Fashion Week RI makes its Smithfield debut

Fashion Week RI makes its Smithfield debut

Bryant University Program Director Teresa McCarthy Byrne, left, and senior Julia Keefe planned Fashion Week RI for this weekend, and say they are excited to showcase local artists. (Breeze photo by Jacquelyn Moorehead)

SMITHFIELD – The Fashion Forum at Bryant University is hosting Fashion Week Rhode Island for its catwalk debut in the Unistructure Rotunda this weekend, March 10-11.

Julia Keefe, a Bryant senior studying global supply chain management and president of the Fashion Forum, said the chance to host the fashion show was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that she couldn’t let slip away.

Keefe, as students in the past, saw the opportunity to use a business degree as her leverage into the fashion industry. Seven years ago, global supply chain management Program Director Teresa McCarthy Byrne was asked by students to use her 14 years of experience in the fashion industry to help start the Fashion Forum.

After meeting Yemi Sekoni, Fashion Week RI founder, Keefe and Byrne invited Sekoni to speak to the Fashion Forum. At the end of her discussion, Sekoni mentioned she was still looking for a second location for the event.

“We looked at each other and it clicked,” Byrne said. “I would have never imagined this would happen.”

Though the event occurs during the first days of spring break, Keefe said members of the forum and other students were willing to volunteer. They expect between 150 and 200 people to come each day.

“It’s not just showcasing clothes. We are showcasing art, music, and entertainment,” Keefe said. There will also be performances by a silk-ribbon aerialist.

Describing the event as “all local,” businesses from Rhode Island and Massachusetts will serve as vendors.

“We’re showcasing vendors of student entrepreneurs as well. Some have handbags, neckties, and even clothing lines,” Keefe said. Bryant grad and designer Conor Donohue will show his clothing line at the event as well.

“I’m really excited to watch this all come to life and see people’s reactions. I want to bring people to Bryant, and expose them to a new memory of our university,” Keefe said.

She said the club is a communal space with open discussions about the community, and possible ways to expand into the fashion industry. The forum also offers styling services for students to help them look their best for interviews or dates.

“How you dress is subtly important, and it’s super fun for us too,” Keefe said.

Selected by the Fashion Forum to be a recipient of a portion of proceeds from this year’s event is Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island, a Providence-based nonprofit assisting low-income adults through literacy programs, employment, and advocacy.

The Fashion Forum will also hold a clothing drive for DIIRI during the event, accepting donations of business-casual to business-formal clothing, as well as general toiletries.

This marks the fourth year of Fashion Week RI. With more than 22 designers, music and live entertainment included in each show, Sekoni created the event to spotlight Rhode Island communities and attract new visitors while promoting local fashion and accessory designers.

Fashion Week RI shows at Bryant University, 1150 Douglas Pike, in the Unistructure Rotunda from 6 to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 10, and from 3 to 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 11.

The event kicks off at Hope & Main, 691 Main St., Warren, on March 8 and 9, from 6 to 9:30 p.m.

Tickets are available at the door, or online at .