Thomas McClure to Design Runway Show at Columbus Weddings Show

The founder of Fashion Week Columbus and the Columbus Fashion Council will bring his talents to the Runway Show stage next month.

Emma Frankart Henterly
Columbus Monthly
Thomas McClure of Fashion Week Columbus is producing the Runway Show for the 2022 Columbus Weddings Show

The 2022 Columbus Weddings Show draws ever closer (Jan. 15-16 at the Ohio Expo Center; get tickets here), and it will feature a number of new and exciting draws. Case in point: The ever-popular Runway Show featuring wedding fashions for all genders is being produced by Thomas McClure of the Columbus Fashion Council. Fans of Fashion Week Columbus will recognize McClure’s name; he’s the mastermind behind the annual who’s who of local designers.

We caught up with McClure via video chat to talk about what to expect at the 2022 Runway Show. The following interview is edited for length and clarity.

Let’s start at the beginning: A different company had been producing our Runway Show for many years. How did you get involved for the 2022 show?

From what I understand, when Stephen [Buzza, event and sponsorship director for USA Today Network Ventures and manager of the Columbus Weddings Show] reached out to me, they had been watching Fashion Week Columbus over the years—and Columbus Fashion Council, the different fashion initiatives we’ve been executing. And Fashion Week Columbus is of course the flagship program of the Columbus Fashion Council. So with that platform, since 2010, we pride ourselves in putting on a really great production. And it’s great for the city, it’s great for the glitz and glam. But honestly, it’s really there to platform our Ohio-based fashion designers.

But in a broader picture, it’s also a brand-launching platform not just for designers, but for models, for  photographers, for makeup artists and hairstylists and crew. We bring together the whole industry to make magic happen.

So because of that, they’ve been watching—and I’ve been watching them, too. At one point, I was running the Heyman Talent Agency here in Columbus up until 2012, I was the director of the agency. I had booked models for the Columbus Weddings Show, so I knew who they were. Stephen reached out because he said he wanted to do something different, but he also understands what Fashion Week Columbus has been doing in the city: It’s been really connecting with people, connecting with the audience, and there’s heart in it. So I was delighted to get that request; I was really excited.

Fashion Week Columbus has included bridal elements in the past, but here you’re focusing a show entirely on weddings. Does that change how you are approaching the Runway Show versus how you’d approach a regular Fashion Week Columbus show?

A little bit. For Fashion Week Columbus, I work mainly with fashion designers, and working with designers is a bit different from working with a boutique. Because a boutique usually has a bunch of different designers and collections that they feature. But boutique owners and boutique management have a different goal than what a designer might have. It’s a change of my process of thinking how things should go.

And I have to remember that a lot of these boutique owners are their own No. 1 employees; they’re the ones who are going to be there running the store, so I have to be very respectful, very mindful of that—knowing that if we ask them to take a dress off the rack [to feature in our show], I have to understand that, No. 1, that dress isn’t going to have the opportunity to be sold because now we’re using it somewhere else. And No. 2, if I take them away from their boutique, that means they either close it down or they have to find someone else to take up that time [in the store]. So it’s a matter of just changing my process of thinking.

So at Fashion Week Columbus, the designer is hoping someone will pick up their line to carry at a boutique, whereas a boutique at our Runway Show doesn’t need that to happen; they just need folks watching to say, I want that look from that store.

One hundred percent, yes. I know the boutiques are super excited to be part of the Columbus Weddings Show and the Runway Show. It just takes a different kind of management of the work and coordination from my team.

We did have a couple of bridal shows that we did throughout the years during Fashion Week Columbus. It’s always fun going to boutiques, because they also have these large brands like Vera Wang, so it’s always fun to see those on the runway.

What boutiques are you working with for the Runway Show?

There’s Dublin Bridal, David’s Bridal, Gerardo Encinas of Encinas Designs and Men’s Wearhouse. What I’m doing is, I am actually bringing the formula from Fashion Week Columbus to the Columbus Weddings Show. Because it’s a very successful formula and something that I think—that I know—Columbus prides itself on is really supporting local and connecting with the brands.

So what we’re going to do with the boutiques is basically showcase them, back to back, on the runway, 10 looks each. They will be separated by an interview video of each brand, that way the audience understands who that brand is.  They will all be on the same runway, just with their own little “mini-shows” each.

The biggest goal is making sure the designs tell the story. So keeping that goal in mind, we have a huge screen that we’re bringing in; from there, we’ll see what we do. It’s still evolving a little bit. Normally, what I try to do is, I try to stay away from complicated, which I think is part of creating a successful formula for Fashion Week Columbus. I try to stay away from complicated and make it more simple, because the more complicated parts you have, the more moving parts you have, the more liability there is for stuff to mess up. But there’s something to be said with simplicity, and also it just goes hand-in-hand with weddings.

In recent years, the Show and Columbus Weddings magazine both have been trying to focus more on inclusivity. With the passing of marriage equality in 2015, not every wedding has a bride or a groom anymore. Are we going to see some of that inclusivity coming to the runway as well?

Oh, 100 percent. I actually talked to Dublin Bridal and they want to make sure they are showcasing that diversity. What I don’t want to do on the runway—because I feel that if it’s not done properly, you’re not respecting different communities. So on the runway, I would like not to showcase a bride with a groom, and a groom with a groom, and a bride with a bride. There’s so much more to it than having them walk down the runway as if they were in a wedding.

I’d prefer to showcase each look on its own and allow that look to speak. Now, if it’s a non-gender-conforming look, that’s even more amazing.

I’m part of the LGBTQ community, myself, and I know all too well—I’m very sensitive to making sure that there’s diversity and there’s representation, because I think visibility matters. And of course, being a brown, gay man, I want to make sure we have diversity in all aspects of the runway show.

Love to hear that! What else can folks expect from your first Runway Show with us?

It’s definitely going to be different than what it was before. I have a great team that I brought over from Fashion Week Columbus to assist with this. And what you can expect is kind of the same as Fashion Week Columbus: It’s going to have an opening video, we’ll have a host, and then we’ll have each designer or brand have their video showcased right before they do their runway. And it’s twice a day on the 15th and 16th.

I expect the crowd to love it. What I expect the crowd to do is actually connect with the brand and connect with the designer; I think that’s the biggest thing to take away from it. And those videos are really going to help that happen.