Fashion; follow it or not, trends in personal attire are a fairly accurate barometer of current culture. “Fashion statements” are indicators of the creativity, attitude and affluence of the wearer. On a broader scope, fashion reflects prevailing social mores and even the state of the overall economy. Think of the slinky, sexy frocks of the Roaring 20s and contrast those with the brisk, military-influenced garments worn during WW II. Compare pre-recession-70s hot pants to the matronly dresses of the conservative 1980s. It’s easy to date a photograph or a movie by the costumes alone. Moreover, any head of household can testify that a big chunk of family income is devoted to keeping members fashionably up-to-date in their attire. This September two venerable Fort Wayne art institutions are exhibiting fashion in their galleries. The University of St. Francis is showing Fashionable Art – Apparel from the 1920s and 1930s and Artlink is featuring Fort Wear – Fashion by Indiana Designers which includes the upscale men’s shirts and ties designed and produced by local fashion impresario Anton Babich.
Babich is the son of Ukrainian immigrants who came to the U.S. in 1991, partly to escape the lingering toxic aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster and also in part to attain their dream of living in America, the “land of opportunity.” Arriving with just four suitcases, modest savings and no English, the Babich family worked hard to acclimate, found jobs, learned the language and set about becoming naturalized citizens.
The family work ethic is evident in Anton Babich’s own achievements to date. A brief rundown of his experience so far includes (but is not limited to) custom automotive interior and body work, Mercedes Benz internet sales, reality dating television show host, licensed realtor, apparel designer and manufacturer, runway model, fashion show organizer, business consortium facilitator and social networker extraordinaire. He is 26.
Clearly the land of opportunity has not been wasted on this young entrepreneur. Out of all his varied fields, however, he has concluded that his main passion is fashion. In fact, he is determined to make Fort Wayne a major garment design and manufacturing center.
Babich has created his own menswear fashion line called Anton Alexander. The label offers custom-tailored shirts stitched of high-end fabrics with vibrant colors and imaginative details like contrasting facings and double sets of buttons. There is an array of ties that harmonize with the shirts, some of which are bedazzled with rhinestone studs. No more dull choices for businessmen; Anton Alexander wearers can go directly from day job to nightclub – or stage – with a bit of swag.
Sporting one of his own colorful shirt-and-tie combos, the tall young designer with the red-carpet looks is possibly his own best promotional weapon. Despite having a reputation for “living large,” Babich discusses his goals and accomplishments with a quiet, modest intensity. This is a serious young man who works round the clock; when he’s not working with models or vendors, he’s managing several fashion blogs and websites and traveling to fashion events all over the country.
Babich says he taught himself the ropes of garment manufacturing through persistent internet sleuthing.
“Everything I know I learned from Google and Youtube,” he says when asked how he put his designs into production.
Currently the Anton Alexander menswear line is manufactured in China, but Babich is eager to change that.
“I would like to bring production to Fort Wayne,” he says. “That way I can personally oversee the quality, reduce turnaround time, and create jobs here in Fort Wayne.”
To that end Babich plans to launch a Kickstarter drive in October to help finance his dream of a local factory. He is confident that the labor force is here; all he needs is the machinery to get started.
Fort Wayne as a major garment-producing fashion city is not a far-fetched idea. Vera Bradley, Cinda b and Bercot have already made inroads with their national brands.
To help foster a cohesive, cooperative local fashion scene, Babich is rallying regional independent designers and fashionistas to his website, FortWayneFashion.com, for information on fashion events and opportunities.
“Our goal is to reach outside of the city and connect with fashion designers, boutiques, fashion photographers, models and organizations that promote fashion in and around the city,” the site proclaims.
The mastermind behind several recent fashion shows in Fort Wayne, Babich stages each event with all the glamour, music and excitement of a big-city couture show. With each new event, attendance has multiplied. Periodic casting calls for models for these shows have been met with enthusiastic response from local teens and other aspiring models of both sexes.
His next production will be a Halloween runway show of costumes from the event’s co-sponsor, Boudoir Noir. This promises to be another high-energy, fun-filled evening.
“We will have three segments of 10 models each, interspersed with live entertainment” he says, promising that, although the costumes will be tasteful and appropriate, hair and makeup will be over the top.
The show takes place October 27 at the YOLO Event Center (Early Bird’s Ultra Lounge) on Wells Street in Fort Wayne. A percentage of the proceeds will go to Cancer Services.
Visit Fort Wayne Fashion or Anton Babich at their dot-coms or find them on Facebook or Twitter to keep updated on these and future fashion events.