Style: Q&A with Fashion Week Columbus founder Thomas McClure

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly
McClure creates his look from various retailers and designers: Suit jacket by Topman; Shiny gray T-shirt from Guess; True Religion Joggers from Saks

Thomas McClure movedfrom Dallas to Columbus in 2005. In 2012, he started Fashion Week Columbus, which is currently scheduled for Oct. 9–15.

Why did you decide to launch Fashion Week Columbus?Back in 2010, while working as the director of Heyman Talent Agency of Columbus, I kept reading about other major cities creating their own fashion weeks. I was booking and pitching models for Columbus' retail hubs-such as Victoria's Secret, Express, A&F and Lane Bryant-and asked myself why Columbus doesn't have its own fashion week.

This was before a nationwide fashion-industry economics study was done that listed Columbus as third in the nation employing fashion designers. With my model connections and client connections, I started the fashion week here in our capital city. It has since grown from a four-day fashion week to a seven-day fashion week, and we are proud to be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which is a rare status for any fashion week organization in the world.

What are you wearing right now, as you read this email?I literally just got back from the gym. I'm wearing my South Beach workout tank top (which I wouldn't dare wear in South Beach), blue joggers from H&M and blue Asics cross-trainers. I'm probably wearing a protein shake mustache since I just drank one.

You're from a small town in Texas. How did you develop a personal interest in style?Great question. I've honestly never thought about this, but I did have some flare to my junior high and high school wardrobe. Although I wanted to fit in with the popular kids, I never wanted to wear the same things they were wearing. I would actually get made fun of sometimes because I'd wear trendy shirts and pants to school. Keep in mind, this was early '90s in a class of 30 people. I also used to wear my hair big, as I still do.

What brought you to Central Ohio?My partner, whom I met in Dallas, had a job opportunity. We discussed moving to Columbus without knowing anything about the Capital City. While still in Dallas trying to make the decision, we opened up (to read) a local LGBT publication called theDallas Voiceand saw an article with the title "The Hidden Gay Gem of the Midwest: Columbus, Ohio." We took it as a sign.

When you arrived, was Columbus taking itself seriously when it came to fashion and style?Not really. I say this with as much respect as possible to our unique Columbus culture. When I arrived, the Short North arch lights weren't even operating at the time. We quickly learned how important the Buckeyes were, and we witnessed how sweatpants were acceptable attire in some of the more upscale restaurants. In 2006, fashion shows and fashion events were scarce. HighBall is a year or two older than Fashion Week Columbus and showcases couture costumes, which is always a highlight of my year.

Columbus College of Art and Design's senior fashion show is always a treat because we get to witness the amazing talent being cultivated in Columbus.

Because of Columbus' growing spotlight on fashion, it seems everyone has become more conscious about their wardrobe, whether it's for a night out on the town or for the workweek. We also have amazing boutiques and new ones popping up all the time, which helps keep Columbus fashionable. I've witnessed the evolution of Columbus becoming much more fashionable.

Were you surprised to hear that Columbus is the third-most fashion-focused city in the country, behind New York and Los Angeles?At first, yes! But when you think about it, it makes complete sense. Credit is given to the retail hubs that are based here, but the study didn't account for the freelance designers that call Columbus home … A testament to the evolution and success of Columbus fashion is IL Moda PR, owned by fashion designer Lubna Najjar. IL Moda PR has been placing our local designers in boutiques and department stores locally, nationally and internationally.

Where do you shop?I love Easton Town Center for the fact that they have many great brands and department stores ranging from H&M to Louis Vuitton and Burberry to Nordstrom, and when you need a break you can grab a glass of wine at Smith & Woll-ensky and people watch.

Locally: Tigertree, Artisan de Luxe, Homage, Lamp Apparel, Torso, DSW, Fashion Week Columbus designers and Columbus accessories designers Nicki Marie Jewelry and Kewpie Dolly by Zeta, which you can find at Glam365 at 988 N. High St. Department stores: Saks and Nordstrom. I get my basics from H&M. Online: Zappos and Zara. Hair products: Charles Penzone Salons.

Where do you hang out?Well, I love to travel. I was in Puerto Vallarta over New Year's weekend and just came back from New York Fashion Week. Locally, I spend quite a bit of my weekend time on my couch working on my laptop while halfway catching shows on Hulu or Netflix. If I muster up the energy to join the cool kids on a Saturday night, I'd probably do dinner at Basi Italia or Guild House then grab a drink at Mouton and finish the night at Union Cafe.

Do you have any advice for those who design Buckeye sportswear?It's sports, so there's a lot of room for creativity! Of course, utilizing scarlet and gray is very important. Bridging the two (sports and fashion) has always been a challenge. But you can never go wrong with designing a fashionable scarf featuring the Buckeye colors.