Fashion week had a model

The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore's not exactly fashion central.

But lately, a mini-scandal has been brewing in the city's fashion scene.

It all started last week, when Mayor Sheila Dixon announced the debut of Baltimore's Fashion Week. It's under way at the War Memorial Building, and features the work of local and international designers all week with a gala and finale tomorrow.

The problem?

Turns out, it's not actually the city's first fashion week after all.

Last year, Baltimore-based clothing designers April Camlin and Pam Haner spent five months organizing the inaugural Baltimore Fashion Week. It spanned six days in September and featured works by two dozen local designers at four locations in and around Mount Vernon.


"I wish we'd known about that earlier," said Sterling Clifford, the mayor's spokesman. "Wow. ... We should have made sure it was the first fashion week before we called it the first one."

Camlin and Haner paid for the event themselves - it cost a couple thousand dollars - and originally planned on bringing it back this year. But the folks from the other fashion week beat them to the punch.

"It is a little bit disturbing," Camlin said. "I'm a little bit disappointed and discouraged, but I'm not trying to sling any mud. That doesn't do anybody any good."

When asked for comment, Sharan Nixon, founder and CEO of Baltimore's Fashion Week (that's the upstart), tried to opt out on a technicality. Last year's event was called "The Baltimore Fashion Week," and her event has a slightly different name, she said.

Well, yeah, but it's still a sequel, said Kevin Sherry, co-founder of local T-shirt company Squidfire. Squidfire showed at last year's fashion week at the Metro Gallery in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District.

"Pam and April did it first," Sherry said. "It took a lot out of them. It was quite an undertaking."

But the first fashion week didn't have Dixon in its corner. Nixon's fashion week has City Hall's stamp of approval and promotion, though no actual cash.

"It's the first one the city's recognized, so as far as I'm concerned, it's the first one," Nixon said.

Nixon said she reached out to Camlin and Haner via MySpace last summer but didn't hear back from them. In the meantime, she helped organize a week of runway shows, makeup workshops and fashion photography, among other events. Most of the designers are from the region, but some hail from as far as Japan. A portion of the proceeds go to several charities.

In the future, Nixon said, she'd love to combine both fashion weeks.

"Hey, the more the merrier," she said.

Camlin's not sure if she and Haner will bring back their fashion week this year. It was fun, but she was late on her rent payment last time around, she said.

"It was totally worth it," she said. "I felt so good about what we did. I'd love to do that again - maybe if I can afford to do it this year."

And there's no bad blood between the two fashion weeks, Camlin said.

"It's still important that it's happening," she said. "The people who have put it together have worked really hard, and it's commendable what they've done."

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