Flier for Baltimore Fashion Week 2011 (Baltimore Sun )
After a year in the suburbs, Baltimore Fashion Week is coming back to its city roots.
Its organizer promises a four-day show in August that will look and feel different at its new site — a parcel of land alongside the waterfront near Harbor East.
"It's where we should have been the whole time," said Sharan Nixon, whose company, Butterfly Productions, runs the event, now entering its fourth year. "Towson was cool, but I felt displaced. There is no place like home. I'm clicking my heels — I mean, my cowboy boots."
The new site — a swath of land near the Morgan Stanley building — will provide Nixon with the type of location she envisioned when she first launched the event. She will also look to neighboring businesses to participate in Fashion Week-related events.
"I'm very excited," Nixon said. "To have it in Harbor East is like the creme de la creme."
It was always Nixon's intent to keep Baltimore Fashion Week in Baltimore. But during the fall of 2009, after concerns about parking and safety, she decided to move the event from the War Memorial Building, its home for the first two years, to the Sheraton Baltimore North in Towson.
Less than a week after last year's event ended, Nixon began meeting with officials from H&S Properties Development Corp, the group responsible for developing the Harbor East area. By December, she had entered into an agreement to host the event there.
"I knew what I needed to do," Nixon said.
The new location will also allow Nixon to host the event in a tentlike structure, the same kind used in the storied Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City. The 16,000-square-foot tent is made by Karl's Event Rental, the same company that provides the temporary structures used at the New York event.
The tent will house a 82-by-49-foot runway, which Nixon said will give her show a more professional, high-fashion feel.
"It's so wide, the only thing you will see is fashion," Nixon said. "The guests will not be in the shots."
Nixon expects that production costs will exceed $50,000. She is searching for high-end title sponsors for the event.
"Just as I have before, I have funded this event with my personal savings. Moving forward, I am asking for financial support from various sources," Nixon said. "This started out as an event that I felt was needed to put a positive spin on the city. Now my concern is the designers, models and businesses in the city. It just needs to be done."
The new structure will provide fewer seats — 320 compared with 450 at the Sheraton — but will accommodate more guests total, with space for an additional 480 in standing-room areas.
Reanna Jacobs, owner of DeBois Textiles Inc., a warehouse in Pigtown that specializes in vintage clothes, says the event's new location will make it more like the elite shows elsewhere.
"This year, Sharan is pushing it over the top," said Jacobs, an annual participant. "I'm so excited about this year. It will be a great thing for the city."
While Nixon prides herself on her event's diversity of models — last year, they ranged in size from 0 to 22 — this year's crop of models will have to follow more traditional height standards, requiring them to be no shorter than 5 foot 8. Nixon said she will also be more selective about the designers she allows to participate in the event.
"They are going to have to really bring it," Nixon said. "It's not a game anymore. With the tent being erected, we need to really represent. I think that we have been very lenient with some of the designers. But moving forward, we can't half-step with this. It's either 100 percent or nothing at all."