Wednesday, October 9, 2013

BFW SS14: Tricia Cromwell Hosts Style Swap

         This year, Boston Fashion Week was all about holding events off the runway. There were fewer fashion shows and more interactive presentations, parties, and shopping events that opened the fashion community to the masses. Wardrobe consultant Tricia Cromwell was one of the fashion insiders who participated in this movement. She held her second annual Style Swap for BFW at Julep Bar, where ladies came to have a relaxing night with friends and participate in an exciting clothes swap frenzy. The objective: each woman brings clothes and accessories she doesn't want anymore and swaps them for other women's treasures. It's like thrift shopping and a party in one!

Cromwell and I took our turn on the red carpet!
           I had the pleasure of talking to Cromwell about her career, Boston's fashion industry, and how she started Style Swap.

Jenny: What inspired you to start this event?
Tricia: So I started doing the Style Swaps in 2008, and I do about two to four per year on my own, typically seasonally. Then I also partner with different businesses or non-profits when they would like to do them as well. Kind of like a fun, different fundraiser and ladies’ night out.
The reason I started is because I am a wardrobe consultant, so on a daily basis I work with clients to help them get dressed, with what they should wear, what they shouldn’t, and what they should replace, and build a wardrobe for them for their lives, for jobs, or wherever they are in life. So when working with clients, sort of like ‘What Not to Wear,’ you know how they throw everybody’s stuff in the trash? Well I don’t make people throw things away, but there always ends up being a pile of stuff that’s still great quality, many even have tags or were never worn, …so we end up with that handful of a pile to get rid of that someone else could really use. So after working with so many clients, if ‘Client A’ knew ‘Client B,’ they would share clothes. They would swap with each other like what I do with my friends or my family! So I felt obligated to bring everyone together, under one roof.  Bring all your clothes, come together and swap! I’d heard of clothing swaps I had attended so I wanted to do mine a little different. I wanted to really cater to professional women, young professionals, and a lot of my clients. So you get to clean out your closet, and then you get to do some free shopping! And it’s all for charity, which is the best part.

So I typically included a charity with every event. I always have a ton of clothing leftover. People tend to leave with less than they came with or they may have brought five suits with them but they leave with three bracelets and two necklaces, so they have less. So I have a ton leftover, so I donate it to charities like Rosie’s Place or Salvation Army, women’s shelters where they need the clothing. Then I, fortunately, last year found Project Hope, which is an amazing charity and they help women up and out of poverty and with job placement and those women don’t have the resources to get the clothing they need to get or stay in new jobs, so that’s where I stepped in and it’s a major win-win.

J: When did you start doing it for Boston Fashion Week?
T: Last year was the first that I did it during fashion week, so this is the second annual and it’s in the same venue. I actually polled on Facebook, because I pick a different venue every time. Some are in the suburbs, some are in the city, just to cater to a different crowd or different demographic and to help each different business with exposure. I had done it at the Julep our last year and back by popular demand, everyone wanted to come back. So this year they actually shut down the entire place, so this is a private event for just the swap tonight. It looks like there may be a third annual Boston Fashion Week Style Swap here too because they’re treating me very well!

J: How did you get started as a wardrobe consultant?
T: I just did! I literally just started. It’s crazy because I tell everyone, it just sounds so corny, follow your dreams and don’t let anyone stop you, but it is! I went to school for fashion merchandising. I’ve been in retail and management positions, merchandising positions, visual positions, and I knew I was into the fashion scene, but in a different way. I never even knew you could be a wardrobe consultant or a stylist until ‘What Not to Wear!’ I was like, ‘I do that for my friends and family!’ Even family members that hate to go shopping. I go just buy their clothes. ‘Wow! I could do that for strangers and they might appreciate it?’ So I literally just put myself out there. I bought a book. Now there are degree classes for it, but back then it was 2007 and there wasn’t. So I bought a book and I said, ‘I’m gonna do this! I’m gonna start to pay attention to the process and the technique and everything I do on a normal basis with my friends and really customize it and form a business plan.

