Jessica is a thirty something mom, wife and bargain hunter who enjoys the challenge of putting together a great outfit from thrift stores, yard sales and those big discount bins....
Photo of Sarah Merrell byTaylor Boyd
Hello Asheville and fellow fashion fans!
I love me some fashion and I try my best to catch as many Asheville fashion events and fashion shows as I can. I just attended the Color Me Goodwill Fashion Show in February and it was loads of fun. There is no shortage of fashion in Asheville but I thought I should check in with a local expert to get the real scoop; ace reporter style!
What seems to me like a casual, fun little get together is actually an event that takes a lot of hard work to put together. That brings me to Sarah Merrell who was the event coordinator for the Color Me Goodwill show and many other local fashion events. I met Sarah at the show and not only is she the nicest person ever, but she taught me a lot about how the fashion wheels in Asheville turn. I asked her if I could feature her (and all of the contents of her brain on Asheville fashion) and she said yes! There is a lot of local fashion energy to get excited about.
A little bit about Sarah...
Sarah Merrell is an Asheville based marketer and event planner who also works as a professional, international model/actress for Gage Talent Agency. She has a strong passion for fashion, and also Asheville, and over the last few years has combined her skills to work towards elevating and growing the Asheville fashion community and industry. Sarah is the founder of the Asheville Model Network and also plans and directs fashion events throughout the year including runway fashion shows, modeling workshops, fashion networking events, photography shoot out events, and collaborative photo shoots. Sarah holds a BA in Communications from UNC Chapel Hill and an MBA degree from Western Carolina University. She has also been a celebrity stylist for LOFT and hosts fashion segments for ABC News 13.
I was excited to ask Sarah some questions...
Jessica Underwood: What sort of role do you play in the fashion scene in Asheville?
Sarah Merrell: My main role and mission in the Asheville fashion scene is to see the Asheville fashion scene receive the attention it deserves, not just locally, but on a national level. Asheville is well known for it's beer and it's food, but not so much for it's fashion. A lot of people don't realize this, but Asheville has more fashion designers and more fashion shows than cities three times it's size. When I first moved back to Asheville in 2005, the fashion scene was very small and there wasn't a lot of collaboration. However, by creating a platform and events that allows the fashion community to network, the fashion work here in Asheville has grown and improved, and the creative projects coming out of this city are amazing. The Asheville fashion scene is very special and unique. Most recently, I've been helping Asheville fashion designers and models get involved in Fashion Week events in other cities. It's so rewarding to be at these big Fashion Week shows and see designs by Asheville designers under the lights and on big runways. It's another step towards getting Asheville fashion on the map.
Jessica: Seeing our local designers featured on big runways is awesome! What has been one of your most favorite fashion events in Asheville? Or your top 3 if it's a hard decision!
Sarah: Yes, it is a very hard decision, there are so many! I have to say that my top favorite is the Costume Drama Fashion Show which is in it's 4th year now and will be taking place in July. The show is directed by Sara Fields, who does an amazing job on this show. The categories for this year at Nature, Inflatables, Christmas in July, and Tape. Designers choose a category and make their designs according to the category they choose – or for example, if Tape then their designs are made out of tape, or for Nature, out of materials found in nature. The designs that come out of this show will just blow you away. My other favorite fashion show is the Product of the Decade fashion show series which I direct. Each year, a different decade is chosen. This year, it was the Product of the 20s Fashion Show (finale clip below) and featured designs inspired by the 20s. Models even walked the runway to a live jazz band.
Jessica: Yes I loved the Product of the Decade show as well! I went to the 1960's Mod Show last year and it was so much fun. How would you describe the fashion scene in Asheville to someone who is visiting Asheville for the first time?
SARAH: I would describe it as collaborative and unique. It's different from the fashion scenes I've experienced in any other city. The people here understand that by working together, they can create bigger and better things. You can also see the influence that both the creative atmosphere of Asheville as a city, and the environmental sentimentalities of the city have on fashion. Asheville is a very creative and innovative city in general. So the designers and photographers here have these creative minds that are just brilliant – they are true artists, and you can see that in their work. Sometimes I look at the designs coming down the runway, or photos, and they're just these amazing works of art. There is also a lot of fashion that is environmentally friendly, a lot of upcycled and recycled designs and even shops featuring all upcycled/recycled apparel.
Jessica: I am an avid thrift shopper (and Project Runway addict) so I love seeing the upcycled designs. So how did you get your start in the Asheville modeling business?
Sarah: I had been a model for a while in other cities, but when I moved back to Asheville I didn't know anyone in the modeling community and had no idea how to get involved. There was no network at the time. A very good friend of mine, Sara Fields (who I mentioned directs the Costume Drama Fashion Show) helped me get my start in this area by casting me in shows and some shoots. She was well connected and really helped me and inspired me. I appreciated it so much, so I've been trying to do the same for other models, connecting them, helping them network, and when I see someone with potential, giving them opportunities. The more I modeled in Asheville, the more I fell in love with the fashion scene here.
Jessica: What are some upcoming Asheville fashion events that we can get geared up for?
I am also working on a Kid's Modeling Workshop and Fashion Show in June, date is TBD. And I'm working on an AMN Spring Shoot Out event that will be in May, date is also TBD. Ananda Hair Studio has also just announced that they are beginning to plan their annual fashion show which takes place in late spring/early summer, the date for that is TBD as well.
Thank you for sharing Sarah! You can catch Sarah on WLOS fashion segments where she most recently showcased upcoming spring trends. Sarah is excellent at featuring local artists and designers. I am super excited for the future of the Asheville fashion scene. The sky is the limit!