Waterfront Fashion Week will make its debut showing Wednesday with the aim of shining a spotlight not only upon Louisville's nascent fashion scene, but also upon Waterfront Park, the Big Four Bridge Project, and Kentuckiana as a whole. In this interview with event organizers Peggy Hagerty Duffy and Clinton Deckard, and fashion consultant Jo Ross, they explain how they first came together to create Waterfront, their intended goals for the event, and what to expect upon entering the tent from the 17th through the 20th.
Cameron Miquelon: Could each of you being by telling us a little bit about your backgrounds?
Peggy Hagerty Duffy: Clinton has a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management from Purdue University. He worked as a general contractor for ten years before starting his own construction management firm in 1999. He either was the contractor for or the manager of every phase of Waterfront Park, including the ongoing Big Four Bridge project.
Clinton is very involved in community projects and organizations, including Oldham County Youth Sports, the Waterfront Clean Team, and a number of other efforts.
I have a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and a Master of Engineering in Civil Engineering with a concentration in geotechnical engineering, both from the University of Louisville . I worked as a consultant for several national firms before i started my own geotechnical engineering firm in 1997. I have worked on hundreds of projects throughout Kentucky and southern Indiana, including the Big Four bridge, Liberty Green, the Louisville Water Company  Riverbank Filtration project, and many others.
I also am heavily involved in community projects and organizations, including Jeffersonville CityPride, the U of L Speed School of Engineering Alumni Council, the Jeffersonville Cultural Resources Council, and others.
Jo Ross: I have over 40 years in the fashion business, with a myriad of related roles. I appear on WHAS-TV, FOX 41, WAVE-TV, and WLKY-TV to report on fashion trends, events, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, etc. I also have written fashion articles for The Courier-Journal, Louisville Magazine , The Voice-Tribune, Today's Woman, and Business First. I produce fashion shows, and have produced shows for Michael Kors, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Geoffrey Beene, Albert Nipon, as well as The Voice-Tribune, The Courier-Journal, WHAS-TV, The Kentucky Derby Museum, The Derby Festival, The Museum of History and Science, Louisville Ballet , Louisville Orchestra, Heuser Hearing Institute, and many other charitable and commercial clients.
In 1977, I formed a collection of historic clothing and accessories that now numbers over 22,000 items, dating from 1805 to 1990, and is the property of the Louisville Science Center. Numerous commercial clients acquire my services to advise their employees on appropriate attire, and behavior. The Mall St. Matthews, Oxmoor Center, and The Summit have acquired my services to direct fashion-related programs for children and teens in the area. I am an accredited member of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Press Association.
Miquelon: At the end of January of this year, you had announced that Louisville would have its first-ever fashion week, to be held at Waterfront Park in mid-October later in the year. What inspired you and your colleagues to put together Waterfront Fashion Week?
Deckard: Waterfront Fashion Week originally was designed as a fundraiser/economic development activity that would span the river via the Big Four bridge to connect the proposed Jeffersonville Canal District with Waterfront Park and downtown Louisville. When the new Jeffersonville mayor killed the canal project, the function was decided to be held entirely on the Louisville side.
We were involved with the canal project, as well as the Big Four, and we have a strong allegiance to Waterfront Development Corporation, who is a great client and steward of one of the best parks in the world. We thought this project could be a springboard for more development of the fashion industry in this area, as well as a great fundraiser for Waterfront Park.
Duffy: I love great clothes. I am not in the fashion industry, and I am not someone who explores heavily the artistic side of fashion; you will not find me sporting the latest metal-studded maxi dress with contrasting plaid platforms and razor blade earrings. But I felt like there are a lot of people in Louisville who span the spectrum of interest in fashion, from those who are intrigued by the reflection of current garment shapes on the socioeconomic condition of the country to those who just like cute outfits. I wanted to come up with a function that would appeal to most of that range of people and produce opportunities for the many facets of the fashion industry to flourish in our area.
Miquelon: Ms. Ross, how did you find yourself involved with Waterfront Fashion Week?
Ross: Peggy contacted me almost two years ago to advise them on the feasibility and planning of Waterfront Fashion Week.