[It’s been] crazy and awesome and daring! And it’s been fun ever since! I’ve rebranded a few times. I’m learning so much along the way, the good, the bad, the ugly. But I wouldn’t do it any other way, because it’s the experience.

J: How do you feel Boston Fashion Week affects the community regarding fashion?
T: I think Boston Fashion Week is amazing. We are so often compared to New York because we’re so close but so far and it’s such a different world. It’s a different clientele, it’s a different beast, it’s a different business. But I feel like we’re overshadowed, so maybe sometimes people don’t try. I’ve been told by so many people, ‘Oh, you’re a stylist? You should be in New York for that. You can’t do that in Boston.’ No, this is my community and we can do it! So I think things like this, bringing the community together and it enables other people in the industry, such as myself and other small businesses and other artists, to work together. That’s what we have to do. Stick together and show what we can do and then that’s when people catch on.

New England overall, is really traditional and conservative and they’re not going to be the crowd that’s going to latch on to the newest thing right away. They want it to be trusted, recommended, they want it to be reputable, before they’ll give it a try. I don’t want to say that we’re slow, but I think we’re a little hesitant and it takes events like this or standout people in the crowd to push people outside of their comfort zone, but then they do and they’re completely happy about it.

J: Where do you think Boston fashion will be in five years?
T: It’s growing. There is such amazing talent in Boston, it’s incredible. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with StyleItUp, which is a television cable show that highlights up and coming designers. I actually styled the show and I had my own segment on the show. I worked very well with the producer, so I have been fortunate enough to meet so many up and coming artists. It’s a matter of everyone coming together, backing each other, having fabulous events like this. Social media has been a huge help, getting the models involved, the photographers, the stylists, and I just see this growing. I think in five years it’s going to be even bigger and better and I’m excited to see it and to be a part of it.

Cromwell wore a custom dress with a croc-embossed, leather peplum from Chances R Designs by Toni Lyn Spaziano.
J: What trends have come to Boston for fall/winter?
T: Every year, the trends that come are the cold weather clothing because that’s where we live. Definitely darker, richer colors and fabrics. This is when a lot of the wool is going to come out. Leather is huge and leather can be done super edgy or super traditional and I feel think that’s something we always lean towards. It could be a leather glove, it could be a leather peplum, could be a leather jacket or leather boot. People are most excited for fall to come to go boot shopping. They’re wearing boots when it’s August still. Riding boots and motorcycle boots and over-the-knee boots are such a huge trend. Especially in a city where you have to do a lot of walking on cobblestone and uneven sidewalks, you need a good substantial, fashionable shoe and a boot is it.

J: Any last words?
T: I just want to say that I love what I do! I’m so happy that I’m finding people who feel the same way. To have an event like this is like, to me, this can’t be work! I get to come out and meet fabulous women, talk about clothes, and then go shopping. It’s crazy! I get to shop one on one with clients. Me going into a client’s closet is like a kid in a candy store, no joke! To work with a designer or to work with a photographer, for me to see their vision and then help them bring it to life in fashion, even if it’s just staging a photoshoot or helping a model with her walk, it’s so rewarding.

Before all the action, I got a first look downstairs while volunteers were setting up the clothes.

They wanted it to look like a real clothing store, though it wouldn't stay that way for long!

Some faux designer handbags, anyone?

I bumped into two fellow journalists from my school who were also covering the event!

Kate Spade shoes and a Fendi scarf were sure to be the first to go!

Meanwhile, the ladies sipped cocktails upstairs.

Lia Sophia accessories were sold upstairs as well.

Profits from ticket sales benefited Project Hope, a foundation that enables women to get jobs.

Finally, the VIP participants were released downstairs first.

Every woman had an enormous pile of clothes within ten minutes!

The racks were in shambles in no time!

The second wave of ladies came downstairs to snatch up the remaining clothes.

These ladies discovered that what was once an unworn dust catcher to one, is now a brand new party dress to the other!

The racks emptied in no time!

As the hunt winded down, the shop became a dressing room!

Cromwell was ecstatic with the turn out!
Check out Tricia Cromwell's website at

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