It all sounded so good: “Official Las Vegas Fashion Week is a 6-7 day International Fashion showcase event featuring the collections of local, national and International Designers and students. This event gives new and emerging talent the opportunity to feature their lines in front of world known buyers, VIP’s, high end retailers, and major media.” Media reports written from press releases painted a picture of a huge event in grand venues, accessible to the public, and providing great exposure to designers and their models:
“With everything from nightly runway shows featuring the work of 40-plus local, national and international designers, and Downtown cocktail parties in various locations, Fashion Week celebrates Sin City’s stylish side May 14-21 with events in and around the World Market Center.”
The event business proposal, sent in March, 2012 by event director Jenn Nichols Strom, promised “Exclusive runway shows every night for six nights, Hosted at the famous World Market Center, a beautiful and chic downtown venue” with each of the final two days having 3,000 attendees. As late as a few days before the show the event director was telling designers, “There will Only be select high end individuals attending this event such as Barneys, Nordstrom, Zappos, Saks Fifth Avenue, local boutiques, as well as local, national and global press.”
What actually happened was quite different. The promised “40-plus” designers became less than 10. Six shows at the World Market Center in front of thousands of people became a single show in a suite at the Palms Hotel, for a crowd estimated at 30-40 people, who all seemed to be facebook friends of Jen Strom. The designers say the location for the show was not given to them until that very morning – a day after the show was supposed to have taken place – and it seems buyers and press who had requested to attend were not notified at all. Despite the promises of buyers from major retail outlets and an array of national and international press coverage, no designer or model interviewed for this article said they recognized any store buyers or were contacted by any; there was no “after party” known to them, and apparently the only member of the press present was a writer for a local Las Vegas entertainment magazine. There may have been a house photographer for the event, but most of the designers indicate that they did not receive any photos from him after the show.
The local writer who attended seemed kind in her assessment, in an article that started off, “Fashion Week got off to a rocky start. First there was the ever-changing schedule and website; then the switch from open to the public to ‘invite only’; and most events shifting from the World Market Center to what Director Jenifer Strom described as ‘a private penthouse near the Strip.’”
Needless to say, there was a good deal of dissatisfaction from designers who had paid a lot of money to be at the show, and who said they had been promised something very different from what they actually received. One designer was quite clear in her opinion: “Absolutely without a doubt the most incompetent, delusional and disorganized ‘Show’ I have participated in to date. I would not participate again unless I was offered ‘free participation’ and it was under a completely different management.”
How such bright promise came to that is difficult to pin down, and the answers remain somewhat murky even after weeks of research and interviews. However, it does seem possible to reconstruct at least some of the processes, expectations and events that contributed to what happened. Those will be the subject of subsequent articles.
OLVFW director Jenn Nichols Strom was contacted about this article, but did not respond.