Bronx Fashion Week Proves To Be More Than Glam and Haute Couture

Models will strut their stuff in Bronx designer creations for a second year in a row during Bronx Fashion Week on September 17th.

First debuting last year at the Andrew Freedman Home, Bronx Fashion Week also featured a business expo to give local Bronx companies an opportunity to join in on the new venture. This past May, a preview show occurred inside of The Old Bronx Courthouse, considered an unlikely location for a fashion show by most. “I think what people don’t realize is that I never stick to the norm, I always like to reinvent and think outside the box.” said Flora Montes, President and Executive Director of Bronx Fashion Week.


Flora Montes, President and Executive Director of Bronx Fashion Week.

This year, the event will again showcase clothes made by Bronx designers as well as artists from around the world. Taking place at a bigger venue, part of the Mall at Bay Plaza will be transformed into a runway with the top levels being dedicated to Eat NYC, a food and wine festival spearheaded by John Denizard. Partnering up with Bronx Fashion Week, Eat NYC will be a charitable addition of the show with proceeds going to the Food Bank for New York.

As time nears towards the second year debut of Bronx Fashion Week, we had a chance to discuss with Flora Montes the beginning of her creation, what she hopes for the future, and some of the finer details on why this fashion show is different from the rest.

Kathleen Canzoniero: What drove you to create Bronx Fashion Week?

Flora Montes: I had been doing events for some years and I was working as a Chef for many events throughout NYC after being laid off after 15 years of working for the same company. I went to a fashion show in October of 2012 and absolutely fell in love with Fashion, I left that evening thinking to myself why had this not been done in the Bronx and I went straight to work on it the very next day, researching Mercedes and Brooklyn Fashion Week. I knew that if I was to do this it had to be at that level yet have its own flavor and identity.

Canzoniero: What struggles have you faced in bringing a fashion week for the Bronx?

Montes: I have to say that it has been more of a blessing than a struggle. The event was embraced with support and love by so many that regardless of the small glitches or moments I questioned taking on such a large project, because others may have questioned If I could pull it off, never ever has it been a question or regret in my mind. Bronx Fashion Week has been a blessing and I am so humbled to have been able to bring this to life.

BFW 2014

Bronx Fashion Week 2014

Canzoniero: Many people think of a Fashion Week as only being about beauty and haute couture, what made you decide to bring Eat NYC in the mix to benefit the Food Bank of New York?

Montes: There is a misconception that Fashion Houses are only about the size 2 model or that it is only fashion and it can be superficial. One thing I have learned is that it is so far from the truth. Fashion is a huge part of our economy and has been giving back to communities for years in so many ways, however that is never bought to the forefront. Just last year Mercedes showcased a model with Down Syndrome who was absolutely stunning and I remember thinking to myself kudos for doing that.

Bronx Fashion Week showcased in May, The Essence of Beauty, which showcased beauty from a different perspective by showcasing the true beauty of different woman of different sizes, heights, and experiences. I am proud to say it was a success. Eat NYC is just another component of that vision. As a business woman, Chef John Dezinard and myself spoke of giving back to the community on a larger scale. As having experience as an Executive Chef, I have been trying to find a way to help New York City and the Bronx.

Speaking for myself, Bronx Fashion Week was going to be a Fashion House that would grow as a company but it would also be one that would help the Bronx. Being born and raised here, I am very passionate about giving back because it is the right thing to do. I want to dispel all the negative things people say about the Bronx and showcase all the beautiful things that come from this borough that are not spoken about through Bronx Fashion Week.

Canzoniero: When bringing fashion week to the Bronx, how did you envision it?

Gift to Empower

The Gift to Empower School Supply Drive at Boogie on the Boulevard in August. Photo c/o Flora Montes

Montes: I envisioned a Fashion House that would encompass everything but with its own flavor, one that would give back to the community and help build the economic structure of the Bronx by providing jobs and so much more. So far there are three entities born of Bronx Fashion Week, one of them being The Gift to Empower. We have been giving back to children for 8 years through our School Supply Drive that has helped over 4,000 children which was started after my daughters passing 12 years ago. I wanted to turn something bad in my life to something good.

The Gift to Empower plans to implement other programs spearheaded for 2016 by Latanya Devaughn, who is the Executive Director of that entity. Earlier this year we launched The New York Fashion Chamber of Commerce to help those in the fashion industry through training initiatives, mentorship, and work referrals. One of my goals with the chamber is to use those people involved with Bronx Fashion Week and give them the tools they need to compete in other fashion markets around the world. I am proud to say there is only one other chamber in Washington D.C. and now NYC that is launching in 2016.

Canzoniero: Models are an important aspect of any fashion show, has the increasing call for body acceptance influenced or inspired your selection process for models?

Montes: I am constantly saying this, and was just speaking of this yesterday, Bronx Fashion Week will never stick to just one type of fashion standard. Being a women who is not a size 6 and of my age with two adult children (23 and 27), I personally know how cruel people can be especially when I started out on this vision. I heard quite a few nasty things about my size and about my age. It was very hurtful and very telling for me on a personal level.

However, I have never been one to dwell on the negative and let it suck me in, so at that moment I knew I was going to do it different and in my way. I knew and have always known that Bronx Fashion Week would embrace all sizes, heights, and break the age barrier when it came to our showcases because beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder and it truly does come from within.

Canzoniero: What do you hope to bring to future fashion weeks?

Montes: I hope to bring showcases that highlight all the beauty The Bronx has to offer while bringing those that were born and raised here back to there home. I had one woman last May who came back born and raised and who had left who know works for Neiman Marcus come back and when we spoke she was so happy to be coming back and spoke of her days here. I have a huge surprise next year where I have a famous Bronx born designer coming back to the Borough who told me how he loved what we were doing a & it bought back so many memories for him. I want to always make sure Bronx Fashion Week sets the bar high but with it’s own original flavor and identity making history for the future of fashion.

Ivelisse Arroyo, plus-sized model for Bronx Fashion Week. Photo c/o Ivelisse Arroyo

Ivelisse Arroyo, plus-sized model for Bronx Fashion Week. Photo c/o Ivelisse Arroyo

Perhaps, without realizing it, Bronx Fashion Week has seamlessly introduced a body and age accepting version of a fashion show with a Bronx flavor. Ivelisse Arroyo is one of the models who will be walking down the catwalk on the 17th. She is also considered a plus-sized model in which the general standard in the fashion industry is any model over size 2. Arroyo, who noticed the lack of plus-sized models in the first show for Bronx Fashion Week, asked Montes if they would allow her to participate and was immediately accepted as a new addition to the show. “I am honored and humbled to be a part of the BXFW family. To actually walk down that runway and to be called a model has been a dream come true.” said Arroyo.

By industry standards, as vast majority of women would be considered plus-sized or full figured, “The main stream fashion industry and its perception of beauty is narrowed down to single digit sizes. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. The plus-size community has come very far.” expressed Arroyo when discussing the fashion industry’s regulations on body sizes.

When asked how Arroyo felt as a model in Bronx Fashion Week she said, “Being the first plus-size model for BXFW has been incredibly humbling, and as a result I have so much more respect for the fashion industry.”

Bronx Fashion Week and Eat NYC The Bronx Food and Wine Festival is scheduled for September 17th, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The Mall at Bay Plaza. To purchase tickets, register on their Eventbright page and for more information, check for updates on Facebook.

Featured image c/o Lauren Click for Bronx Fashion Week Facebook page.

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