Central Ohio has long been a hub for fashion design, but starting a business is a challenge for local and independent designers. Apparel companies such as Express, Abercrombie & Fitch, Lane Bryant and Victoria’s Secret act as a double-edged sword, strengthening the industry and offering stability to budding designers while curbing their more avant-garde inclinations.
It’s not easy for a stylist to go their own way under the looming spectrum of big-box retailers, but the city’s indie fashion creatives are enjoying growing success, thanks in part to the support of local organizations such as the Columbus Fashion Council and Columbus Fashion Alliance. as well as an audience full of pride for the hometown.
Central Ohio’s creative class took great pride in 2016, when the New York Fashion Times designated the city as a fashion hub, based on employment reports that Central Ohio has hosted more designers than any other. cities outside of New York and Los Angeles.
Recent events have created much more space for smaller designers to thrive, and social media provides an ideal platform to promote themselves. Plus, the ease of setting up online stores like those offered by Amazon and others gives designers the tools they need to launch their brands. Increased isolation and polarization may have made consumers eager for uncompromising self-expression and abandoning old norms.
Whether you’re looking for escapism or pure authenticity this season, Central Ohio’s fashion scene is the place to be. Read on to discover some of the boldest looks from local fashion visionaries.
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The Princess’s Dream
Kids often daydream about entering the world of their favorite story, but Esther Sands says she wants her role models to give everyone the opportunity to see themselves as the hero (or villain) of their own fantasy story.
“We all grew up thinking, ‘I want to be a prince. I want to be a princess. I want to be a warrior. I want to be the bad guy, ‘”she says. “So why don’t we heal our inner children? I want to celebrate it “.
During her childhood in Ghana, she says, she was inspired by the dramatic plots and striking visuals of soap operas and cartoons, but the characters rarely resembled her or reflected her culture. Sands’s design here comes from her collection “Borowed: An African Fairytale”, which blends cultural elements from around the world to show that fantasy doesn’t have to fit in a Eurocentric box. Incorporating striking African motifs and East Asian garments, she says she wants to demonstrate that there are lifestyles all over the world worth fantasizing about.
Hair: Sands (the designer)
Template: Rebecca Abau
Position: Walkway of the Hilton Columbus on High Street
Respond to the riots
When it comes to authentic living, Tracy Powell isn’t just about small talk. Powell worked in the real estate industry until 2015, when she decided to go back to school at Columbus College of Art & Design at the age of 43 to pursue her lifelong interest in fashion. Growing up, Powell says she has always been fascinated by comics and novels, and that touch of fantasy inspiration is evident in much of her work.
The models shown here are part of his “Blameless” collection, a line he conceptualized in response to growing civil unrest over racial inequality. The look represents a departure from the more elaborate work she has posted in the past. “I just wanted to make everything so clean,” Powell says. “Even though it feels softer, the design is still edgy, so I had to find that mix.”
Striking silhouettes and gold-accented jewels are a reminder that the name of the game is bold, even when presented in white. Powell says fashion should serve as a form of uncompromising self-expression, whether it’s on the runway, around town, or just a trip to the supermarket.
Hair: Hair architecture brand
Models: Michele Weaver (left) and Chyna Tene
Position: Foundry of Ideas, Franklinton
Gerardo Encinas is certainly no stranger to overcoming limits; he has designed several dresses for famous Columbus drag queen Nina West, and his self-taught fashion styles have made him a mainstay of Columbus Fashion Week. Perhaps his boldest undertaking, however, is to create high fashion for men that is more than just a fashion show.
Women’s clothing has always been a focal point for fashion design, giving women a myriad of options when they want to make a statement while leaving men with a limited selection. Although his recently opened boutique, Encinas Designs, features many of the eye-catching feminine looks he is known for, Encinas has chosen to show her masculine side for this photo shoot. The designs, which he believes are unisex, feature floral motifs and elegant materials while displaying the distinct cultural influence of Encinas’ native Mexico.
Moreover:The new Downtown boutique by designer Gerardo Encinas
Models: Matvey Besperstov (left) and Luis Giudice
Position: Columbus Commons parking and walkway
As a conduit for personal expression, fashion can provide the armor a person needs to withstand everyday life. So why not go out in sparkly chain mail?
White Canvas Designs is the collective project of sisters Darsy Amaya and Heidy Amaya-Pena with their mother, Maritza Motino. From Amaya’s vision, they create metal jewelry and garments intended to align one’s appearance with mind and spirit. Originally an extension of Amaya’s reiki practice, her designs incorporate crystals and color effects to fill the wearer with inner peace and positivity.
The designs pictured are from their “Body & Soul” body jewelry collection. Amaya says heavy metal clothing is meant to project power while leaving the wearer exposed and vulnerable. While they may not be practical for everyday wear, she says it’s more important to create something with deep impact rather than broad appeal.
For those who aren’t put off by boldness and revelation, Amaya says she’s developing more manageable pieces to pair with her larger pieces.
Template: Meghan Weinle
Position: Sherrie Gallery in the Short North (White Canvas will have an exhibition at Sherrie Gallery during Short North Gallery Hop on May 7.)
This story is from the April 2022 issue of Columbus monthly.