By Michael Kinney
The Moore American
OKLAHOMA CITY — When people think of fashion, places such as Milan, Paris and New York come to mind. However, if Henry Ortiz has his way, Oklahoma will one day be thought of in the same light.
Ortiz is one of the co-founders for the first-ever Oklahoma Fashion Week (OFW), which kicked off Sunday at Mercedes-Benz of Oklahoma City.
He said he hopes it’s the first step into making the state an important cog in the nation’s fashion industry.
“When you look at the potential we have here, living in the state, there is just nobody helping them out,” Ortiz said.
“You never know. New York may start looking at us instead of us looking at them.”
Sunday’s meet and greet featured guests such as Gov. Mary Fallin, the Thunder’s Kendrick Perkins and wife, Vanity, and Maj. Gen. Rita Aragon.
The organizers of fashion week want it to be a platform for local models, established designers such as Joanne Hong, Danh Ta and Mary Ruppert and up-and-coming talent like Tina Cambell, Maria Chaverri and Melyssa Reed.
Ortiz wants to show that they do not have to leave Oklahoma to do what they love.
“Fashion week is all about designers,” Ortiz said. “It gives the designers a chance to show the buyers to the stores, and some of their designers will be bought by the stores. When we know that the designer is selling their designs, that will make it a success.”
But it’s also about improving business in Oklahoma.
“In addition to designs, Oklahoma Fashion Week also helps us with jobs,” Gov. Fallin said.
“It helps us talk about marketing, fashion, sales. The business itself helps create opportunities for our emerging designers and those in the manufacturing industry.”
Oklahoma Fashion Week began as an idea for a one-day event to showcase some local retailers, but it grew into the first event of its kind to be hosted in the state.
But Ortiz and his co-founders didn’t want the OFW to just be about glamour, style and clothes. They wanted it to have substance — which is why the theme for the week is “Fashion For a Purpose.”
A portion of the ticket proceeds will benefit the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma City Police Athletic League (PAL) Helping Kids Succeed.
Other funds will help establish the new Oklahoma FRONTrow Fashion Fund.
“We are going to help raise money to help those who are hungry in our state, which is a tremendous cause,” Fallin said.
“Believe it or not there are people in Oklahoma who are food insufficient, who don’t have food. This fashion week and this event is certainly going to help us bring more food to the table for our fellow Oklahomans.”
Some event will take place every day throughout the week — from showcases of individual designers to a discussion on the significance of the little black dress by the Oklahoma State University College of Human Sciences Department of Design Housing.
O FW will culminate Saturday with a runway fashion show at The Cotter Ranch Tower/Chase Tower in downtown Oklahoma City. Local celebrities, buyers and people who like fashion will be on hand.
“If we pull it off, we are going to be able to develop an industry,” Ortiz said about OFS. “A lot of people, when they think about fashion week, they think it’s just another show.
“But we have to be more than just that. It has to be an industry. To me, it’s more of a business opportunity, to start something that has never been done and to really take it to another level.”