FashionWeekSD Runway Gala

FashionWeekSD, hosted by Fashion Director Gwendolyn Bates held their fashion gala on the evening of April 20th at the University Club. Scroll down to read the interviews by Gwendolyn and Septimius The Great. Master of Ceremonies for the day, Jodi Kodesh, San Diego's best weather woman and Jonathan Harris, CNN commentator.

Photography by Amanda SanMartin

Interview with Gwendolyn Bates, Fashion Director

What initially inspired you to pursue a career in fashion?
My journey into fashion wasn't planned. It all started when I began crafting my own jewelry. It was during this process that I realized how much I enjoyed entrepreneurship within the fashion industry. This passion drove me straight into my career as a director and fashion marketer.

Share some of the pivotal moments that led you in this direction.
My journey as a Fashion Director was guided by pivotal moments, fuelled by a deep desire to see other designers thrive in this industry. I am especially passionate about supporting emerging brands, helping them find their footing and achieve success.

Did you first become a designer of fashion and thereafter a producer?
Yes, my journey started as a designer before moving into production. In 2014, I took a leap and launched my jewelry brand. Along this journey, I had the opportunity to work backstage in several fashion shows and even lived in Italy for three years. During my time there, I worked in fashion production and participated in editorial shoots. This varied experience gave me a unique insight into event production, especially from a designer's perspective.

Are the two intertwined or two completely separate worlds?
Being a fashion designer, and Producer are two totally different worlds in the same industry! As a fashion designer, the creative process is focused on the product and all things focused on promotion of that product, whereas in the production space the creative process is centered around producing a fully functioning event from showcasing designer brands to coordinating several teams with the goal of providing experience to attendees and promotion of brands, seeking exposure and opportunities for product placement.

How do you handle directing models, especially those with strong egos?
Our platform is a nurturing space promoting positivity, where we actively work to minimize the influence of overpowering egos. If they arise, our aim shifts to educating about the significance of a healthy mindset. This is crucial for advancing in the fashion industry. Unity, after all, is the driving force behind achieving our collective aspirations.

What strategies do you embrace to maintain professionalism and harmony backstage?
Treat others the way you want to be treated. This principle ensures smooth operations and harmony, which is hard to achieve without everyone's respect and contribution. It is vital in a production setting where everyone must do their part. Furthermore, a team player attitude is crucial, especially for backstage workers – it lets them adjust and adapt as needed.

Do you handle both the business and production side of the process?Yes, I manage both the business and production aspects of our company. This allows me to keep a strong grip on these critical processes, ensuring everything runs smoothly and efficiently.

How does San Diego compare to the other fashion hubs globally?Fashion Week San Diego is a globally recognized event, attracting designers from around the world. Our platform has launched careers for many designers and models who have gone on to grace television shows and red carpet events with celebrities. We also collaborate with Art Renewal Central and conduct exclusive international art and avant-garde fashion events at Sotheby’s Manhattan, making us a significant presence on both coasts.

Are there any specific cultural or logistical challenges you face when hosting events internationally?
We have not hosted any events in different countries, but are looking forward to near future.

What median have you found particularly helpful in promotion?
Our strongest communication tool has been social media, connecting us to a larger audience. It serves as a bridge, leading new people to discover who we are.

How do you balance creativity and commercial viability when designing your collection or planning a show?
esigning fashionable products strikes a balance between creativity and commercial appeal. It's not just about making items look good, but also showcasing their value to potential buyers. It's a blend of artistic vision and the art of persuasion.

What do you consider your signature style as a fashion designer?
As a fashion designer specializing in accessories, my signature style is best described as vibrant and eye-catching. It's defined by statement pieces adorned with radiant Swarovski Crystals, perfect for red carpet events.

Share a memorable experience from hosting a fashion event internationally?
One memorable event that we had in New York was being the first event inside of Sothebys after the pandemic. Not only was this a major accolade for us as we are the only fashion week globally operating inside of Sotheby’s with The Art Renewal Center, buy this was a particularly memorable as we shut down part of the road during New York traffic to conduct photo shoots in the street with the help of the Sotheby’s security staff.

