Atlantic Fashion Week interview with Angela Campagnoni, founder and director

Atlantic Fashion Week (AFW) kicks off Thursday night with three nights of fashion from around the region. This is AFW’s ninth season and Angela Campagnoni, founder of AFW, remains behind the wheel of the show. The former model, designer and agency owner has a big vision for AFW and is already planning the 10th season.
Halifax Magazine talked with Campagnoni about what’s new this year, her thoughts on the local fashion industry and the long-term plans for the show.

This is the ninth year. How has the show changed from year one?

I was looking back on some photos from our first night from season one. And there were probably 300 people there. So it’s always been very well received. We tweaked ideas and we had an emerging {designer} night and an established [designer] night and now I think it’s all about mixing up the content. I am trying to make each night make sense with each other. Last year, our second night, the designers are putting in longer collection. Before they had six or eight pieces in. Now they are putting in 20 to 30. And because of that, the Saturday night show is really long. So this year, I designed each night to have its own theme. So the Thursday night is all about empowerment. Friday night is all about ready-to-wear. And then Saturday is more glitz and glamour with a costuming and drag component to it.

What’s on for this year?

So this year, what’s different, is we have one venue for all three nights. The former Rona building in Bayers Lake, 100,000 square feet of open space. Tons of parking. It’s going to feel very industrial and minimalist. We will have a 200-foot runway so even when you’re in general seating, you’re only one row back, all the way down. I am excited about that. We’ve loved our venues partners we had, but it always a big job to go in every day and set up and tear down. This was a good move for us for this year. I love the idea of going in and setting up and not having to tear down until the day after the event is all over.

What do you think the show has meant for designers?

That is a double-edge question because there are two ways people looked at the show. Either the show is for them. Or the show can’t go on without them. I’ve people question why I am doing this, why do I feel the right to do this. I am the one who’s been plugging away for nine years doing it. It took a good five seasons for it to become known and people were expecting it. I actually remember one year when I moved it from two a year to one…and there was a write up in one of the papers saying, “Oh, AFW has fallen down” but they didn’t’ call me to ask. I love working with the designers. I feel the ones who really truly want to be in the business, AFW is a platform for them. I encourage them all, buyers come for free, media come for free. So, the ones who really have a business sense understand and… treat it like their own. They have to have some foresight on how to use it as a tool, how to put a show on. I find those who use it, use it properly.

So, why did you stick with it for nine years?

I am stubborn. I knew what it could be and I am a bigger picture kind of person. I knew it would be a struggle starting out and getting it off the ground. I was a struggling designer in the ‘90s. But I took my talent and used it to help other people reach their dreams.

What you do think you learned about yourself but organizing the show?

For me, I am very controlling [laughs]. I finally learned how to let go of the reins in certain areas. I finally taught myself I don’t need to be involved in every aspect if I have the right people. So, we have Redken as one of our sponsors for nine seasons now. I used to be on top of everything. But I got to the point where, you know what, you are our gold-level sponsors, you run our backstage, you handle all the makeup artists, hairdressers, and I don’t need to do that. I used to always that the people who came around during the bad times, the struggles that those were the ones who could rely on. But I’ve come to realize it’s when you have a really big win, and people are actually happy for you with the big win, those are the people I’ve learned to rely on. I’ve learned to look at people a little differently. And to be honest, I learned to trust my instincts a little more. I’ve learned quickly how to adapt. Every year when something doesn’t work, you learn quickly how to change it for the next year and move on. Our very first year, I had a disastrous night. We did four nights and I had one night that was meant for hundreds of people to attend and I think there were 15 people. I instantly you have to research what`s going on town, what events are happening, but move on.

What do you think the show means to the local fashion industry?

Well, I would hope they see it as a vital part of that industry. There was no fashion industry in 2008 when we started. We created the eyes on it. We’ve been in Flare, we’ve been in Elle. We bring attention here. There is a lot more attention. I’ve been involved with the Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards. I am again, this year, on the nominating committee. And I think I am the only one on the East Coast doing that. I don’t stop and think we’ve really made some big headway.

What would you like your legacy to be for the local fashion industry?

We’ve had a few great milestones. We’ve had a really article in Flare that we were one of the top fashion weeks in Canada. It’s now become a staple and it took five seasons for that to happen. It’s not about myself. If people are talking about it, that means the industry is being talked about. I feel sometimes we are looked at, because we are in a small province, a small area, people don’t think big. You have to think big; that’s how you grow something.

What would you like to see happen with the show?

The plan is to create AFW presents FAME, which will be fashion, artists, musicians and entertainment. We want to have events free to the public during the day, ticketed events at night. Matching up the designers with musicians. More of a festival, more art-based, so we can bring in a larger community. The whole reason I started AFW as a collaborated for showcase because it’s hard for some of our designers to get 300 people to go to their show. So, if you have six to eight designers showcasing one night, there will be people there to see one designer and they get to see the others.

What are you most proud of?

I have to say as a personal achievement I was very proud to be a jury member at Canadian Arts and Fashion Week. I love that, and whether it’s because of Atlantic Fashion Week or not, that there is more fashion here. I think we started a fire. We gave some content for bloggers to write and get noticed. We gave a venue for people to come and see these designers. And that makes me proud.
For tickets and more details on the show, visit You can also connect on Twitter @AFW_fashionweek and Facebook.
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This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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