Runway Tulsa & Oklahoma Fashion Initiative

Initiative is defined as inventiveness, imagination, ingenuity, creativity, enterprise, drive, dynamism, imagination, motivation, spirit, energy and VISION.

I attended a press conference for Runway Tulsa which released their 2017 event dates and explained its role with the Oklahoma Fashion Initiative.  My friend, Wade Bray; the creative director of Runway Tulsa, invited me to the event. I was instantly welcomed by so many bright staff members of this think tank. Tina Terry, program director spoke to me about the OFI- Oklahoma Fashion Initiative and last year’s OKC Fashion Week. This year, being the second year of OKC Fashion Week, spurred Runway Tulsa to turn it “into their own” with their own yearly events. Tina’s experience in event planning with SRO Productions and her  background in arts management seems to give her the confidence conveyed in directing this vision. 

Fair Fellow Coffee was the perfect space and backdrop for this event with its high contrast of black and white motif. As soon as I walked in, the sign Fashion and Coffee set the tone for two of my favorite things! I set up my “perch” for recording and blogging for this event and got my most important tool to start off with—cappucino, of course. After running into a college friend and asking Wade a few questions, I observed the energy of the environment. The verve of the guests and the space was not my typical Sunday afternoon. Something was a-buzz. (Maybe it was being so close to the Beehive Lounge, next door.)  The smell of coffee beans mixed in with chicly-clad guests and their creative spirit in the contrast of Fair Fellow Coffee ushered in the climate of this press conference. First, I asked Wade to tell me about the Oklahoma Fashion Initiative. He summarized that this is the first public intro into OFI’s larger goal. Jon Terry, producer, introduced Chera Kimiko, who emceed the event and named the sponsors. The proceeds go to benefit Martha’s Foundation which helps pregnant teens.The 2017 important dates to note for Runway Tulsa are:

Saturday, June 3, 2017 (10 a.m-1 p.m.) Runway Tulsa Model Call at Fly Loft- 117 N. Boston Ave.

Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017 Kick Off Event and Emerging Talent Runway Show– Lexus of Tulsa Showroom- 4210 S. Memorial Drive (invitation only VIP event)

Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017 Fashion in the Square– Utica Square-1709 Utica Square (free event open to the public)

Friday, Sept. 29, 2017 Runway Show Benefitting Martha’s Foundation– Cox Business Center Assembly Hall-100 Civic Center (ticketed runway show)

Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 Runway Finale– Cox Business Center Assembly Hall-100 Civic Center

The finale will feature several designers, some of which are Nigerian-born, Canadian transplant Ese’ Azenabor, Tulsa’s Nikki Warren and current New York Fashion Institute of Technology student, Raul Flores. You may know Nikki Warren through her Mocha Butterly store and line.

The website includes good background info on the goals and mission of Runway Tulsa. “….Our long-term goals include building new industry in Tulsa, expanding the artistic scope of our city, supporting and increasing the fashion retail sector and mentoring and aiding our young talent in the fashion realm.”- Jon Terry, producer (from Runway Tulsa website).

(from Runway Tulsa website:) MISSION STATEMENT: “Promote and sustain Tulsa’s Fashion Industry by producing signature events that showcase local talent and collaborate with community partners to identify resources and opportunities that enable participants to shape their passions into a professional career.”

Along with learning all the paradigm and dates, I took in the ambience of the crowd. Look at this 3 year old boy with a cardigan and ripped jeans. He was the barista’s son, of course, and very fashion-forward.

Regarding the paradigm, I learned that Runway Tulsa is the face of the OFI which is a larger, ambitious program that they’re working on. It basically covers 3 areas:

  • Runway Tulsa events
  • Education Programs
  • Economic Development

Wade succinctly covered the three areas without over saturating us with jargon and info. I am most excited about the education programs and something he specifically said. “Part of the mission is to make fashion more accessible; less intimidating.” He went on to explain that fashion doesn’t have to be super high-end/coutre. There will be a monthly showcase they do in different locations including filmmakers, fashion designers, spoken word poets, etc…

The education program was initially for college level and high school students but they eventually want it to funnel down to elementary kids so they can foster that interest in fashion to a younger age through mentorships, etc. (That peaked my curiosity as an educator/psychometrist). I think it’s bold and smart to tap into that age group.  I also learned that the education programs will include design, merchandising, graphic design, photography, marketing, event planning ….(all of that falls into this realm.)

They’ve formed a partnership with OSU in this education area as well as Central High School’s fashion program, Clary Sage, UCO, OU and McClain High School.  Also, out of state schools like Baylor, George Washington in St. Louis and Syracuse have expressed interest , etc. (There’s a tiered scholarship program, too.) The goal is to take them from teen level to push them through all the way to designer.

He explained the economic logistics and stumbling blocks for the young designers starting out. It was definitely enlightening. 

When he and I chatted about this future fashion district idea, I mused to him about what undeveloped pocket of downtown might be a good area for this. I compared it to the districts of other big cities and why they work there. It was fun to just imagine where this could develop.

So…now that the informative details and logistics have been explained, I’ll tell you my other observations. In this climate of a mutual admiration society of creative collaborators and lovers of fashion, the following comments could be heard: “I’ve been looking for that perfect shade of purple lipstick. Where did you get it?”, “Is that coat vintage?” (ok, that was me who asked those questions) but also heard among guests was, “Hi, what’s your name?” (thrusting out their hands for a handshake). (That one was refreshing, I have to admit. It’s not commonly heard, anymore, in all circles. ) I observed a pea coat hanging perfectly from the frame of man, a boho hat and chic scarf casually decorating one of the guests, and the gravity-defying heels, white jeans with a sharp black duster on my platinum blonde friend .

The turquoise bolo on another guest drew me over to her and I discovered she has a jewelry store downtown.  These visual observations intrigued me and were certainly unique compared to the standard “uniform” of many but it was the talent and creativity in the air that was the real centerpiece of the event. I feel this vision is on the cusp of something empowering for Tulsa. We’re at a time now that our city has the landscape for this fashion district.

We have the dining, art galleries, music venues, bars, food trucks, beer fests, etc….but we don’t really have a fashion district. We pop into stores randomly situated around downtown or nearby areas but, personally, I’d love to see a blend of modern and vintage stores along a more pedestrian format. (not scattered but cohesive; where you can park and stroll.)

As I was taking it all in, hearing about sponsorships, meeting people in this creative community, etc., I was grateful for a break from a typical Sunday afternoon. Then, my phone flashed a text from my son checking to see about his ride home from track practice, and I was snapped back to reality. But then I thought—we can have both. We can have a more eclectic, bohemian environment in Tulsa mixed in with our traditional Tulsa lives and lifestyles. There are events where you don leather pants and have cocktails and there are other times you go to coffee houses for Spoken Word and Open Mic Nites and don vintage clothing items. It will be happening more and more in T-town, I think. The renaissance of downtown, in my opinion, is begging for this–the one pocket left we haven’t explored (at large). We have craft beer fests, murals, street entertainers and even a Boxyard with shipping containers turned into stores in a tiny strip mall of sorts. 

Tulsa may not have been ready for this a few years ago. There’s a statistic that there’s a certain fickle nature about new venues after about three weeks, (or so, approximately) I’ve heard. I see that changing, lately. Establishments are sticking around longer. Now, I feel our cityscape could  support a more fashion forward style. 

That’s a wrap on Fashion and Coffee. What could be a better combo on a weekend early evening?

photos by Gina is a travel/adventure blog which features destinations, interviews, cuisine, activists, enthusiasts, artists, vintage fashion and much more to showcase journeys; both geographical and personal.


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