by an independent jury and not selected by Campagnoni herself as part of the selection process for designers to be part of AFW which includes designers at all levels ready to showcase. Campagnoni focuses her attention on pairing the designers together to give the best showing for each event for AFW so that it truly does offer something for all ages and sizes for attendees.
Campagnoni’s mission is to remain committed to supporting the budding and well-known fashion designers in Atlantic Canada as well as the rest of Canada. Her vision to honor the evolving artists of the East Coast and to display their brilliant creations for everyone to appreciate and offer them additional training and skills to help them build their business and brands comes out when speaking with her.
As Campagnoni says, “Fashion is what you want to make it.” This year’s AFW is all about inclusivity on and off the runway and getting people involved in fashion and will showcase 25 designers at events throughout Halifax. To learn more about the event or to get tickets for AFW you can go to their website at atlanticfashionweek.com
by Jamie Barrie