Wednesday, 08 August 2012 11:40

Homegrown Couture

Written by  Mary Mattingly
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Rooftop Couture Fashion Show
Top level of the Ellis Parking Garage, Grand Rapids
Aug. 11, 7 p.m.
Presale tickets $20, Door $25, VIP $50

If you want to make it in fashion, your first instinct is probably to move to Chicago, New York City or Los Angeles. The Rooftop Couture Fashion Show, a Grand Rapids show developed by model Renee Jonkman and journalist Crystal Hilliard, may ensure that you do not have to.

"Too often we are losing really talented people to big cities," Jonkman said.

She remembers when she first started out in modeling and found it hard to get work in her hometown.

"I had tried out for an agency in Grand Rapids and was denied, so I had to look elsewhere for work."

Though she originally left Grand Rapids, Jonkman has returned. The idea for a homegrown fashion show came to her when she was planning a show and the designer left town, leaving her with the bulk of her work. She started getting and organizing models, and someone suggested she have her own show.

"I have a lot of friends in the Grand Rapids fashion industry who need exposure. We [Jonkman and Hilliard] came up with the idea to show them off and give local designers' their own platform," Jonkman said.

Designers were mainly contacted through word of mouth.

"I've seen one during ArtPrize, a few popped up on Facebook and a few more just contacted me. Some are people I've known or worked for," Jonkman said.

Designer Brian Mason of Eins Wear Clothing Company knows Jonkman through his wife, and is friends with Hilliard.

"Renee contacted me about doing the show. It's been really awesome, we're getting exposure like never before," Mason said.

The show was originally slated to also be an art show and concert, "but it got too big. It was Crystal's idea to split it up into a series," Jonkman said.

Jonkman hopes for the fashion show to become an annual one.

"Designers need something consistent to show off their work."

"We don't have a lot [of shows] to begin with," said Kev Couture, the show's stylist. "The shows we do have are high end; this gives local boutiques and designers a chance to gain spotlight and prominence. With the combination of the rooftop location and the local designers, this is sure to create a significant buzz."

"It lets the rest of the state, of the Midwest, know what Grand Rapids has to offer," Mason added. "We're not just a bunch of guys making T-shirts, we also have high-end couture."

The event will feature Grand Rapids DJ SuperDre and sell Michigan brews. There will be cocktails from 7-8 p.m., and then the hour-long show will start with an introduction by the show's partner, Fashion Has Heart. A portion of the show's proceeds will be donated to this local nonprofit organization, which utilizes art and design in helping to rehabilitate wounded soldiers.

For those with VIP tickets, benefits include special parking, front row seats, a complimentary beverage ticket, and appetizers and desserts.

"I'm so excited, and I'm excited about people getting excited," Jonkman said. "It's grown into something we never thought it'd be. The local support has been incredible."

Photo: Ryan P Photo

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