Photos and video by Alex Kramer

You don’t have to live on the coasts to find quality fashion. Right here in the heartland, initiatives like Kansas City Fashion Week (KCFW) allow both up-and-coming and established designers to showcase their work on a professional level.

This year’s Fall/Winter shows, held March 28-31 in Kansas City’s Power and Light District, featured 28 designers, spread out over four nights. Styles ranged from women’s work wear to children’s couture, with each designer bringing a unique perspective to the runway.

“We had a great turnout full of guests, bloggers, media outlets—we had a lot of great feedback,” says Teisha Barber, president of Kansas City Fashion Week. “We had sold out shows Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights and an almost sold out show Wednesday night—which typically doesn’t happen for a weeknight show. And all of the designers this season did a fantastic job.… We were very pleased with everyone’s collections.”

In addition to being a stage for designers and models to showcase their work, KCFW also gives back to the community. This year, they partnered with the Kansas City Fashion Council to promote Loads of Love KC. The local charity provides schools with washers, dryers, detergent, and other laundry essentials so that all children can have access to clean clothes. Proceeds from bar sales at this season’s shows directly benefited Loads of Love. “We love to help the community in any way we can,” Barber says.

Looking to the future, Barber’s goal is pretty simple: just keep growing. “We love our designers. We want to market them, we want to promote them—I mean, that’s what we’re here for. And we also love our models. We want them to get signed with larger agencies. We want all of these things for our participants, and we try our best to help them.”

Urban Plains had the chance to sit down with four designers from this season’s KCFW. Here’s what they had to say:

Inspired by the girl power movement happening across the country, Barbara Bultman’s goal was to create a collection women would feel confident wearing.

Barbara Bultman Designs By Barbara Bultman

Barbara Bultman is a St. Louis-based fashion designer. Graduating from Lindenwood University with a BFA in Fashion Design in May 2015, Bultman has wasted no time pursuing her dreams.

She says her favorite part of the design process is “being able to experiment with other materials other than just fabrics and creating my own textiles.” She plans to open her own boutique in May of this year. Check out more about her and her collection below:

UP: What can people expect from your collection this season?

BB: I was inspired by women in music and the empowerment of how they’re speaking up and the whole #MeToo movement. It’s just going to be a very powerful statement on the runway, and the clothes are just going to make the women feel strong and be able to succeed and do what they want to do.

UP: What was your main inspiration for this collection?

BB: I was at the Grammys this year, and I was really inspired from Kesha and the other women who were speaking up and talking about their experiences. [When] Kesha and P!nk performed their song, it was just amazing. It gave me chills.

UP: What do you want people to think and feel when they see and wear your clothes?

BB: I just want them to feel confident and strong. I want them to feel good in what they’re wearing. This is going to be my first time on the runway having different sizes other than just your typical size 2-4 models.

UP:  Was featuring different size models something that was important to you?

BB: I think it’s something that’s starting to come out in fashion now on the runways, but it still isn’t where it needs to be. And I think it’s important for every woman to dress and feel incredible in what they’re wearing.

UP: What does fashion mean to you?

BB: You see fashion everywhere. It’s just a way to express yourself and who you are without saying anything.

Website:

http://www.barbarabultman.com/

Facebook:

@Barbarabultmandesigns

Twitter:

@Barbara_bultman

Designer Hannah Swanson used her inspiration from the dark colors in the night sky to create her looks this season.

Hannah Kristina Designs By Hannah Swanson

Inspired by nature and beautiful dresses, Hannah Swanson challenged herself to create a new take on traditional gowns all while making women feel beautiful. She is no stranger to the pressure of fashion week and has previously shown her collections in the Omaha, Kansas City, and Des Moines Fashion Weeks.

UP: What can people expect from your collection this season?

HS: I really enjoy evening formal wear. I love fancy dresses that you can’t wear all of the time, just for a special occasion. This collection I planned to use thicker fabrics, so there will be more texture, more body. It’s going to be more of a dark color scheme compared to what I’ve done in the past. So it’s going to be more edgy, and I have incorporated more different types of silhouettes, and I’ve got some leggings and jumpsuits.

UP: What was your main inspiration for this collection?

