Fashion Week Columbus Kicks off with Tea

Nicholas Youngblood

The lobby of the Westin Great Southern Columbus was teeming with guests who eagerly awaited a showcase of 10 designs from four Columbus-based designers, including Jasmine Burton, Gerardo Encinas, Juan Jose Saenz-Ferreyros, and Ethan Weisman. After filing into the Grand Ballroom, attendees were greeted by a white-and-gold display of flowers bursting from towering vases and finger food setting in elegant centerpieces. A wide aisle down the center of the room served as the runway.

As music played, guests were greeted and a video introduced the first designer. Peruvian designer Saenz-Ferreyros’ designs married French haute couture with classical Hollywood glamor. His designs combined dazzling, glittery detail with delicate, sheer materials on gowns befitting silver screen starlets.

Saenz-Ferreyros studied fashion in Peru and Argentina, but settled in Columbus five years ago to stake his claim in the burgeoning local scene. The designer’s outfits weren’t the only thing attendees noticed about his show, however. Saenz-Ferreyros’ models ranged in age from 14 to 78, something he says he is very proud of. “I am making a dress for the real woman; not only for the models. It’s usually—for the people seeing the models—very young, very skinny, very skinny. For me, I am making clothes for the real woman. I don’t care the age,” he says.

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The first leg of the show was followed closely by tea, scones and the stylings of Weisman, a Columbus native who started designing fashions six years ago and quickly made a name for himself. Sports fans will know his designs from some of the bespoke suits worn by Ohio State football players to the NFL draft’s annual red carpet event, including Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott’s distinctive crop top suit.

While the first half of his show displayed his trademark custom formal wear, the second half introduced Weisman’s first line of ready-to-wear clothing, the “Renaissance Collection,” using 500-year-old patterns on modern garments such as tracksuits and bomber jackets, which stuck out among the more formal pieces of the event. This is Weisman’s first time at Fashion Week Columbus, and he is laser focused on the buyers in attendance. “I think the significance of what fashion week should be is to bring attention to buyers in the stores, and let them know, first off, upcoming designers,” he says.

After a second round of tea, the event took a turn for the voluminous with massive ball gown designs by Encinas. The imposing, yet elegant, dresses were decked out in metallic floral patterns, downy feathers and gargantuan bows. Finally, a third round of tea heralded the last designer of the afternoon. Burtons designs came in two distinct parts. The first half displayed stark, monochromatic women’s jackets and slacks, while the final group brought the event full circle with theatrical, bedazzled gowns and opera gloves.

Fashion Week Columbus founder and executive director Thomas McClure says the cooperation and diversity of the industry in Columbus makes it a great place for up-and-coming designers. “The thing about Columbus is we are very aware of local support,” he says. “We all support each other locally, and we have Columbus pride.” With an intimate showing of local designers at different points in their budding careers, the High Fashion Tea gives a taste of that Columbus pride, which happens to pair marvelously with Earl Grey.

Fashion Week Columbus will continue with events every day this week, culminating in the Finale Runway Show on Saturday. Visit for more info.