Fashion Movement aims to grow Tampa Bay fashion scene in creative locales

Published September 2 2015

Most afternoons, people slide trays down the cafeteria line at Tampa's Spain Restaurant and Toma bar, grabbing a little paella for lunch before heading back to the office.

It only took the four men who make up the Fashion Movement hours to transform the clean white space into a chic runway and presentation space for up-and-coming designer Arielle Joseph of Ari J Designs.

The Fashion Movement is a fashion event and promotion company aimed at creating venues and platforms for designers and consumers to meet. Over the past several years, the men have been the force behind some of the more notable fashion events in Tampa Bay, at a variety of creative locations.

"I look for buildings that are blank canvases," said Lacey B. Smith, 55, a senior accounts analyst at the Depository Trust and Clearing Corp. by day. "Spaces that we can turn into whatever we need."

Smith used the Spain's white pillars to create a natural runway for Joseph's models — lending the intimate show an upscale feel.

"Lacey is the vision," said Jermaine Levy, 30, a tax accountant with Met Life and the newest member of the Fashion Movement team. "We work together on logistics and planning but Lacey is the CEO."

Smith has worked in finance for more than 20 years, but always had an interest in fashion. Growing up with his seamstress mother in Jamaica gave him a keen awareness of clothing and presentation.

"People don't expect black men to be interested in fashion," Smith said. "Especially not as a business."

Living in New York City, he wanted give his lesser known friends in fashion a platform to have their work seen, so he started putting on fashion shows in cheaper venues.

"In New York's Village there was an old Jewish Synagogue, everything was so old and crumbling, but really beautiful and it wasn't expensive, so I held a fashion show there," he said. "Then everybody wanted to use the space. Even Calvin Klein and Alexander McQueen had shows there."

Designers began to take note of Smith's ability to generate interest and pack houses with notable folks. The Fashion Movement was taking off. When Smith transferred to Tampa for work, he wanted to keep the momentum going, but realized the fashion community in the area wasn't fully realized.

"This place was so dead," Smith said. "Most of the properties in downtown were just parking lots."

Despite the lack of organization, his first event in November 2007 was a success. Fashion Live in Downtown Tampa was marketed through social media for four months and managed to sell nearly all its $50 tickets.

"People could see we wanted to put out a good product," Smith said. "They knew that the quality of designers had to be on point."

Smith and partners Levy, Curtis Clarke and Tony Smith, his brother, all have their roles in the fledgling company. Tony Smith has a background in the military and handles security and safety. Clarke takes care of planning details. Levy acts as DJ on show days.

As the events continued to come, the Fashion Movement grew to include local makeup artists, hair stylists and fashion stylists.

The Fashion Movement has grown three annual events — HAUTE Accessories Week, Eye on Fashion Stylist Competition, and Bowties and Clutches Charity Party — and occasional showcases at designers' requests. HAUTE Accessories week, which wraps this Friday with a showcase at the Carrollwood Country Club, is in its fifth year.

"Here in this region we didn't have a concentrated accessory show like other places," Smith said. "We did a lot of market research and found that this could be a good niche for us."

On Friday, milliners, bow tie artists and jewelry designers from New York to Jamaica will get to meet their customers, sell their wares and hold a fashion show for boutique owners and buyers all in one night.

"Designers are artists and don't usually understand how to do business," Smith said. "They make these beautiful pieces that are too expensive to reproduce or sell even."

The Fashion Movement walks collaborators through the process of preparing for showcase by encouraging them to make pieces with similar elements at different price points to generate sales.

If his company only succeeds in selling tickets, Smith wouldn't call an event a success.

"We want to build up the fashion community in Tampa and expand to other markets," Smith said.

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