Real Life, Runway and Red Carpet: Nolcha New York Fashion Week Brings Beautiful Surprises

New York, New York is the place one goes to live out their dream and New York Fashion Week (NYFW) is a Holy Grail event for fashion and accessory designers.  NYFW kicks off “Fashion Month” each February and September when designers present their latest creations to industry influencers – editors, stylists, buyers and celebrities - who are hustling from one show to the next over the course of 8 days before heading to see “what’s next” at Fashion Weeks in London, Milan, and Paris. 

This September’s show for the Spring/Summer 2017 collections marked my 5th exhibition with Nolcha Shows, the premier NYFW event for independent designers, and my first show since the birth of my daughter, Maeve, in July 2015. Juggling new parenting duties with my husband, Randy, who also has a demanding career, is challenging enough. Continuing to build my business, my other baby, while being Maeve’s mommy has certainly felt impossible at times.  However, the show must go on so returning to NYFW after Maeve’s first birthday and presenting my newly expanded 30-piece Undina Collection was a must do.

The Undina collection is inspired by water goddess mythology and how mermaids transform into foam on the ocean in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.

 “If you cannot make the prince fall so much in love with you that his every thought concerns only you … then, the first morning after he has married another, your heart will break and you will become foam on the ocean.”

Undina initially launched as a 12 piece capsule collection during the Nolcha Shows NYFW Fashion Lounge event in February 2015.  At the time, I knew there was more to Undina’s story than those first 12 pieces but nothing really came together until after Maeve was born.  Creativity, much like new parents, never sleeps and it’s amazing how much inspiration hits during those 3am feedings….. New designs flooded my brain and every spare second I could steal while Maeve was napping or being fussed over by her daddy, grandparents and other family members was given to bringing the new Undina pieces into being.  

In addition to all the time, effort and resources required to create new work many more hours go into photo shoots with my photographer Julie Stanley of JuleImages, preparing lookbooks, managing invites, display design, website updates and coordinating media interviews before the big day.  Presenting new jewelry always comes with the typical “opening night” excitement and “first day of school” jitters.  Will the work be well received?  Will the guests who RSVP’d actually show up? Will the promised press features really get published or end up on the cutting room floor?  Being that this show was also my first time away from Maeve for 3 ½ days, my usual pre-show nerves were on overdrive. 

After catching a 6:30am flight out of Cleveland I landed to a beautiful morning at LaGuardia airport.  Good weather is good luck and even more so on this occasion because I had to hike for what felt like miles around the building due to construction in the terminals to catch a cab to Artbeam Studios for Nolcha’s Runway Shows.  One crazy rush hour traffic taxi ride later I was at Artbeam and headed backstage.  Backstage at fashion shows is always beautifully hectic.  Hair and makeup teams are buzzing around models, interns are wielding clothing steamers with surgical precision, models are hustling from one designer to the next for final fittings, editors are interviewing designers and designers are making last-minute changes, all while stage managers oversee a room of organized chaos.  Being in this sea of excitement and creativity again felt wonderful as I plugged right back into the thriving pulse of an industry that I love so much.

Nolcha team member, Megan McAstocker greeted me backstage and led me to where Spain based British designer Jody Bell was preparing her “Santorini” collection. Jody was making her NYFW runway debut during Nolcha’s 11:00am “Ones to Watch” group show and I was providing jewelry for her models. Her team and I discussed pieces weeks before the show and now it was time for her to make final selections for the 10 looks.  Jody’s “Santorini” collection included jumpsuits and flowy dresses in a gorgeous palette of blues and whites so she chose my statement earrings and necklaces in pearl, labradorite, moonstone, and crystal quartz.  After a few last-minute touch ups to their chic low-slung ponytails and subtle shimmer makeup, the models took to the runway.  The audience loved the collection and many editors and photographers rushed backstage after the show to get detail images and interviews before running off to cover the next event.

The successful partnership with Jody Bell set the tone for what was to come for my remaining two days in NYC.  The highlight of Day 2 was a fantastic deskside meeting with National Jeweler Editor in Chief Michelle Graff.  Michelle and I connected several years ago when I started showing my jewelry at NYFW.  She’s a great supporter of independent designers and featured several of my pieces in an interview about the Undina collection when it first debuted in 2015.  We had such a great time chatting that we planned on getting together the next time I visited NYC.  Eighteen months later she was viewing the collection in person and trying on several pieces.  We discussed my work and business goals and she and her Jewelers of America colleague Michael Tratner, who popped into our meeting, offered great feedback on the collection and opportunities for growing my brand. 

