Founded in 2009 by a group that originally included fashion designer and community activist Soreyda Benedit Begley, The Lexington Fashion Collaborative was, and still is, a grassroots organization that encourages and provides opportunities for upcoming designers to showcase their creations, increases awareness, and offers education for the fashion community. The Collaborative grew out of the recognized need for a local support group as well as a space to independently develop and share unique creative ideas in a world where retail and mass production of clothing dominate the marketplace.
Designers, models, photographers, makeup artists, stylists, and other community partners came together to create the first Future of Fashion show in Lexington in May of 2009. In 2013, they decided to broaden their scope and become a statewide event, and so changed the name to Kentucky Fashion Week. And since then, until the year before COVID struck, it has been produced annually.
“Even though people don’t associate Kentucky with fashion, we have one of, if not THE major fashion events in the country, and that is, of course, the Derby,” said Edd Mackey, who has been involved with the organization since its inception, and although - he is quick to stress – he isn’t a designer, is passionate about the mission and sees himself as an incredible organizer.
Not wishing to be perceived purely as a self-serving group of fashion designers and creatives – and eager to stay relevant and connected – over the years, the Collaborative has taken on several community projects. One of these was an installation of commemorative and interactive wayfinding markers along the entire 12 miles of the Legacy Trail that provide information about the 15 winning Kentucky Derby African American jockeys. Although at first glance this project may seem disconnected from the world of fashion design, it was in fact inspired by a fashion show during a Juneteenth event at Cemetery #2 where models had portrayed these jockeys and created the segue for this Legacy Trail project. “In the long run,” said Mackey, “we realized we couldn’t just do fashion shows, that we needed to reach out and do some things that were more sustainable, that would benefit the community, but at the same time keep our focus.”
The Lexington Fashion Collaborative has provided the presenters at the Lexington Music Awards, which is now in its eighth season. These models, all members of the Collaborative, appear on stage in full-length gowns and tuxedos. The gowns are all original, locally designed creations. “The audience really loves this because it brings a sense of style, excitement and creativity just like the Oscar gala,” Mackey said.
Everyone involved in the Collaborative is “involved from the heart,” said Mackey, and this is his way of explaining the passion that exists within the group members, all of whom are volunteers.
Several of the Collaborative designers have gone on to great success, having spent time incubating with this organization. Mackey cites Chandra Peyton from Louisville, who now has her own fashion house, House of Dauphine Couture. She has shown her fashion lines in New York and Paris, and fourth-generation Lexington seamstress Samantha Jean Moore who is a full-time fabric collage artist and multimedia producer. Moore uses found objects, vintage fabric, discarded books, broken jewelry, and other reclaimed materials to create transformational designs that breathe new life and meaning into everyday experiences.
But with an eye to the future, the Collaborative has realized that in order to get Kentucky Fashion Week back on its feet, they would need the help of another entity who could give it their full attention. As a result, they have teamed up with Lexington’s fashion house Albert Couture and licensed them to produce Kentucky Fashion Week - but still within the guideline of the LFC. For the time being, Albert Couture is focused on opening their second location in the new boutique hotel The Manchester, but once settled in, it is there that they plan to revive and produce Kentucky Fashion Week in 2024. “Not with just female models,” said Mackey, “men wear clothes too, and my goodness, some of them are serious shopaholics.”
“Although we are a small grassroots organization, we want people to know that there have been some significant fashion moments for Kentucky,” said Mackey. “We couldn’t be more excited about working with Albert Couture and having the opportunity for the Collaborative to present a Lexington/Kentucky line of fashion every year. •