Vehicle City Fashion Week 2018: A 6-day Flint fashion extravaganza with a purpose

FLINT, Michigan — Vehicle City Fashion Week is back for its seventh year — a six-day, multi-venue extravaganza full of local and international fashion, workshops, and (of course) runway shows.

“I want to bridge the gap for local designers. I want them to know about the programs available in Michigan and that it’s not just designing,” says Vehicle City Fashion Week founder and director Kala Wilburn. “There are so many paths you can take in fashion. Local models and designers need to know that there are people here with fashion as a business, not a hobby. People can get lost in their surroundings and not realize what’s at their fingertips.”  

Vehicle City Fashion Week runs Nov. 12-17. Most events are at various locations in downtown Flint with the finale runway show at 7 p.m. Nov. 17 at Sloan Museum in the Courtland Center Mall, 4190 E. Court Street at Center Road. 

Wilburn, a Flint native, has always been passionate about fashion. What began as repair sewing and patchwork pieces alongside her grandfather evolved into costumes for talent shows, and eventually lead Wilburn to studying fashion at Central Michigan University. After graduation, Wilburn made the decision to move to London, and while there took advantage of her close proximity to travel to Europe’s fashion capitals. 
After a year abroad, Wilburn returned to the states and settled in New York. She spent three years there pursuing her dream and immersing herself in the fashion scene — volunteering at Mercedes Benz Fashion week and studying men’s fashion design at Marc Ecko. 

In 2011, everything changed. 

On October 31, 2011, Wilburn’s brother Antonio was murdered, another one of the city’s victims of gun violence. She decided she wanted to do something. 

Wilburn had moved back home and decided to connect her passion to raise awareness of gun violence with her love for fashion. Within a year, Fashion Against Violence was born and Vehicle City Fashion Week followed shortly thereafter. 

“I was inspired by New York Fashion Week and by all the places I’ve been. I realize not everyone can get there, so I wanted to take my experiences with those places and put them in a format that up and coming designers — and other people in and out of the industry — can experience,” Wilburn says.

Day 4 of Vehicle City Fashion Week features a workshop by Fashion Against Violence at Berston Fieldhouse.  

“Fashion Week is — yes, it’s the clothes and the music and the networking — but I want people to know it’s also a safe space for people affected by gun violence. For people to talk about it and work through their feelings about it,” Wilburn says. 

Workshops typically are free or a very low cost. Tickets to the finale runway show are $23 general admissions, $33 for VIP front row seating. For more information on all the events planned, visit Fashion Against Violence page on Facebook or the Vehicle City Fashion Week event on Facebook

“This is more than this week for me. It’s an everyday, all the time thing. Wherever I go or whatever I’m doing I’m always asking myself: ‘How can I make this bigger and better? How can I reach more people and provide more resources to the community?’ It never stops for me.”