Lexington Fashion Collaborative founder and executive director Soreyda Begley PHOTO BY MICK JEFFRIES
Formed in 2009, the Lexington Fashion Collaborative was created to support and promote local designers, models, photographers and hair and make-up stylists. The organization was co-founded by Lexington designer Soreyda Benedit-Begley following the inaugural “The Future of Fashion,” a runway event organized by several local designers. Begley said the event, which has become an annual occurrence, brought to light the abundance of fashion talent in the city and region. While the organization was initially established with a focus on creating venues and opportunities for collaboration with the presentation of original fashion designs, since incorporating as a 501c3 non-profit, LFC has recently been focusing more heavily on developing programs geared toward educational and skill development. “We are looking more into helping our members develop not just the creative/artistic side but also the busi-
ness side of fashion. The industry can’t be established here unless it is generating income for the people involved,” Begley said. “This industry is still very young in the local scene, and we are all learning how to keep it going and make it work.” The Lexington Sustainable Education and Workforce Solutions (LexSEWS) program, an initiative that LFC has been working on for the past two years, seeks to address one of the largest barriers to creating a profitable local industry: manufacturing. “I have tried several times to start a clothing line, but it’s difficult because we don’t have access to a local manufacturer,” said Begley, whose primary business is generated from creating custom designs for weddings, pageants and dancers and other performers. “There’s a great need for it.” LexSEWS seeks to place refugee women in jobs manufacturing locally designed fashion pieces. Still in its
early stages, the LexSEWS project has formed important relationships with OWL, a non-profit organization that aims to help employ individuals with barriers to employment, the Kentucky Refugee Ministry and the LFUCG office for multi-cultural affairs. Begley hopes the project will ultimately help place refugees with much needed work, as well as help bolster the growing local fashion industry by providing resources for production. While Begley is excited by the interest that the LFC has garnered over the past five years, she admits she is often disappointed by the promising local talent that vacates this city for larger markets with more opportunities. Sarah Estes, LFC’s co-founder, recently moved to Los Angeles, where she now works as the manager of Elder-Statesman’s sewing room; other LFC members have moved to Atlanta and even Louisville to pursue their careers in recent months. The organization continues to
grow, however, with a regional network that Begley says is close to 1,500 strong. In addition to hosting annual runway shows and other fashion events, the organization serves as an important central hub and resource for area fashion enthusiasts of varying styles, interests and skill levels. “For some it might be kind of a hobby, but for some it’s a business that they are growing or building,” said Amy Gundrum-Greene, the museum’s executive director and curator of the exhibit, said of the participating fashion artists. “For some of them, it’s a second career.” Designers represented in the Headley-Whitney exhibit include established designers like Mugnier and internationally renowned milliner Polly Singer –– whose hats are often seen on Millionaire’s Row at the Kentucky Derby –– as well as up-andcoming designers, such as 16-year-old Naomi Connor and 28-year-old Heidi McKenzie.
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