New York, London, Milan, Paris, and Austin. Yes, Austin, you heard correctly. The booming tech capital and bastion of hippie culture is also home to the fourth largest fashion week in the nation. Thanks to an ever increasing influx of new talent and new money, the city is now hot on the heels of #3, Los Angeles. The man behind it all? Native Austinite and “serial entrepreneur” Matt Swinney, who started his first company at 24. “I was in a cab the other day with my wife, and after a conversation with our driver, we couldn’t believe that there were three Austin natives in the same car,” jokes Swinney.
Amanda Valentine (Nebraska based)
Photo Credit Gregg Cestaro M.E. Shirley_Photo Credit Carlos Barron
That said, Swinney has been keen to embrace the city’s rapidly changing landscape and population. In 2005, during the first downtown building boom which saw the “retailification” of the 2nd Street District, Swinney launched Rare Magazine to cater to the new scene. Come 2008, and the publishing industry’s various hiccups, Swinney sold Rare and launched events production company Launch787 the following year. Swinney’s first foray into what would become Austin Fashion Week began in July 2009. “It was 1,000 degrees out, the economy was bad and boutiques were closing left and right. There were maybe four or five fashion designers in town,” adds Swinney.
Matt & Kara Swinney in VIP by Gregg Cestaro
Now in its 8th year, Austin Fashion Week is booming as are the city’s talents who are thrilled to have a platform that doesn’t cost the Earth. Valued by both those native and imported, Swinney is aiming to repeat its success in both Dallas and Houston. “So many people have tried and failed with Dallas Fashion Week that it’s become a bit of a running joke,” says Swinney. “So we started by changing the branding to Fashion x Dallas.” Among Swinney’s ones to watch? Designer Isabella Rose Taylor who presented her first collection in Austin at age 11, and made her NYFW debut at only 13, subsequently grabbing the attention of buyers for Nordstrom’s, where she is now stocked. Swinney’s message: “The fashion industry in the US doesn’t entirely revolve around New York and LA anymore.”
Samantha Plasencia_ Linda Asaf & model by Gregg Cestaro
Photo Credit Carlos Barron