INTERVIEW: Fashion X Creator, Matt Swinney Returns to Houston This Fall...Al Fresco Style

Monday, July 31, 2017

Last year, Houston welcomed the Fashion X brand to the city for it's first installment of Fashion X Houston. This year, Fashion X returns with a new venue and theme. I had the opportunity to interview the creator of Fashion X, Matt Swinney and ask him a few questions about his brand, the runway shows, and coming to Houston.

What was your vision and reasoning behind creating the Fashion X Brand?
I truly felt there were no offerings out there that provided world class level runway production at an affordable price for emerging designers. In addition, the major fashion weeks aren’t great at connecting fashion brands directly to consumers — which is clearly the direction the industry has moved over the last decade or so. We wanted to ensure that as long as you could buy a ticket, you could come to our events — you didn’t need to have a “connection”.

Where was the first city that you launched the Fashion X and why? 
The first city was Austin back in 2009. Austin my home and it's where I knew the most people and understood the market the best. Austin has a plethora of young fashion design talent — even back in 2009 — and frankly it just needed someone to help wrangle all of it. It was in several different pockets and needed someone to connect all of the designer dots. Austin has a certain brand to it that resonates with sponsors from an influencer level so it was an obvious choice from that perspective.

Last year Fashion X Houston was hosted at Silver Street Studios? How was that experience?
It was great. I love Silver Street Studios. We had a huge space to fill and the Houston community supported in ways that were beyond my expectations.

How did you choose River Oaks District to host the show this year?
It’s an obvious fit from the perspective of aspirational and inspirational fashion brands, for the attendees and industry people that will be in attendance. And there’s no denying the beauty of the project — it’s has the perfect opportunity to do something really special from a production perspective — can’t you picture it? Outdoors, a very long and raised runway flanked by glittering trees? It will be stunningly beautiful. Plus, having direct access to the stores and restaurants adds to the attendee experience in a really natural way.

Describe your al fresco vision, and what should attendees expect to see at the show?
I pre-answered some of this above, but the vision is just that — open aired runways in that beautiful River Oaks District setting. We’ll close down one of the streets and have a very long raised runway that will be visually stunning — not unlike the runway at Silver Street last year, but even longer. The seated rows won’t go very deep so the view from anywhere in the space will be great.

How do you choose the designers that present during your runway show? 
Designers go through an application process. It starts online through a fairly extensive application where they tell us more about who they are and what their goals are for their business. We have an advisory board that helps select the final grouping of designers. We certainly emphasize local designers in each market but mix in some of the Project Runway designers and a few out of towners to keep the content fresh and interesting.

Is it hard to procure Project Runway Stars to do the fashion shows?
Not for us. When we first started working with the Project Runway designers, our friend in Austin, Daniel Esquivel, essentially vouched for us. Those designers get asked to do every show in America and the better ones say “no” to most of them because they don’t know the production value or whether the event will be “on brand” for them. For us, we just needed to secure two or three of them back in 2013 or so and we were off to the races. We proved that we’re good for each other’s brands and the audience loves what they bring to our shows. Now, we have more Project Runway designers than we can use for any one show. 

Are you also working with local makeup artists and photographers for the show? Can people apply to do Makeup and Photography?
Teams are important. Backstage can get chaotic and we try to run a calm, well-oiled machine. For that reason, we typically contract with brands to handle all the hair and makeup teams. For Houston this year, we’re working with Japanese luxury brand Koh Gen Do on the makeup side. Photographers are a bit different — for our official photography team, we hire that in-house, but any photographer shooting for a publication or media outlet or has a significant following can certainly apply through the media credential application on the website.

Do you have a background in the fashion industry?
I don’t actually. My background is primarily in marketing and advertising for lifestyle brands. While I can’t sew a button on a shirt, I do understand how to help a creative person get their final product to the eyes of the end consumer.

Where do you see the Fashion X Brand moving to in the future?
We definitely want to continue to expand to new cities. The reality is that there are still so many emerging designers that haven’t been given a true runway “voice” and we feel we can offer that for them. And every decent sized city deserves a legitimate series of fashion events to show off what their particular city has to offer.

How can Houstonians become more involved with Fashion X Houston?
Attend the events. That’s priority #1. The designers we feature work incredibly hard; into the wee hours of the morning on days and weeks leading up to Fashion X Houston. They make sure every stitch is perfect and every hem is straight to ensure their best possible foot forward. As a community, it’s up to all of us to show up and support that effort and help them understand that a career in the fashion industry is right for them. We want these creative visionaries to keep creating and allowing us the opportunity to peek into their artistic process.

And for anyone interested in volunteering, we’re always looking for that as well. Anyone can go to the website to apply for those opportunities as well.

**Photos provided by Fashion X Houston

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