KNOXVILLE FASHION WEEK
Updated: Apr 23
We talk to Jaime Hemsley, Owner of Gage Models & Talent Agency and Founder/Director of Knoxville Fashion Week.
While attending a magazine launch party in New York City, Gage Models & Talent Agency owner Jaime Hemsley lamented the lack of a fashion week in the Knoxville area. To her surprise, her colleague, who had landed the Austin Fashion Week contract for his models said, “Why don’t you do one?” And Knoxville Fashion Week was born.
Hemsley spent a year traveling to 10 different markets like Charlotte, Phoenix, New Orleans, Washington DC and more to see how different markets, outside of NYC, hosted a fashion week. After that first year of research, she chose leap year 2012 and kicked it off Knoxville’s first fashion week on Feb 29.
It’s rare for first-time events to be spectacular, but for Hemsley, Knoxville Fashion Week was more amazing than she could have imagined. The buzz afterward was so strong, her excitement led her to planning a fall fashion week that same year, and she even added Chattanooga Fashion Week to the mix! For the first time, the Knoxville fashion community had a networking event that enabled models, designers, hair and makeup pros, photographers and more to meet each other, work together and promote the fashion arts in Knoxville. After that first year though, she decided to narrow it to Knoxville Fashion Week in the spring and Chattanooga Fashion Week in the fall.
Planning a fashion week is not for the faint of heart. A lot of the work goes into the event: finding the talent like designers and model, matching them together and planning a production with 500 moving parts. “There is also a ton of administration planning that starts a year prior to showtime, as there are thousands of details to cover in the 5 days of shows,” said Hemsley. “Live events have a life of their own, and after adding on Asheville Fashion Week in 2015 we have now had 12 fashion weeks under our belt and we learn something new every year.”
For Hemsley though, the work is well worth it as the show is fashion for a cause. “We have benefited such great charities over the years - Scarecrow Foundation, Autism Speaks, individual autism programs and this year Autism Site Knoxville. The events are built to highlight our thriving fashion community while also raising awareness and benefitting charitable organizations,” said Hemsley.
One of the most rewarding aspects for Hemsley is seeing her Gage Talent models on the runway in their biggest show yet. Many of these models she’s known from the very beginning of their modeling careers and she finds it rewarding to see them and all their hard work in the Spotlight. She’s had some exciting moments: Her husband celebrating their anniversary on the runway and her own sons surprising her by walking the children’s show at Asheville Fashion Week. She even recalls getting the phone call from TIME Magazine to interview her for an article about Knoxville Fashion Week.
Hundreds of models, designers and industry professionals are thankful for the work Jaime Hemsley has done to bring a fashion week to Knoxville. For the talent, Hemsley has provided them a platform to live their dreams and has provided lasting memories.
DESIGNERS & MODELS
2019 Participants and Contributors to the Runway:
[Designers confirmed by press time]
Xen by Rachele swimwear by Rachele Bailey
Red Cadence by Carrie Bilbrey
Georgia Queen Clothing by Valarie Bowens
Christa Conley of Luv CC
Incipient Anarchy Designs by Caitlyn Irwin
House of Chapple
Padam Padam Chapeaux
by Claudette McCubbin
Love Lightly Jewelry by Leslie Bilbrey
Boutique | Retail:
[Confirmed by press time]
Salon Biyoshi Boutique
Pink Mouse Boutique
Hot Southern Mess
HAIR & MAKEUP
Hair & Makeup | Salons | Stylists:
[Confirmed by press time]
Miss Jessica Hyde
Kenya Iman Stylist
Max Ganly Photography
Jim Rigsby Photography
Kurt Weiss Photography
Brian K McQuain
Chris Alley Alley Way Studios
Written by Sarah Merrell
Gage Models & Talent Agency and Knoxville Fashion Week Public Relations Director
As public relations director for Gage Models & Talent Agency and Knoxville Fashion Week, Sarah Merrell merges multiple passions: modeling, acting, fashion and writing.
“Knoxville Fashion Week is a fantastic event that provides a relevant outlet for the fashion community in Knoxville. It’s meaningful to so many different individuals: designers, models, hair stylists, makeup artists and photographers. It’s important for people to be aware of this event,” said Merrell. “That is my role—to gain publicity and raise awareness. It allows me to be immersed in the fashion and modeling industry and requires a lot of writing, which I love.”
As Knoxville Fashion Week preparations are underway, the team is hard at work—and Merrell is diligently working to garner press for the event. “I wish people could see all the behind the scenes work that goes into producing a fashion week event. Working with Jaime Hemsley and the team, I see all the intense coordination they do. It’s a lot of work, but we love every minute of it,” said Merrell.
Sarah Merrell’s mantra is to dream big. “Don’t ever let anyone squelch your dreams or desires. If you believe you can do it, and work hard, it’s amazing what you can accomplish.”