Miquelon: How long did it take to go from planning to the upcoming final result?
Ross: Almost two years.
Miquelon: Aside from the Big Four of Fashion Weeks (New York, London, Paris and Milan), other cities have had their own fashion weeks in the past, such as Los Angeles, Atlanta and Charleston. Why did Louisville take so long to join the crowd?
Duffy: You could speculate for hours on why Louisville  has not had a fashion week thus far. It is an enormous effort to produce, and it is possible that we have so many other great functions that those interested might have been afraid that a fashion week couldn’t compete against things like sporting events, the Derby Festival, etc. But we believe there is interest, as well as room, in Louisville’s busy schedule.
Were there any attempts to hold a fashion week in Louisville before, and if so, what were the circumstances that led to each attempt’s failure before getting off the ground?
Duffy: We are not familiar with past attempts at a comprehensive fashion week in Louisville.
Miquelon: Why Waterfront Park?
Deckard: Waterfront Park is a beautiful venue that has won numerous national awards. We have no intention of competing with fashion weeks in places like New York and Paris, so it made sense to highlight a totally different type of location. Also, as stated previously, the intent is to spotlight Waterfront Park, the Big Four bridge, and our Louisville-southern Indiana connection.
Long term, we would like to have some satellite activities in Jeffersonville.
Miquelon: Why in mid-October?
Deckard: Mid-October makes a lot of sense with regard to our weather and the typical peak sales times for our local stores. Sweaters and other fall and winter clothes don’t really start selling until it gets cooler, and we wanted to showcase local stores and boutiques, so you can “see it tonight, buy it tomorrow.” Furthermore, we could never expect to upstage or beat out the Spring ’13 shows in New York in September, so it made sense to schedule our event after theirs.
Miquelon: Were there any difficulties during the process of creating Waterfront?
Ross: There are always challenges with a project of this size.
Miquelon: The Big Four hold two fashion weeks per year: One week for autumn/winter collections, one for spring/summer. Will Waterfront Fashion Week follow the same lead by also having two weeks per year, and if not now, will that ever come to pass in the future?
Deckard: For now, we are concentrating on a fall event. Louisville is pretty occupied with another little spring event known as the Derby. But if demand ever calls for it, we will consider a spring event also.
Miquelon: Unlike the Big Four — which are only open to those who work or otherwise operate in the fashion industry — Waterfront will be open to the public. What are the reasons for opening Waterfront to all instead of following the lead of New York, London et al?
Duffy: As you can tell from our other responses, we do not intend to have an event that is solely about the industry. We want to make that leap between the designers and the women who ultimately spend Saturday afternoon shopping (or, for that matter, with the women who are tired and frustrated because they feel disconnected from or intimidated by the fashion world). New York is about buyers and publicists; we are not New York, and we never will be.
Our intent is to have an event that appeals to a wide variety of fashion interests. Again, we would be imprudent to try to compete with New York or other industry anchors, and we don’t want to. So instead, we want to have a group of events that are more like the Derby festival; at its heart, the Derby has a bunch of very serious horse people who are involved in a very serious horse race. But the race and the festival have elements that include a lot of other people with varying levels of interest in horse racing.
We hope to include many of the restaurants and bars in the area, and we hope that the event could turn into a destination, like a girls’ weekend getaway.
Miquelon: The proceeds from Waterfront will go into improving and maintaining the waterfront along the Ohio River. How do you plan to collect donations in regards to this overall endeavour?
Duffy: Sponsorships and ticket sales go to cover expenses, and the remainder will be contributed to Waterfront Development Corporation.
Miquelon: Any final words?
Duffy: We are very excited about this event, and we hope many people can find some part of it they can enjoy.
In the future, we hope to incorporate the Big Four bridge into the festivities. Eventually, we would like the event to encompass both sides of the river, giving our area more attention for fashion insiders, as well as casual fashionistas.
For more information and for tickets, visit www.waterfrontfashionweek.com .
Photos: Shutterstock.com/traxlergirl , and courtesy of Jo Ross and Peggy Hagerty Duffy.