Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Christian Fashion Week - Roundup

As soon as word got out that I would be attending the first ever Christian Fashion Week in Tampa, Florida, some of my friends gave me a good-natured ribbing about “Christian fashion.”  Let’s just say there were some hilariously “modest” fashions posted to my facebook page.  But it drove home the point – Christian fashion is hard to define, easy to joke about, and often misunderstood.

CFW co-founder Jose Gomez said it best:  “There’s no such thing as Christian fashion – ‘What Would Jesus Wear?’  CFW is about fashion from a Christian perspective, an alternative to what’s on the runways.”

Joelle, co-founder Jose Gomez, and me at the Christian Fashion Week VIP Reception
To be clear, not every participating designer, model, or spectator was Christian.  Designers were given guidelines and asked to present a collection from a modest perspective.  My hope was to see something new, innovative – something I would want to wear.  I didn’t want to see a modified version of what’s already out there, with a higher neckline or longer hem.

Although one designer from NYC could not make it due to the storm in the northeast, the remaining eight designers presented a variety of looks, including swimwear, menswear and bridal.  The founders, Jose and Mayra Gomez and Wil and Tamy Lugo, put on a professional, well-thought out production, from the VIP Reception on Friday night to the runway show on Saturday.

The VIP Reception was a meet and greet for the designers, models, hair and makeup artists, press and guests.  There was a silent auction of leather jackets and fur vests to raise funds for Created, the event’s beneficiary.  Created is a Christian organization “committed to the restoration of vulnerable women involved in the sex industry to an understanding of their value, beauty and destiny in Jesus Christ.”  The representatives from Created were lovely and very appreciative of CFW’s mission.  I was happy to support them as well by bidding on a beautiful black suede jacket.  I try to remember to say a prayer for those women every time I wear my jacket.

The Silent Auction floor of the VIP Reception
At the VIP Reception I quickly realized that this event may lean more toward the fashion industry than a buttoned-down religious conference.  I constantly reminded myself that not everyone involved was Christian, and that some of the short skirts and cleavage I noticed was exactly why we need an event like CFW – to show women and men that there IS an alternative to letting it all hang out and that fashion does not equal exploiting our bodies.

I also met many well-dressed men and women – fashion bloggers, photographers, makeup artists – and it seemed that they were the ones who exuded the most confidence.  They looked stylish on the outside but were glowing on the inside Dwayne and Typhanie Stewart (My Garments of Praise), and Ker-Leen Joseph (Music. Fashion. Love.).  True beauties!

Typhanie, Me, Ker-Leen, Joelle, and Christi
(Photo by Christi Ogu)
When the doors opened Saturday evening, there was a lot of excitement as we visited the many exhibitors’ tables and perused the jewelry, bags, clothing and other items on view.  We met up with our new friends from the night before and took lots of pictures.  Finally, at 6:00pm, the show began – but with a twist.

The catwalk
The first portion of the show was a swimwear collection – for women only.  The men had to wait in the exhibitors’ hall while the women were allowed inside.  Renee Scarborough, owner/designer of Two Coconuts Swimwear and a Florida native, presented her latest collection.  I couldn’t help but wonder if the guys were peeking in as the models came boldly down the catwalk in nothing more than a few pieces of stretch fabric and stilettos.  There were metallics and sheers in bold colors, reminding me of formalwear in their design, and I could see how adding a wrap skirt could take you from an afternoon lounging by the pool to an outdoor evening party.

My favorite look from Two Coconuts Swimwear
After the final look, all ten models returned to the catwalk with Scarborough, and the audience was invited to come up to examine the materials and designs more closely.  Everyone seemed hesitant at first, so I jumped out of my seat and went directly to my favorite suit, a red and brown tankini.  I asked the model how it felt and she showed me the versatility of the three-piece suit, how it could go from a tankini to a bikini with a skirt by pulling down the middle piece.  I was also pleased to see models of all sizes on the runway.  Co-founder Mayra Gomez shared, “It’s okay to wear a bathing suit, as long as it’s the right bathing suit, in a fashionable way with a Christian perspective.”

Co-founder Mayra Gomez
Female guests with the models
After a short break everyone took their seats (men, too!) and the main show began.  Julia Chew, of Xiaolin Design, was a strong opener, with romantic feminine dresses in purple and champagne accented with body chains and headpieces.  Then came the feathered pieces – dresses, skirts, and capelets in modern, fashion-forward silhouettes.  For an 18 year old who learned to sew while being homeschooled, these looks had a real wow factor that could hold up against many more established designers.  It was an impressive start.  (You can see more of Julia’s looks on her etsy page here.)