HS: Before I had anything to go off of, I knew I wanted to make it different. I knew I couldn’t do something light and flowy like I’ve already done, because I wanted to show how versatile I am. So I started looking at pictures of different things in nature and I came across a really cool photo of just the night sky. There was a lot of light grays, dark greys, navys, more royal blues, and there were whites as well. I based my color scheme off of that and then started to build from that.

UP: What’s your favorite part of the design process?

HS: My favorite part is actually getting to when you have that first check down at the location when you meet all of the models, and they learn about what they’ll be wearing. You’ll have your first fitting and just seeing how excited they get to wear your stuff and it just makes it that much more exciting. You want to make it that much better so that when they wear your stuff in the show, they can feel proud and beautiful and you can be like “I did that.”

UP: What do you want people to think and feel when they see and wear your clothes?

HS: I want women to feel beautiful and confident and like they can conquer the world when they’re wearing garments by me. Some of it is a little different, but it’s still honed in enough that it can be unique but still in their comfort zone.

UP: How would you compare the Midwest fashion week experience to bigger cities like NYFW or Paris?

HS: I really, really like how these Midwest cities operate. They really do a lot for designers and want them to get the full participation that they’re able to. The nice thing about these Midwest shows is that they offer packages for local designers. So we have to apply to get in, of course, so that makes it filter down a little more. And from there it’s like a scholarship almost, where they provide you with models and hair and makeup for the models and the venue. I love that they do that, and I think it’s amazing.

UP: Do you have any fashion icons or role models?

HS: Designer wise: Zac Posen. He just always had that trumpet or mermaid silhouette in dresses, which is what I really like. I love the slim fit and then it’s like a party on the bottom. I also like Christian Siriano. I love, love, love that he has started to become more inclusive by adding plus-size models to his shows. I think that’s amazing. I just love seeing his stuff. It all looks so, so good. And I also really like Sherri Hill’s stuff. She’s a good designer. Her stuff is more prom-type wear, which I do also like.

UP: What does fashion mean to you?

HS: Fashion gave me the door to be creative and really show what I want to do. It shows what’s going on in my head and what I’m thinking of. I have been sewing or involved in fashion since I was in fourth grade, so it’s just been my life. I just love the formal evening wear, and I love making people feel beautiful, and I want to be able to do that. So [fashion] just kind of gives me that door to help people.

Website:

https://www.hannahkristinadesigns.com/

Instagram: @hannahkristinadesigns

Facebook:

@hannahkristinadesigns

Twitter:

@hannah_swans_

Designer Whitney Jones was inspired by all things Morocco for this collection.

Liv By Whitney Jones

Previously known as Liv + Kiss, Whitney Jones changed her label to just Liv, and that’s made a world of difference. “I liked it, but Kiss didn’t have a meaning,” Jones says. “Liv has a very powerful meaning of doing what you love and doing it unapologetically.”  She also recently adopted the motto: empowering women one thread at a time. Jones created her clothing for plus-size women.

UP: What can people expect from your collection this season?

WJ: Expect a lot of texture fabrics, bright colors, and garments that you don’t see at fashion shows often. A lot of sequins, a lot of embroidery, a lot of flowy gowns.

UP: What was your main inspiration for this collection?

WJ: My inspiration was Morocco. They have a lot of garments that are very simple, but because of the type of sequins that they use it just makes the garments stand out even more. Morocco was my inspiration for everything in this show: the hairstyles, the fabrics I used, the style of dresses, even down to the jewelry.

UP:  What’s your favorite part of the design process?

WJ: Definitely shopping for fabrics. All my fabrics came from LA so just going there and going through the garment district and finding the perfect fabrics. I would also say working with my models to match up the perfect garment with the right model. A lot of designers only know one part of being a designer and that’s to create the garments. But just doing the entire process is joy to me. And also picking out the details. Hair details, shoe details, jewelry details, all the little pieces make me happy.

UP:  What can we expect to see that we haven’t seen from you already?

WJ: A lot of gowns. For my business I do mostly shirts and skirts. This collection is a lot of dresses, and I have a male model and that’s never happened [to me] before. I’m really stepping out of my comfort zone, and I’m really excited.

