Cleveland’s prominence in arts and culture has long been the city’s calling card, but fashion has rarely been at the forefront — that is, until Aimon Ali entered the conversation.
Ali in 2010 The 20-something had produced large-scale fashion shows in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver and quickly realized he had the potential to create events of similar scope in Cleveland.
Aimon Ali, founder of Fashion Talks“When I started meeting people in Cleveland, I learned that there are a lot of amazing creators who are equal to the high-level talent I saw in Toronto,” says Ali. But when I googled Cleveland Fashion Week, nothing came up similar to New York or Toronto. I wanted to fill that gap.
Enter Fashion Talks, a boutique fashion services and events agency that aims to “elevate creative diversity” through style and design. On Sunday, June 25, Fashion Talks celebrated the third annual installment of Ruanway, a mega fashion show featuring local, national and international designers.
Set against the stunning backdrop of Severance Hall, the show featured local brands such as Love, Niki Boutique. Porshaya Esperanza threads; And back to your designs – with Ali’s own line of Nomia Studio accessories.
Hosted by NOLA Movement founder Nike Olabisi-Green, the event featured three “influential women making a difference in Cleveland,” Lillian Currie, incoming president and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation; Jing Longko, entrepreneur and brand strategist; and Lesa LaForce, modeling agency owner and philanthropist.
“Every year I look forward to putting on the show more,” said Ali, who has organized the past two editions at the Madison and Cleveland Museum of Art. “It’s an amazing process to see it all come to life, from the concept to the mood boards to the final product.”
Variation in movement
Diversity and inclusion are high values for Ali, and those are very much reflected in the philosophy and approach of Fashion Talks. For example, anyone can model for Fashion Talk events – no professional experience or specific look/body type required.
“We want more confidence and energy than a model looks like,” explains Ali, who says almost all of the models are from Cleveland.
That mentality extends to the runway, where everything from traditional Pakistani gowns to patchwork clothing to luxurious leather goods to strappy bodycon dresses is on display. According to Ali, the high-fashion mentality represents a departure from what she sees as Cleveland’s typical styles.
“Cleveland is very into T-shirts and street style,” says Ali. “The idea behind Fashion Talks is to create elevated events that help people think about fashion in a different way.”
To that end, Ali infuses other artistic elements, such as ballet performances, into each runway segment. (This year, ballerinas Tabitha Miner — known as “Tabitha in Motion” — and Schuyler Berger opened the show with a duta.) For Ali, it’s not just about wrapping up the shows, it’s about changing the way we experience them.
Ballet has always been considered a traditional upper middle class ‘white’ activity. “A lot of people of color don’t consider watching ballet as part of their leisure time,” says Ali. We want to send a message that this is for everyone.
2021’s first Runway in Madison classFrom Canada to CLE
Although Ali quickly made a name for herself in Cleveland, her plans didn’t always include a move to the Midwest. Ali, who moved to Canada from Pakistan at the age of three, initially thought she would be a lifelong Canadian. But now that she’s met her husband through family, she decides to take a leap of faith and move to Cleveland.
“I had only traveled to America a little and didn’t know much about Cleveland – it was a bit of a shock to the system at first,” Ali said.
But Ali is no stranger to breaking into the fashion scene from a young age, creating opportunities for herself. While studying psychology at York University, Ali began volunteering behind the scenes at local fashion events, which quickly “progressed to being part of the modeling teams and designers’ teams for the big shows,” she says. “I was studying developmental psychology at the time, so I saw it as a creative outlet.”
Over time, Ali became the president of the Fashion Society at York University and, alongside her undergraduate studies in psychology, began working at events such as Toronto Men’s Fashion Week, Toronto Women’s Fashion Week and Startup Fashion Week.
When Ali decided to move to Cleveland in 2018, she still had one foot in health care and fashion and another part-time job at Bloorview Kids’ Rehabilitation Hospital in Holland. Fashion PR business.
Five years later, Ali at Fashion Talks – a fast-growing agency that includes a non-profit organization; glossy magazine; mentoring and networking programs; and events both in and out of Cleveland.
In September, Fashion Talks will host an event during New York Fashion Week, which Ali says will “serve as a bridge for Cleveland entrepreneurs and give them a platform to showcase in front of a large crowd.”
For Ali, it’s all part of a larger vision and mission that he fulfills at the highest level. “What I do can be stressful; But it’s ‘good tension,’” she said. “I am very grateful to work in a creative field. Children of immigrants often do not see the creative industry as an opportunity. [available to us]; You often feel that you have to work hard and suffer to earn money. I want to have fun and do something different.