Fashion industry consultant, Parsons alum and Montgomery native Perry Varner has returned to Alabama for a series of not-to-be-missed fashion events. Find him at The Royal Experience, Radar Magazine’s second anniversary function and fashion show in Huntsville this Sunday. He will also be hosting Runway Obsessions: For Colored Girls who Considered Fashion When the Rainbow is Enuf (a clever twist on Ntozake Shange’s work) in Montgomery at the Davis Theatre on March 9. He spoke with me recently about his motivations and projects.
Mr. Varner has described starting a “movement in fashion.” When asked to elaborate, he noted the lack of designers of color on Fifth Avenue.
“I want people of color to have more visibility when it comes to the impression we make and our buying power when it comes to these brands. I want people to be more conscious of supporting brands . That’s why I came to NY. I’m getting a better understanding of what it means to brand and how little some brands reflect the people who wear the actual items. There are no black designers on Fifth Avenue. Not one. People don’t know that when they go buy red bottoms [i.e. Christian Louboutin] and Gucci; there are no people of color that represent these products.”
Varner, who is known for masterminding fashionable events, received a bachelors degree from Auburn University Montgomery, and received additional training at Parsons in New York. He started as a promotions intern with Earthlink Live and later was fashion director for 205 Flava. He also designed and launched several nightspots, including the popular Amani Raha.
During those experiences, he says “I began to only focus on fashion. I found that being submersed in fashion-related events gave me the most pleasure. It took me 13 years to figure out what I wanted to do, and the last couple of years to get it right. It wasn’t easy. Whatever sacrifices I made, I did it. I’m in a way better place now [for it]. I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. I’d do it the same way again. I have no regrets. Somewhere between me thinking this could happen and pursuing it, it happened.”
Now, as a fashion consultant, Varner designs events within New York’s fashion industry and recently hosted a major brunch with numerous media partners and brands during New York Fashion Week. But it’s not all hobnobbing with the fashion elite. Varner also teaches a course at Harlem Children’s Zone and has plans to further cement his mark on fashion history with his latest project, a book he hopes to publish soon.
“The History of Black Fashion in America is about how black people have shaped fashion over the last one hundred years in America. It journeys what we’ve done as people of color and what our contribution has been to pop culture in fashion,” he shares.
What else can we look forward to from Mr. Varner?
His latest Style Experience, “Runway Obsessions,” focuses on empowering women. “I have over sixty models and all female designers. I’m honoring six females from the community in each city where we’re doing the show, women who are making a difference. It opens up a lot of opportunities for the models and designers. In each city I use local models and I feature designers from that particular city. I created Style Experience to give people here [a New York-style fashion experience] with beautiful eccentric people, the red carpet, and paparazzi.”
Runway Obsessions will hit the catwalk in Montgomery on March 18, Birmingham in July, and Atlanta during Labor Day weekend.
For more on Mr. Varner, click here.
Images courtesy Perry Varner