My last full day in NYC was for Nolcha’s NYFW Fashion Lounge event.  Nolcha’s Fashion Lounge is where designers present their collections via tabletop displays to an exclusive list of industry influencers. Open over the course of the afternoon, it’s much more relaxed than the runway shows. The casual environment gives guests the opportunity to have in-depth conversations with designers and view the details of each designer’s offerings up close. This season’s show featuring 12 accessory designers was held in the stunning Terrace Loft on the 24th floor of the historic Bryant Park Hotel.  Location is everything, especially during NYFW, and this gorgeous space with hardwood floors and floor to ceiling windows was wonderful for my fellow designers and I to show our work. 

There was a steady flow of guests all afternoon and the feedback on my Undina collection was very positive.  Attendees loved the mermaid/foam on the ocean concept and were fascinated by the craftsmanship and volume of tiny pearls, gems and handcrafted recycled sterling silver elements that go into each piece.  I also heard a lot of comments about how refreshing it was to meet a designer who is also the hands behind the work.   Many designers outsource production of their collections so meeting “the hands” is a real treat.

Networking is the name of the game at NYFW and meeting so many influencers that I only knew through email or social media is well worth participating in Nolcha’s Fashion Lounge.  I’m a big believer in “the right people show up at the right time” and this certainly happened several times during the show.  Most notably, when I met Mark Forrest and Savoy Walker of Savvy Marketing Entertainment Group (SMEG).  Mark and Savoy came as guests of fellow Nolcha and men’s accessory designer Marlin Jones of Taylord Blu Clothing Brand.  SMEG works with many celebrity clients and it was wonderful discussing fashion with marketers who know a lot about and appreciate good design and craftsmanship.  Their favorite pieces were my Luna necklace, dangle earrings, and bracelet.  These designs feature crystal quartz spheres and thousands of individually pin-set labradorite gemstones.   We talked extensively about the Luna pieces and they snapped several photos with the promise to be in touch.

Little did I know that it wouldn’t take long for them get in touch because in the midst of packing up the show I received a call from Savoy requesting the Luna pieces for the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles.   Mark and Savoy had shared the pictures with Raven-Symone, co-host of The View. She loved my pieces and wanted to wear them while covering The Emmy’s red carpet and backstage interviews for The View.  Since The Emmy’s were in a few days and I was flying home the next morning, we made arrangements for me to deliver the pieces to Raven that evening.

I hung up the phone, shaking with excitement, and burst into tears, years and years of work were finally coming together in a big way! I hastily packed up the last few things from my display and headed out with Marlin to catch a cab and make the delivery.  Moments before we were out the door the clouds opened up with a heavy downpour. New York cab drivers don’t like to work in the rain because their cab’s seats will get wet, ridiculous, I know but that’s New York for you. We were stuck until the storm passed. After 30 agonizing minutes the clouds cleared to a beautiful rainbow, another good omen, and we were finally in a cab and on our way.

Meeting Raven, who I grew up watching on TV in The Cosby Show was a surreal moment.  She was very down-to-earth and excited about wearing my pieces at The Emmy’s.  We chatted a bit about gemstones and my inspiration for the Luna pieces before she had to run to finish preparing for Sunday’s show.  Marlin and I headed back to the hotel to celebrate with friends and wrap our heads around what just happened.

The next day I flew home giddy with excitement and a great sense of pride.  Flying above the clouds I recalled every step of my creative journey thus far.  All the people who supported me, those who didn’t, all the obstacles that had been overcome, and all the new skills I’ve learned along the way. My heart swelled at the thought of sharing these lessons with Maeve and I lost count of how many times I choked back tears on that 90-minute flight.  NYFW is my home away from home and being a part of it feeds my artistic soul. 

Wheels down to a smooth landing in Cleveland meant time to return to real-life with Randy and Maeve.  After a few snuggles with our little bean and catching up on her adventures with daddy and her grandparents while mommy was gone, it was like I never even left.  We then made plans for an Emmy’s viewing party with friends and excitedly waited for Sunday night.

Seeing Raven looking beautiful in my designs while interviewing stars I admire like, John Travolta, Courtney B. Vance, Jeffrey Tambor, Mandy Patinkin, Sarah Hyland, Sophie Turner and John Oliver among others was even more surreal than delivering the jewelry.  If someone would have told me years ago that this is where decades of following my passion would lead and that I would be sharing my art with so many people and in such a big way, I wouldn’t have believed them and blown it off as wishful thinking.  But, now that I am blessed with the privilege of living this impossible dream I can’t even begin to express my gratitude for all of you who have joined me on this journey. Thank you for being part of this grand adventure and as always thank you for reading and following on social media.

Till next time

xo, m

Raven-Symone Hits The Emmy's Red Carpet | The View