We had the good fortune of connecting with Thomas McClure and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Thomas, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
When creating Fashion Week Columbus (the now flagship program under the Columbus Fashion Council), as a non-profit fashion week serving local fashion designers and fashion design students, I was the agency director for a major talent agency. Columbus being #15 (now #14) largest city in the nation, we didn’t have a fashion week like other major cities. I felt that we needed to help put Columbus on the fashion map, and soon discovered through the process that Columbus was home to many fashion designers. In 2012, we’d learn that Columbus ranks #3 in the nation for the number of resident fashion designers, behind LA and NY. We rolled out a 4 day fashion week in 2010, and now we have 7 to 8 days of fashion shows and fashion related events. Creating Fashion Week Columbus was selflessly done from the heart, as there wasn’t a large platform which could positively impact Central Ohio’s fashion community. And Columbus and its fashion community deserve a spotlight in the world of fashion!
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
This was the first non-profit organization I had started, and there were a lot of growing pains. However, having the support of the leaders in my network and the Columbus community helped guide the organization into success. Success is measured by the number lives impacted by the organization. Challenges present themselves all the time. It’s a matter of how you react to these challenges that determine the outcome. The first step is to not emotionally react. Realizing that each challenge requires a unique approach is key. Also realizing that some challenges are mere distractions and don’t really need your attention. As you overcome challenges, you strengthen the organization, you gain more confidence, and you most likely learned something new about the industry and about yourself. There’s a perception that fashion reflects luxury, prentention, elitism. Even as a non-profit organization working with the best marketing and pr firms in the city, it’s challenging to change this narrative and show the heart of the the fashion industry. However, this year during the pandemic and mask shortage, the Columbus Fashion Council was able to bring together regional and international fashion designers, big & small companies, and our partners to either create face masks or manufacture face masks to donate. This initiative helped provide over 35,000 masks to Central Ohio medical facilities, NASA, various military branches, and to the Navajo Nation. This initiative not only helped during a pandemic, but it also showed that fashion is much more than luxury. Because of fashion, the mask pattern was created and used by the world, the proper fabrics were chosen and used by the world, and the fashion community/industry came together to solve a problem. It showed that fashion has heart. https://www.columbusfashioncouncil.org/covid19-response We’re constantly learning to evolve as human beings. Our relationship with our company or organization, our relationships with our friends & family & partner, all of our relationships teach us more about ourselves than about them. I’ve learned so many lessons just through my work with the Columbus Fashion Council. I’ve learned to let go…I can’t do it all. I’ve learned to compromise. I’ve learned to empower others and allow them room to make mistakes because that’s how they grow. I’ve learned that not everyone has your best intention at heart, but you have to just keep doing you. And I’ve learned that a city & a community has so much power when it comes together to support your mission. MORE ABOUT CFC: As a non-profit 501(c)(3) status organization, the Columbus Fashion Council’s mission is to provide scholarships to fashion design students and a platform for local fashion designers. Our vision is to expand the fashion economy in Central Ohio through a combination of industry growth initiatives, community organizations support, funding access opportunities, and creative program development. We strive to nurture and develop the fashion community to keep our fashion talent living and working in Central Ohio, through programs like our flagship program Fashion Week Columbus. WWD ranks Columbus third in the nation for the number of resident fashion designers, right behind LA and NY. Forbes recently ranked Columbus as the number one city in the nation for startups. Business.org ranks Columbus as a top five city for entrepreneurs. Columbus is perfectly situated for fashion designers be successful and contribute to the city’s economic growth. And the Columbus Fashion Council is leading the way. OUR IMPACT SINCE 2010: 135+ Designers – Since 2010, we’ve provided a platform, guidance, and development of 135+ local fashion designers 1300+ Models – Since 2010, we’ve featured over 1300 models on our runways & events, while presenting opportunities to be represented by major regional and international modeling agencies, and potential paying modeling jobs with various companies and brands. 2000+ Volunteers – Since 2010, we’ve worked with over 2000 volunteers, providing hands on experience within the fashion industry and networking opportunities to further their own pursuits within the industry. $32,500+ in scholarships – Since 2010, we’ve raised over $32,000 in scholarship funds for Columbus College of Art & Design fashion design students, assisting them in completing their fashion design program. 135+ Fashion Shows – Since 2010, we’ve produced over 135 fashion shows & fashion events, providing a platform for fashion designers, models, makeup artists, hair stylists, photographers, and production crew. Making a huge impact on Central Ohio’s fashion community.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Columbus, Ohio is still somewhat the hidden gem of the Midwest. I compare Columbus to Austin and Portland. There’s a sense of community here. The LGBTQ community is well supported and is heavily involved in every aspect of the city. The city has a great arts scene. I’d recommend visiting the Short North Arts District which is part of our downtown area. Blocks of walkable art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, bars & lounges, and art murals on the buildings, under the lighting arches on each block. It’s truly the heart & soul of our city. Then I’d recommend several bars & restaurants to patron. The Columbus Museum of Art is a must as well. Hocking Hills is right outside of Columbus for some great hiking during the summer. And of course, if you’re here during Fashion Week Columbus, then you’ll be able to witness just how amazing the fashion talent is in our city.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I give credit to the fashion designers, student designers, photographers, make-up artists, stylists, hair stylists, models, volunteers, and leaders within the Columbus fashion community. They are the reason Fashion Week Columbus and the Columbus Fashion Council exists.
Other: https://fashionweekcolumbus.org https://www.instagram.com/fashionweekcolumbus https://www.facebook.com/CMHFashionWeek
Brian Hockensmith Iam Powell Ryan Blanski