Designers, fashion icons, curators convene for Bentonville fashion symposium – Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette


202728401 IMG 5289 t800 Stuart Vevers, executive creative director of Coach, talks about “Why American Fashion Matters” with Nicole Phelps, global director of Vogue Runway during a fashion symposium at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art earlier today. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/April Wallace)

American art and fashion came together in Bentonville today as leaders in design came to speak at a fashion symposium presented by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Among the panelists and speakers were executives representing popular brands and names in fashion, such as Coach, Nike and Tommy Hilfiger; a variety of fashion designers, founders of groups focused on sustainable innovation and inclusive design, a senior vice president of Walmart US’ footwear merchant group and the guest curator and guest designer who created “Fashioning America: From Grit to Glamour,” the first fashion exhibit to be displayed at Crystal Bridges.

“What really resonated with our mission here at Crystal Bridges was focusing on diversity, inclusion and American ingenuity, afterall our mission here is to welcome all to celebrate the American spirit,” Olivia Walton, Crystal Bridges Board Chairwoman, said in her opening remarks. “I’m also particularly proud that our partnership with the CFDA led to a new heartland scholars award.”

Walton said the goal of the award is to foster new design talent from America’s heartland. Applications open this January.

Stuart Vevers, executive creative director of coach, opened the symposium events in a discussion with Nicole Phelps, global director of Vogue Runway, on “Why American Fashion Matters.” Both have been in the fashion industry since the mid-1990s and share a unique outlook on American fashion due to their involvement in some of the world’s biggest design companies and events, like Milan Fashion Week.

Vevers, who is a graduate of London’s University of Westminster and had lead accessories design roles at Italian luxury fashion house Bottega Veneta, French luxury fashion and perfume house Givenchy and Louis Vuitton, says he was drawn to American style and that made him want to work for Coach.

Phelps made the point that American fashion often gets a bad wrap for being practical and everyday, but that’s exactly what Vevers admires it for.

“Something about the ease of a certain everydayness and (it had) a sense of reality that for most of my career I could not have focused on,” Vevers said. “I’ve certainly focused on that at Coach, celebrating the everday is part of what the American fashion legacy is.”

Tommy Hilfiger gave the closing talk, “The Future of Fashion: Using Technology to Enter the Fashion Metaverse.” A red carpet event is planned for symposium guests this evening.

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