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Philly Fashion Week starts soon in the new Fashion District. Here’s what you need to know. | Elizabeth Wellington

We talked with the founders about the ups and downs and how they have emerged as the leaders of the city's largest fashion event.

Kevin Parker, left, and Kerry Scott pose for a portrait outside of the Fashion District in Center City, Philadelphia on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. Parker and Scott founded Philadelphia Fashion Week.
Kevin Parker, left, and Kerry Scott pose for a portrait outside of the Fashion District in Center City, Philadelphia on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. Parker and Scott founded Philadelphia Fashion Week.Read moreHEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer

When Kevin Parker and Kerry Scott produced the first Philly Fashion Week 14 years ago, it was simply two nights of runway shows.

My, how the duo has stepped things up.

The 2019 Philly Fashion Week will run six days, Sept. 23 through 28. There will be 14 runway shows and events featuring more than 50 designers. And talk about prime showcase space: All the runway presentations, cocktail parties, and shopping events will happen in and around the brand-new Fashion District.

I call that winning.

“We are so excited about the new space," says Parker, who expects attendance to top 1,000. “I mean, I’m from Philly, and our main fashion shows Friday and Saturday night are in the old Strawbridge’s building!”

“This is probably our biggest and best season ever,” Parker says. He was just 19 when he teamed up with Scott in 2006 to host the city’s first Fashion Week. Now 33, Parker has parlayed his PFW cachet into work as a stylist, with stints at Harper’s Bazaar and Esquire. He’s a fashion superstar in his uber-wide, hot-red fedora/cowboy hat hybrid by Runnemede-based designer, J.Pratt of J.Pratt Boutique.

“We wanted to create a whole new fashion experience,” one that brings home the idea that fashion is for everyone, chimes in Scott, now 36, a consultant for emerging local brands.

This year’s Fashion Week reflects what’s going on in the world of high fashion. The focus has shifted from hemlines to personal narrative, a tone set by emerging designers, especially those like Pyer Moss and Prabul Gurung. Philadelphia Fashion Week also provides a real-life platform for local designers like Conrad Booker, Prajje Oscar, and Mind of Cool Rumors to tell their stories outside of their robust social media presences.

“This year’s show will have so many designers that are popping here, nationally, and internationally,” says Parker. “Brands like Humberto Peñaloza and Moses King are based in New York. Godwin Green is coming all the way from Nigeria, and GH Luxury Lingerie will be here from London.”

Most festivities, like Tuesday’s PFW Trend Show and Wednesday’s NextUp Student Designer Showcase, are free and open to the public. Only one of the soirees — the official opening-night networking party on Monday, Sept. 23 — is invitation-only, strictly for fashion insiders. The end-of-the-week shows promise to be the most fashion-forward, including Thursday’s Luxe Streetwear show, Friday’s runway show, and the Lov’n My Curves Plus Size show on Saturday.

Here’s everything else you need to know about Fashion Week, according to the founders themselves.

What do you want people to know about this year’s PFW festivities?

Kevin Parker: Up until now, our main runway shows have been multi-designer showcases. For example, on Friday night we will feature 13 designers, and on Saturday there will be 15. This year, however, we will have individual designer shows, as in one designer per runway. We are really excited about that, starting with two Philadelphia-based designers: Jenny Lee Maas at 1 p.m. and Victoria Wright at 4 p.m. Also on Saturday we are hosting our third plus-size fashion show with Lov’n My Curves. That’s a partnership we have with Dr. Marquita Williams. We will be showing plus-size for men and women looks on Saturday at noon.

Kerry Scott: We also have a partnership with Hard Rock Cafe, who will be bringing down a chef from New York to cater our Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday events. They will also have a booth set up selling fashions of their own. We really improved our production, too, with LED screens. Mannequins will be dressed in couture garments. And photographer Ricky Codio will be there taking photos of our guests for more than just a step and repeat.

Kevin Parker: Oh, and Fern Mallis [who spearheaded the consolidation of New York Fashion Week to under the Bryant Park Tents in the 1990s] will be here for the Friday and Saturday night shows. The winners from Tuesday’s student showcase will have a chance to meet with her to get invaluable advice about their brand.

That’s impressive. What you are doing really proves the growing importance of regional fashion weeks to the industry.

Kevin Parker: Yes. Regional shows like ours give local designers the space to create their own lanes. I think designers are realizing they have to be a step above everyone else. It’s not about following trends, it’s about being different. We have amazing designers from Philly who have walked our runways like [the brand] Jeantrix, who has designed clothes for [Beyonce’s daughter] Blue Ivy, to ThesePinkLips, who has dressed Mary J. Blige for her tour. Consumers want to be engaged. They’d rather support a person instead of the button-up.

You all have really done a good job including the element of shopping at Philly Fashion Week. Does your audience want to buy what they see on the runway?

Kevin Parker: Absolutely. That’s why we are super-excited about the Luxe Streetwear Show. Each designer will create their own booth, like you would see in a trade show and people will be able to shop the collections.

Kerry Scott: And for our Friday and Saturday night shows, people will be able to shop the designers’ collections for the hour before the show starts and an hour after the presentations ends.

What’s next for PFW?

Kevin Parker: We will start taking applications for our next Philadelphia Fashion Week in February. We have a design collection committee that consists of [designer and retailer] Angela Edmonds, [former model, special event producer, and rapper Eve’s mom] Julie Wilch, and Rachel [Ford] from Made Institute.

Kerry Scott: We are also opening our own public relations and marketing firm, PFW PR and Events, in the fall. We’ve been able to teach ourselves every aspect of the business ... to create a sustainable brand that really elevates Philly fashion.