Fashion

Local Hero: Nikita Wallace, founder and CEO of Winston-Salem Fashion Week | Winston-Salem Monthly


Cindy Loman

When Nikita Wallace worked in the front office of a school, she noticed that the kids who got in trouble were often the creative ones.

When Nikita Wallace worked in a school front office, she noticed that it was often the creative kids who got in trouble.

“Most of those that were put out of classes were artists,” she says. “They wanted to be designers, artists, rap artists, magazine editors, models, designers, something in fashion, and there was nowhere for them to display their talent , no outlet or platform for them here in Winston.”

Wallace, who had worked with fashion designers in New York for a few years,- dreamed of offering an outlet one day. She wrote down her idea: Winston-Salem Fashion Week.

Fast forward several years. Wallace had gone back to school at Salem College. She pitched Winston-Salem Fashion Week as her senior thesis in 2015.

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“My advisor said, ‘If you can pull this event off, we’ll give you half a credit, and you can graduate,’” she recalls. “I needed that half a credit, or I would have waited another whole year to walk (in graduation ceremonies).”

What Wallace, the founder and CEO of Winston-Salem Fashion Week, managed to pull off was an impressive two-day event with eight designers, 250 attendees, major retail partners and 80-plus volunteers.

And that senior thesis has grown to become an annual celebration of fashion, which this year runs from Sept. 19-25 and features 13 designers, 10 of them newcomers.

The pool of designers in Winston-Salem Fashion Week’s early years consisted of seamstresses, dressmakers and people who “just always had a love of fashion,” she says. “It actually gave them the platform to showcase.”

In the past three years, more college students and young adults have gotten involved.

This year’s Winston-Salem Fashion Week features three returning designers and 10 newcomers.

In her “day job,” Wallace works for Dewey’s Bakery as a customer service representative for e-commerce and corporate gifting.

She credits her “great volunteer team” for the project’s success. Some volunteers have helped from the start, she says.

This year’s Fashion Week includes partnerships with Southside Foods, Hanes Brand and the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art.

“There’s no way we can do all this without our partners,” she says. “Collaboration is the key.”

Winston-Salem has an eclectic style, Wallace says.

Fashions range from bohemian to modern, classic to flamboyant, she says.

Patrons are as varied as styles.

“We draw a diverse crowd to Winston Salem Fashion Week. Fashion is very multi-cultural. It speaks a universal language that everybody can understand and relate to.”

Her favorite part of the week is “seeing it all come together and unfold,” all of the details in place and everyone enjoying it.

Follow Winston-Salem Fashion Week at WS Fashion Week on Facebook, @wsfofficial on Instagram and WSFashionweek.com.

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