What advice would you offer to aspiring fashion designers?
Be prepared for the hard work and the journey ahead if you’re an emerging designer looking to showcase with Fashion Week San Diego. Being a designer requires diligence in addition to working with curators like myself to further propel a brand.Most importantly, be flexible, resilient and stay humble and you’ll go far in the fashion industry.

What are your aspirations and goals to further your career?
My aspiration is to build up a prominent fashion scene based in San Diego that would be a council and resource encompassing several aspects of fashion to include the social and economic impact.

Septimius The Great: 

At what age did you aspire to enter the world of entertainment? 
At the age of 20 as a model. 

Was there one particular direction or was it multi-faceted? 
I started as a model, then fashion coordinator, then stage entertainer, then male pageant national titleholder then music artist and actor.  

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced early on, and how did you overcome them? 
Genuine support of family and friends which revealed jealousy and envy. I overcame them by elevating myself and selecting new friends and putting myself in different circles.  

Can you share a memorable failure or setback along the way? 
When I appeared on America’s Got Talent - I went on the show not prepared and fully invested, which caused me not to go far in the competition rounds. 

Conversely, what significant successes have you experienced?  
Being part of the Grammys as a voting member and having my music on the ballots for grammy win consideration.How do you balance being an actor, singer, and fashion host? There is no balance and time for little sleep - it’s like cooking, all lots need to be in the stove in order for the meal to come together and be delicious.  

Do you find one more fulfilling than the others? 
They all are the same but acting has been my newest venture of using my talents and learning.

How difficult is it to break out within a field so heavily crowded? 
It’s very hard, especially if you compare yourself to others, but easy if you focus on being yourself and not following someone else’s path.  

Besides talent, what qualities or skills are deemed essential in the industry?
Talent is only 30% these days. Now you have to have a look, a niche/gimmick and most of all no ego or feeling of entitlement.  

How do you stay inspired and motivated when facing rejection? 
Every no is a delayed yes - I just find a way to turn the no into a yes for what they looking for if it fits my brand.

Was there anyone who was there to mentor you in your journey?  
Just a few friends and advisors to help me understand the industries, but mostly it was me and my dream, vision, plan, and desire to execute.

Have there been moments where taking risks paid off, or not? 
Yea, I believe with risk comes reward. Becoming a music artist with no knowledge or training was a risk that has now become a brand, becoming an actor with no knowledge or training has now become a brand.

Have you developed your own style, and if so, describe it? 
Yea, my style. Unique, eye catching, memorable and creative with a blend of music, fashion and acting. Eclectic, Historical and Modern  

How do you adapt to changing trends within the industry? 
I stay true to me and my vision and watch the trend to see how I can fit in or it can fit into my plan In an industry that pressures you to conform.

How do you stay true to yourself? 
I never want to be a copy of someone else’s life, journey or vision, so I am always thinking of how to stand out, be noticed, educate, but entertain, which keeps me unique and focused.

Have there been any projects or collaborations particularly meaningful? 
There have been many, but the common aspect is when I can learn, teach and grow from being a person musically, fashionably and educationally. Like when I fuse genres of music such as Opera, heavy metal, reggae, Afro beats, R&B, Pop and event Country to my dance music style.

How you prioritize self-care and maintain a healthy work balance? 
That is my downfall, my brain never turns off and I’m always planning and executing. Self care is my next challenge to practice.

Where would you want to find yourself in three years time? 
I would like to be comfortable in my talents, projects and ideas to relax and enjoy the world as I self care. 

One piece of advice you would offer to aspiring young individuals? 
Never have an ego, never feel entitled and always network and be nice and genuine  

If not having taken this path, which alternate career would be your choice? 
 was going to be a Veterinarian or own my own business in creativity