Model Anna-Claire Butler walks for Nicole Simone April 6 during Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week’s avant-garde show at the Record in Bentonville.


For the first time, Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week shows were separated into different nights based on clothing style to provide a more cohesive feel to the week as a whole.

Rapha, an activewear company, sent models down the runway on bikes and roller skates Thursday night at Record in Bentonville. Activewear being shown on the NWAFW runway was a first for the event, said Rachel Fox, the head of marketing for NWAFW.

“Arkansas is a place where people are into outdoor living and active lifestyles, so this is really a great place to set that trend, because we have so many outdoorsy people here,” Fox said.

Friday’s show featured ready-to-wear looks from both local designers and boutiques alike. Big Sister Apparel showed a collection full of vibrant colors and bold patterns, a trend that seemed to permeate the runway throughout the evening.

On Saturday night, Designer Samantha’s Garden sent models down the runway that could've easily blended into a garden — hence the designer name. Pampas grass and babies breath were used in place of fabric and tulle, and the result was enchanting.

R Gene’s show featured genderless, monochrome looks with unique silhouettes, which was in stark contrast to Bizarre Couture’s show. Bizarre showed eccentric designs incorporating LED lights and cargo netting.

In past years, Saturday’s avant-garde show has been the most popular among attendees, Fox said. Fashion week’s fourth year proved to be no different, as it was this season’s most-attended show of the week.

Model Anna-Claire Butler has participated in NWAFW four times since she first heard about the opportunity in the fall of her sophomore year, she said.

“It just started as something new to try, and it’s been so great that I’ve continued doing it ever since,” Butler said. “This will be my third time walking for the designer Amy Johnson, and it’s always so much fun to walk for her.”

Butler, who is majoring in criminal justice, sees modeling as a good opportunity and a fun hobby to have fun on the side, but it’s not her goal to pursue it as a career.

“As much as I love fashion, and I love the modeling industry, my passions are elsewhere,” Butler said.

NWAFW involves the community as a whole — from artists to photographers, volunteers to vendors.

This was also the first season to feature educational programs outside of the shows, including a sustainability panel with speakers from across the fashion industry and an intimate talk with Gabrielle Korn, the editor-in-chief of Nylon magazine, said Fox.

Fox has coined the term “exclusive inclusive event” in regards to NWAFW this season, she said.

“We want to make sure we’re catering to our clients and our sponsors, but really we’re still involving the whole community,” Fox said. “From models who are all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, walks of life, who come from here and beyond to participate, right down to the creatives that make this event happen.”

Amy Johnson, a bridal designer, keeps inclusivity as a key point in her designs, she said. The designer, who has been designing professionally for eight years, always make it a point to have models with special needs walk in her shows.

“I’m always looking for a way to integrate them into society, because both my children have special needs,” Johnson said. “I’m always thinking to myself, ‘What kind of world do I want to create for my children? And how can I do it to make a difference in my community?”

For this season’s collection, Johnson steered away from the traditional bridal white and introduced wedding dresses in champagne, floral lace and blue shades.

“I know people have to be eased into different things, but hopefully it’s just enough so that people look at it and think, ‘You know, I could wear that,” she said.

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