Missouri doesn’t typically top many lists for major fashion hubs.

Missouri doesn’t typically top many lists for major fashion hubs. Paris, Milan, London, New York … somehow, this region gets overlooked.

And yet, fashion has been an important part of the state’s history. The lucrative fur trade played a major role in the founding of St. Louis in the 1800s, and both St. Louis and Kansas City once had thriving garment districts — think textile mills and shoe factories — up until the 1960s.


“Over the decades, we’ve grown away from that,” said Cillah Hall, publisher of Gazelle STL, a glossy lifestyle magazine in St. Louis.

Still, she said, there is a strong creative current.

“A lot of designers are graduating from Missouri universities,” Hall said.

To recognize the design talent in the state, she and Kristy Lee, an adjunct fashion marketing professor at the Art Institute of St. Louis and fashion editor at Gazelle STL, started Missouri Style Week.
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“We wanted an avenue that gives designers the opportunity to show their work and make connections that help them with their careers,” Hall said.

Missouri Style Week initially was called Missouri Fashion Week. Its first runway shows, held in 2013 in St. Louis, featured collections from 20 designers — most of them from Missouri. About 500 people attended the shows, which were spread out between Friday and Saturday dates.

Building on that success, Hall and Lee produced a second event in 2014, this time renaming it Missouri Style Week so as not to create fear of confusion with St. Louis Fashion Week, a retail-focused show that creates a stage for designers from other parts of the country who are reaching out to customers in the Midwest.

And now Missouri Style Week is expanding to include more designers and reach more viewers.

Last spring, Hall and Lee were invited to participate on the Stephens College School of Design and Fashion’s Jury of Selections, during which a panel of fashion industry experts, including designers, merchandisers and editors, reviews each garment constructed by fashion design students and selects the best to appear in the department’s annual fashion show.

Hall and Lee were impressed. The experience opened their eyes not only to Stephens’ fashion program, but to Columbia as a whole.

“We literally just said, ‘You know what? This is the reason we do Missouri Style Week,’ ” Hall said.

And so just three months away from their third series of runway shows, they decided to add a third evening in Columbia.

The show in Columbia will be held Wednesday at the Plaza Event Center at Parkade Center.

A preshow featuring ensembles from two local boutiques, Swank and Muse, will kick things off.

Anna Coleman, manager at Muse, said the event offers an opportunity to show off the shop’s fall looks.

“Muse has done a few fashion shows in the past, and they are always a really fun way to reach out to the community so we were really excited to be a part of Missouri Style Week’s show,” Coleman said.

The idea of community is integral to the event. Hall described a give-and-take between the designers and attendees. On the one hand, seeing new work can be exciting for fashion fans.

“It’s kind of like going to the movies. You’re not necessarily a movie producer, but you enjoy the art of it. It’s the same thing with fashion. You can shop or you can celebrate it,” Hall said.

And providing this excitement is rewarding for the designers.

“They have a lot of down times where they are doubting themselves. When you have an event like Missouri Style Week, it helps get them going,” Hall said.

The designer lineup that evening is Nasheli Juliana, a professor at Lindenwood University’s fashion design program who also has worked for such well-known names as Donna Karan and Oscar de la Renta; Kara Henry, a 2015 Stephens College graduate; Kechena Richardson, a Kansas City-based designer; Jaer Caban, a Puerto Rican designer who will be showing an entirely different collection in St. Louis later in the week; and Richard Cotto, a student at Lindenwood University and who also will be showing a different collection in St. Louis.

Hall said some of the designers will present ready-to-wear collections, but that many will be more conceptual in nature.

“Generally, the designers that are attracted to us are more excited about the more couture, avant-garde looks. Those are the designs that inspire,” Hall said.

While some might question the value in presenting garments for which a person would be hard-pressed to find occasion to wear it, Hall said these are the designs that inspire new fashions.

“Out of every avant-garde garment, something fresh gets created. It’s inspirational. Nobody wants to go to a fashion show and see something that they’ll see on the rack at a store,” Hall said.

After Wednesday’s runway show, the event moves back to St. Louis where it will resume with a couture show Friday and a conceptual show on Saturday.

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