By Sarah Stortz
Designers in the Midwest have woven together glitz, lights, and fabric to create the ultimate fashion statement — inclusiveness.
For the past two years, the Flyover Fashion Fest has helped to bridge the gap between those who see themselves in the fashion world and those who are still under-represented. This year, the event will be bigger and more ambitious than ever before.
Coming to Iowa City this weekend, Flyover Fest is a fashion, politics, and cultural festival that celebrates art in all of its diversity. It was created as a platform for underrepresented groups to express their creative ideas and share their stories.
Simeon Talley, the creator of the event, conceived the Iowa Fashion Project in 2015 as a way to connect designers and help establish the fashion scene in Iowa. The project later evolved into the Flyover Fashion Fest, which focused on challenging the mainstream fashion business.
“The fashion industry is notorious for excluding certain types of people, whether it would be on race, body type, [or] physical ability,” Talley said. “We think that should change, and we wanted this festival to be a way to be a force for good and be an advocate to change those things.”
The theme of this year’s festival is “Dream The Future,” putting a huge emphasis on creating a better future for marginalized artists.
“It’s kind of a way of hopefully sparking a conversation on what we want the future to look like,” Talley said “The vision and the dream we have for the future as a festival is one that’s more inclusive and more representative.”
Kyra Seay, the operations director and the omni channel strategist for Flyover, said she got involved after witnessing the fashion events that were a part of the festival. After a show, she offered feedback to improve the experience, and she eventually was invited to produce the events.
“It was an incredible experience that created the opportunity for me to get to know so many more people outside of the university circle,” Seay wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan “At the time, I was doing a lot diversity and inclusion work with the university, so naturally when the concept for Flyover was born, I saw it as a chance to join a hardworking team and continue to invest in this community’s inclusion efforts.”
Incorporating concerts, film screenings, dance recitals, and public discussions, Flyover offers a diverse amount of talent. The festival will tackle a wide variety of issues, including sexism, racism, and homophobia, Talley noted that the Flyover team members needed to stay compassionate while workng with visiting artists.
“This year, there’s a particular, specific challenge in the work that we’re trying to do, with being thoughtful with what we say, how we say it, and how people perceive us in what we’re trying to do,” Talley said. “We recognize that we’re dealing with a lot of artists who have dealt with injustice, discrimination, who at times experience hate.”
Talley said they are proud of the artists they brought for the event.
“A lot of the folks we’re bringing in are doing such interesting work in their respective fields,” he said. “They are engaged in elevating [and] working to promote conversations. These are people who might not be super big names or folks you might not recognize immediately, but they’re really interesting. They’re doing work that should be celebrated on a broader platform.”
Community is an extremely important factor to Flyover Fest, which is why Talley hopes Iowa City residents will come together through attending the various events.
“Hopefully, this event builds a community of folks who are invested in making things more inclusive and representative,” he said. “You’ll be exposed to ideas and artists in a provocative and thoughtful way that might compel you … we live in pretty politically fraught times. This is an event that can kind of replenish, restore your soul. You’ll find people who want to be in that space with you as well.”
Seay echoed his message.
“What Flyover is doing is really cool, not just for Iowa City, not just for Iowa, but for the entire Midwest,” Seay said.