My favorite look from Xiaolin Designs - Fierce!
Colombian-born Sandra Hagen offered a collection filled with dresses and separates in bright colors and bold patterns.  I found her looks to be very wearable and flattering, without compromising my faith values.  My favorites were a black and white print pencil skirt with a yellow hem and full length front zipper, and the vertical striped high-waist pants.

One of my favorite looks by Sandra Hagen
(Photo by Joelle Janigian)
The next collection reminded me of my new friend Shikha, who just moved to Fresno from Agra, India with a beautiful wardrobe of saris and lehengas.  Sumita Bhojwani’s “Indi Fusion” collection highlighted her Indian culture with bold patterns and intricate embroidery.  I loved some of the dresses for a stylish day look – the ethnic details were really a standout.

A classy look by Sumita Bhojwani
(Photo by Joelle Janigian)
Franco Montoro presented a variety of cocktail and formal dresses, including one bridal look to close out his show.  They were bright and bold in a variety of neckline and hemline styles and lengths, with beaded details and accessories.  My favorite look of this collection was a red and nude colored cocktail dress with a pretty petal sleeve.  However, many of these looks had cutouts in the back and sheer panels, and a few had low necklines – not something I would consider wearing.

My favorite look by Franco Montoro
(Photo by Joelle Janigian)
After a brief intermission, menswear designer Pat McGhee opened the second half of the show with her collection “for the strong, hardworking man who cares to look fashionably good.”  I liked that the looks were casual and laid back, definitely designed for a confident man.  And I loved that some of the men walked down the runway holding bibles from Zondervan’s new Style Line collection – very appealing!  But I was disappointed in this collection overall.  A sleeveless suit jacket with a high-low hem and a long blue fuzzy bathrobe-like coat is not something any man I know would wear.

A bible accessorizes this look by Pat McGhee
(Photo by Joelle Janigian)
Carmelita Couture presented clothing inspired by nature, with custom silk prints and feather accessories.  These designs were not for the weak at heart!  As the designer stated, “I want to dress a woman into her true identity and help her walk in a new form of fashion fierceness.”  There were animal, sun and lightning prints, and feather details.  Although some of the hemlines were very short and some of the silhouettes weren’t exactly fashion forward, I did like the final look – a beautiful, long sleeve magenta gown.

My favorite look by Carmelita Couture
(Photo by Joelle Janigian)
The show ended with the launch of Alma Vidovic’s first bridal collection, an intentional choice by the celebrity fashion stylist at the Home Shopping Network.  Each of the ten wedding gowns were unique, from the very pretty strapless gown with a 3-D rosette-covered skirt to the one-shoulder Grecian chiffon gown to the pink and champagne colored gowns.  All were very high-end and well crafted.  The crowd favorite was a rosette-covered A-line organza knee-length white dress, which elicited an audible reaction from the audience.

Alma Vidovic's crowd-pleaser
(Photo by Joelle Janigian)
While most of the clothing in the show reflected modesty, not every look was necessarily appropriate from a Christian perspective.  Is that a negative mark?  No – that’s reality.  We need to use discernment in choosing how to dress and how to apply fashion and trends to our personal style.  Most trends can be adapted to a more conservative point of view, sometimes by simply adding leggings underneath a short skirt or throwing on a cardigan over a strapless top.

A few additional highlights:

  • Male and female models were given separate dressing areas backstage.  Most fashion shows are completely and utterly chaotic backstage, with models having mere seconds to change into their next outfits.  Modesty is thrown out the window while models (often just in panties) fling one dress off and put the next one on with eyes free to roam around the room.  Not so at CFW.
  • A very large back tattoo was covered in body makeup to keep the focus on the clothing.
  • My friend overheard one young model, who was dressed in a barely-there dress, being told to put something on to cover her bare shoulders.
Everyone involved in planning this first ever Christian Fashion Week did an incredible job of representing our faith to the fashion industry.  They offered a relevant event to show that while fashion is subjective, God’s Word is resolute and there are modern, tasteful ways to dress without compromising to the ever-dropping standards of this world.  Well done, good and faithful servants.

The Founders of Christian Fashion Week
left to right:  Wil Lugo, Tamy Lugo, Jose Gomez, Mayra Gomez
(Photo by Joelle Janigian)

With designer Julia Chew of Xiaolin Designs
With model Jaylin (right) and her brother at the VIP Reception
Front row seat (Press perk!)
Joelle and I had a fantastic time - We'll be back for CFW 2014
OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.


  1. Thank you, Silva, for this detailed account of your experience at CFW. I'm so glad you were able to be there for this first show. You are an inspiration to me as you combine your passion for fashion and pure faith with such class.

  2. I was wondering why I wasn't getting notification for your blog...I wasn't following you! Hmph! I just did. I love this post! It was very informative...nice to read about CFW from a different perspective!


  3. Thank you, ladies! I appreciate the kind words!