While finishing up a degree in fashion merchandising at Kent State University this year, twenty-something Nichole Reed started interning with Fashion Week Cleveland, only to be offered the position of artistic director a couple of months later, just in time for June's big 10th anniversary show.
"It all happened so fast, and I just kind of grew into things," Reed says at the Fashion Week Cleveland headquarters. "My transition was based on trial and error, but [my supervisors] saw me take a leadership role and it just went from there."
The leap from intern to artistic director may seem big for some, but Reed's organizational skills and deep-seated involvement in the Cleveland fashion community helped her pull off one of the most successful Cleveland Fashion Weeks to date.
"Since I was 10 years old, I've been interested in fashion," she says, and that interest soon grew into a passion. As a teenager, she began modeling for boutiques around Cleveland, then in 2012 moved on to modeling for Fashion Week Cleveland, a runway that she'd later come to know in a very different capacity.
"Having modeled [for Fashion Week Cleveland], I knew what it was like to be at an event for 10 to 12 hours, getting your hair and makeup done. I knew how hard it can be," she says. "I was able to sympathize with the models and help them so they wouldn't be tired or worn out by show time."
Working with models on the runway (and hand-selecting or recruiting all 53 who participated in this year's event) was just one aspect of Reed's job. She was also responsible for a large number of logistics — from designing a look and feel for this year's show to picking out runway music, organizing volunteers and securing sponsorships.
"Every artistic director brings their own personality to a show," Reed says. "I wanted this year's show to be more clean and sophisticated," mimicking styles she's seen on runways in New York and Paris. "We used really simple makeup, really simple hair. Nothing too crazy."
That's because Reed has aspirations to one day work on runways in both fashion capitals. In fact, come summer's end, Reed plans to start making that dream a reality by moving to the Big Apple in hopes of snagging a position at a fashion magazine and eventually working her way onto local runways.
"People think I'm kind of crazy for just up and leaving for New York City," she says. "But when you have a dream, you have to go for it. There's never a perfect time."
Having now tackled a show — which Cleveland Fashion Week founder Donald Shingler told Reed was one of the best events in Fashion Week history — Reed feels confident she has the experience to propel her forward in Manhattan.
"Fashion Week Cleveland is just the beginning," she says.