Words by Kristal Roberts
For the second year in a row, the New England area will get a taste of Caribbean-American fashion, thanks to Boston Caribbean Fashion Week (BCFW).
The event is the brainchild of Althea Blackford, a television producer and host of the weekly show, Style It Up, on the Boston Neighborhood Network (BNN). Blackford also owns V Style Productions, an entertainment production company with two divisions — event planning and media production.
When asked what drove her to take on such a huge project as BCFW, she explains that it was something that had been a long time coming. “You could take it all the way back to my early childhood…my mother was a seamstress who made my clothes and took me to fashion shows, so I was always exposed to fashion.”
In college, Blackford modeled, but found herself drawn to the role of fashion show producers, responsible for managing and coordinating an entire show. In 2003, she graduated from Northeastern University with a bachelor’s in Television Production. She would later go on to receive an associate’s degree in Entertainment Management at Bay State College. As she searched for a post grad job, Blackford continued to freelance in other fashion shows, leaving modeling behind for organizational fashion roles.
In 2005, she used her experience and contacts in the industry to pitch a fashion-based show to the Boston Neighborhood Network. She got the gig, and began producing her weekly BNN show, Style It Up. As she continued to work in fashion, people began to take notice. “I would always work under someone and produce their event, and people would like my work ethic and ask me, ‘Why don’t you do your own [fashion] show?’” With her schedule already full, Blackford wasn’t ready to take on such a project, although the thought continued to cross her mind.
In 2012, she began writing down ideas, fleshing it out until she came up with Boston Carnival Fashion Week, something that hadn’t been done before in the New England area.
Influenced by her parents, who are from Jamaica and Barbados, it seemed like a natural fit.
Blackford connected with the founder of Boston Fashion Week, Jay Calderin, and Rhode Island’s Style Week founder, Rosanna Ortiz, serving as mentors. “They were really instrumental in helping me piece together the 2014 fashion show.”
The first BCFW was a success, but Blackford took away some lessons from the experience. “Year one was ‘we made it, we built it, yay’. Year two, we are making sure people know that this concept exists, because some of the feedback was ‘Oh my god I didn’t know this existed,’” she explains. “I thought I was doing a good job promoting this, but I guess not.”
This time around, she’s made some tweaks, including starting her promotion for the event in June, and connecting more with the press to raise awareness of this impressive event.
The 2015 BCFW will feature a number of opportunities for attendees to interact with the events leading up to the fashion show. “We’re having a live art night where artists will create a piece on the spot so people can see how they work. There’s also a paint night, the Caribbean version,” Blackford says. “And of course, we’re closing out the week with the fashion show featuring both Caribbean and regional designers. It’s open to all.”
The fashion show will feature four designers including Richonna Dennis, who is both an abstract and portrait artist as well as an eveningwear designer.
Another unique component of Blackford’s fashion week is the Arts and Business theme, which will also showcase the business side of fashion. “There will be an opportunity for people to be exposed to other careers related to the industry, to show there are more career paths in the fashion world than [being] a model or designer,” she says. “There’s stylists, there’s producers, there’s PR…there’s all different types of avenues.”
The BCFW will run from August 11- 15. You can purchase a ticket for $30 exclusively at http://www.bostoncfw.com/tickets.html
Look out for an official schedule on www.bostoncfw.com.
To learn more about the designers, visit: www.bostoncfw.com/designers.
The fashion show takes place on Saturday, August 15, at Carson Place on 180 Mt. Vernon Street, Dorchester, MA. Doors open at 6:30pm, and the show starts at 7:30 p.m.