ATLANTIC CITY — Embellished gowns, tailored suits and distressed denims were just a few of the pieces that adorned the runway this weekend at the Showboat hotel for the 20th season and 10th anniversary of Atlantic City Fashion Week.
The first of three shows A.C. Fashion Week holds a year, the six-day event was presented by KingBee Media LLC, the parent company of ACFW and fashionSTYLE Magazine, an online publication launched by Lamont Bowling and his wife, Jeana, in 2005.
“Not many fashion weeks last this long,” said Lamont Bowling, executive producer of A.C. Fashion Week. “We’re just glad to be here.”
The Bowlings are both admitted “fashionistas” and have been married for 22 years. Their love of fashion, the industry and each other led them to create A.C. Fashion Week.
This year’s Fashion Week events included virtual lecture series, runway shows, vendor exhibits, designer pop-up shops and networking opportunities.
Models from children to older adults walked the runway, exuding confidence and grace as they struck poses on the cross-shaped catwalk before hundreds of people under the circus-tent themed high-rise ceilings, crystal chandeliers and grandiose Carousel Room of the Showboat.
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“We wanted to make this year special and over the top because it’s our 10th anniversary,” said Jeana Bowling. “Every year gets better and better. There’s always room for improvement.”
This year, the fashion show offered a VIP experience, which included an exclusive lounge equipped with food, drinks and plenty of mingling space.
Other new amenities this year included a 360-degree photo booth and VIP vendors.
Jeana Bowling said Fashion Week was still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, which reduced its usual number of at least 42 vendors from years prior to half that.
Fashion Week started Monday with virtual workshops for designers and models. The designer workshop was run by Sofia Davis, editor-in-chief of Fashion Avenue News Magazine. The model workshop included a panel of professional models who shared their experiences in the industry.
Tuesday marked Fashion Week’s first show at Rowan College at Burlington County, which featured a fashion show themed to Black History Month.
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Wednesday featured a second round of virtual workshops for designers and models.
On Thursday, designers from across the region converged on the Showboat to compete for prizes including $1,000 in cash and a Brother sewing machine. Winner Marayah Roher has participated in previous A.C. Fashion Week seasons.
Amir Black, 21, a sophomore at Montclair State University who majors in fashion design, said he entered the competition for more exposure, and to win the cash prize and sewing machine.
“I’ve always wanted to have my own clothing line,” said Black, who started designing after a girl from his college asked him to make her a dress for her birthday. “After that, more people started coming up to me asking me to make them things.”
Black started his fashion brand Shameless Opinion in in 2018. His work includes urban streetwear with a Disney-inspired “fairytale” twist.
Since he started designing, Black has participated in the New York Fashion Week, has hosted his own fashion shows and hopes to dress celebrities like Zendaya one day.
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On Friday night, the line for Fashion Week stretched from the front lobby of the Carousel Room to the middle of the Lucky Snake Arcade.
Many people were dressed to the nines, while others came casually, as they waited to enter Friday’s show, which featured Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders debuting the team’s FLY Collection.
Kara Gilbert’s silver sequins could be spotted immediately as she sat in the front row with her husband, Jason, 42, daughter, Arianna, 11, and son, Jason, 9, for their first ever fashion show.
“The kids are excited to see the cheerleaders,” said Gilbert, while her son added he was just excited for the Eagles.
“This is something we don’t usually get to do,” said cheerleader Tamia Casey, 25, who said walking the runway was different than her usual “cheer walk.”
Casey has been an Eagles cheerleader for three seasons, and was one of 10 cheerleaders who modeled the FLY Collection, which also included two of the team’s male cheerleaders.
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“We’re showing the FLY gear’s versatility. It’s an everyday look you can wear all the time with secret details people would really appreciate,” said Casey as she pointed to the subtle details on her long-sleeved FLY shirt, like the coordinates to Lincoln Financial Field a shade of black just light enough to notice on her top left sleeve.
Other FLY pieces included modernized tops, monochromatic headgear, pops of color and sleek padded pants.
Devlin Parkins, 36, also showed his urban fashion brand The Kulture Collection, which he started in 2019.
“My aunt was a big seamstress, and I used to be her model,” said Parkins. “When she passed away, I felt like I had to keep it going. I’ve always had an eye for fashion, so I took a shot at it.”
Parkins was a college athlete before dropping out to pursue his fashion career. He said his inspiration comes from music, his upbringing and his struggles, which is why The Kulture Collection’s slogan is “Dream. Pray. Hu$tle.” Many artists have endorsed his brand on social media, such as rappers Rick Ross and Fetty Wap.
Saturday’s shows featured avant-garde and couture-inspired creations.
Shaco Couture Dresses started the show with at least 20 unique pieces including suits, dresses and shirts with lion, leopard, peacock and tribal designs.
Richard Q Designs showcased gowns and two-piece sets with an emphasis on different sleeve styles and fluttering pieces that flowed seamlessly down the runway.
Other designers, like Kathleen Arthur, showcased kids collections. Arthur featured black, monochromatic designs throughout his collection, playing with lace, leather, satin and all forms of black fabric and styles.
After the finale of a hectic fashion week, Jeana Bowling said she and her husband will relax Sunday before they get back to work Monday preparing for the next Fashion Week in June.
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