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Inside New Orleans Fashion Week

The New Orleans Museum of Art (Photo: Kelsey Campion)

In a city that’s been in existence for three centuries, new traditions aren’t commonplace. Nonetheless, New Orleans Fashion Week, in less than a decade, has become a ritual for local fashion aficionados in its own right.

NOFW8 takes place March 18-24, 2018 with a series of runway shows featuring designers from the southern region, which includes the popular ‘Top Design Competition’ and a celebration of New Orleans fashion over three centuries. Also, on the event schedule is a Fashion career day, vendor shopping, industry networking opportunities, and people watching; all happening at some of the city’s most popular venues.

NOMA’s A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes exhibit (Photo: Kelsey Campion)

Things kick off at the New Orleans Museum of Art’s Stern Auditorium with Let’s Talk Fashion—a panel discussion, in which industry experts will share their professional journey, talk about the state of southern fashion, and give their perspective on the NOMA’s incredible fashion exhibit A Queen Within Exhibit: Adorned Archetypes, in which experimental gowns, headpieces, and jewelry by avant-garde fashion designers such as Alexander McQueen, Gucci, and Iris van Herpen are presented. This talk is free and takes place at 3 p.m on Sunday, March 18.

The collaboration with NOMA was quite the compliment for FWNO and event founder, Tracee Dundas. “I’m so excited that NOMA invited to do us an event with them, supporting their fashion exhibit that just opened. Getting a call from an institution like NOMA, and for them to recognize NOFW and help share their exhibit is such an honor,” Dundas says.

NOPSI Hotel’s rooftop hot spot, Above the Grid, will host the official kickoff party on Sunday, March 18 at 7 p.m.

As the catalyst and driving force that has propelled the local fashion industry, Fashion Week New Orleans has  become a staple fashion even in the South, showcasing area designers, stylists, models, and makeup artists.

The New Orleans Museum of Art is home to many New Orleans Fashion Week events this year (Photo: Kelsey Campion)

In the face of the success, Dundas remains humble. “I’m still in awe—it’s still new to me and I’m always a little nervous,” she says.

Now in its eighth year, Dundas says it feels like New Orleans Fashion Week has been running much longer than that, as the work and preparation is year-long. “I literally live, eat, and breathe fashion,” she says. “I’m always scouting; at events—on Instagram. I’m coming across designers; introducing myself and saying, ‘You know, you should come and show your work at New Orleans Fashion Week.’”

Amaya Cannon, a NOCCA/Warren Easton charter school student, is one of the 10 standout designers who’ll showcase collections at the much-anticipated Top Design Competition, which takes place on March 22 at the Monastery. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

“She is so talented. Last year she attended career day and was determined to show her designs on the runway,” Dundas shares. “The TDC has really become a signature event for us. People get really excited to support the visions of these young emerging designers.”

Along with Cannon, 2018 Top Design Competitors include Jeanne-Claire Benton, Jacob Burkett, Jarithza Kassandra Carlson, Courtney Childs, Candis Cullison, Nadine Hancock, Victoria Elizabeth Henley, Jarred Henry, and Jada Elizabeth Hunger.

A bridal show at New Orleans Fashion Week (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

Celebrity stylist Law Roche, known by many as a judge on American’s Next Top Model and for dressing several stars on the red carpet for the Oscars, is confirmed as a guest judge for the Top Design Competition. He’ll also be a guest speaker at Fashion Career Day, happening all day at NOMA on March 23.

In addition to the Top Design Competitors, over 20 designers will be showcased during the week. In that group is Nina Santa Marina; whose Nina’s Angels line returns for the second year.

“My theme this year is Marie Antoinette; I’m creating a lingerie line starting from 1793, and I’m going to bring it all the way to 2018,” she says. “So, you will see a couple of my popular feathered headpieces and wings. You’ll see knickers on the runway, bra/panty sets, bustiers, and eight wigs inspired by Marie Antionette, coinciding with the design worn by the model.” Santa Marina partnered with Maison de Cheveu who created the wigs.

The Monastery on N. Rampart will be the backdrop for all NOFW runway shows this year.

“It’s a very interesting venue,” Dundas says.  “This year, the show will actually rotate into three rooms, and the guests will fill the space throughout. Models will walk into each room, then into the chapel and onto the actual runway. We’ve been rehearsing and it’s looking good.”

New Orleans Fashion Week (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

The future also looks good for New Orleans Fashion Week, as the excess of local talent has exceeded Dundas’ initial expectations.

“When I first started out, one of my concerns was if there would be enough designers,” she says.  “I knew we could do it the first year, but what happens the next year? Could we sustain it? It’s been amazing not only to see designers come out and build a collection and show with us, but it’s also really exciting to see how many people are building their careers in fashion as models and photographers—hair stylists and make-up artists, all deciding to test the waters,” Dundas says. A former NOFW model went on to work in Milan and three designers were cast on the hit design series Project Runway.

“With the platform we’ve built, we’re helping to navigate different careers and helping people realize they can take that leap,” she says. “Who knows where they’ll land.”

For New Orleans Fashion Week 8’s complete schedule, ticket information and more, visit

Kelly Dorsey-Parker is a native New Orleanian and proud Gentilly girl who loves writing about the wonderful people and places in the city. She’s written for publications such as the Louisiana Weekly, NOLADefender, New Orleans Magazine and the Lake Charles American Press. She is currently working on a book project, celebrating a subject dear to her heart: New Orleans Black Carnival Queens. Along with writing, she loves nothing more than fashion, football, Mardi Gras and people watching (in that order), and she’s never met a brunch she didn’t love. Want proof? Follow her adventures on Instagram @kellyparkerwrites

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