UP: How would you describe your aesthetic of this collection?

WJ: I would say fun, exciting, simple pieces that really make you stand out no matter where you are, but in a good way. All eyes on you type of vibe.

UP: What does fashion mean to you?

WJ: To me, fashion means the ability to be your own person. To take a simple garment and change it to a way that will fit you and your personality. The ability to stand out from the crowd and not be a figure of society, and just doing what you love and not really doing or caring about what other people have to say about it. You like it, rock it. It’s all about you.

Website:

www.wearliv.com  

Instagram: @wearliv

Facebook:

@livandkiss

Debuting his second womenswear collection, sHe by Christian Micheal is full of military-inspired clothing and textures.

sHe by christianMICHEAL

Self-taught and Midwest grown, Christian Micheal is known for his menswear designs but decided to use this new collection as a follow up from his first womenswear collection that premiered last year. Christian Micheal is stepping out of his comfort zone by designing a show-closing gown. He has also had menswear collections featured in Omaha Fashion Week and Northeastern Arkansas Fashion Week.

UP: What can people expect from your collection this season?

CM: It’s all womenswear, and it’s very unmistakably me. I am leaning on what’s always defined my design label, which is high-tailored looks and very high quality. There is definitely a military inspiration in the designs, but I would describe the collection as classically beautiful womenswear with a strong, tailored military menswear type of style to it. I’m designing a collection for strong, powerful, independent women.

UP: What’s your favorite part of the design process?

CM: I love, as a designer, the idea of conceptualizing an idea, sketching it on paper, going shopping for the fabric to make those ideas, and just seeing it come to life with the patterning and garment construction. It’s one of the best highs in the world to have an idea, to draw that idea, to then find the materials for the idea, and then physically produce the idea. Fashion is so unique in that it’s just an idea, but at the end of [that] you have an actual, physical, tangible, wearable garment. And I absolutely love that.

UP: What do you want people to think and feel when they see and wear your clothes?

CM: I’m designing for strong, modern, independent women, and that’s what I want people to feel from my show, that’s what I want women to feel when they wear my clothes, and that’s what I want people to immediately recognize when they see my stuff. I bring a show. From music, to model selection, to how they walk the runway, to choreography, to hair and makeup, to the actual looks—it is without mistake, Christian Micheal, and you know it immediately the second it hits the runway.

UP: As a designer, what is the most difficult thing you’ve experienced in the fashion industry?

CM: I’ve had a pretty easy ride so far. I’ve had great response from my designs so far, and I think that’s because I really believe in my design aesthetic, and I take pride in the fact that I’m a self-taught designer and had no formal training or schooling. I bought a sewing machine 10 or 12 years ago and sat down and taught myself how to sew. I’m a big believer in the idea of pushing yourself and trying something new. Whether it be in art or in design, if you’re not pushing the envelope or pushing yourself as an artist, if you’re not trying something new, what’s the point? I’ve been excited with this collection because I’m working in material that I’ve never worked with before.

UP: How would you compare the Midwest fashion week experience to bigger cities like NYFW or Paris?

CM: The Kansas City market has done very, very well to build a strong market and following and platform for local designers. With that being said, there aren’t the same opportunities, just because of the market we’re in, for designers from the standpoint of retail buyers and things along those line. But I’m proud to have been a part of, from the very beginning, a very strong movement in Kansas City, and it’s not just in fashion. It’s an exciting time to be an entrepreneur in Kansas City. Whether you’re in music or food or fashion or art or design, there’s a great culture here in the Midwest around locally produced goods and the arts.

UP: What does fashion mean to you?

CM: Fashion means to me the opportunity for you to showcase and highlight personal style. I’m a big believer in those that are fashionable and knowing and understanding who they are, the look they’re trying to present, and how they put it together. I’ve always been a lover of the platform and opportunity that fashion provides for that for my own personal style and in what I design. I feel like the person I design for is a very specific person with a very specific style goal and style story to tell, and I’m excited and happy to be a part of that story and a direction in that story.

Website:

http://www.christianmicheal.com/

Instagram: @christianmichealfashion

Responses have been edited for clarity and length.