When fashion designers come up with something new, the creation is sometimes greeted with skepticism before it achieves success.
That's what Lamont and Jeana Bowling experienced when they launched the first Atlantic City Fashion Week last fall.
"It was difficult, understandably so," said Lamont Bowling, of Willingboro, Burlington County. "A lot of people, I guess, brought the idea of doing Atlantic City Fashion Week to Atlantic City. Everybody sort of had that, 'Let's wait and see. Let's see you do the first one. If you do the first one well, then, we'll talk about the second one,' or 'then, we will talk about the third one.'"
Bowling said they were fortunate. They hit their first Atlantic City Fashion Week out of the park.
"I think people started to recognize the hard work that goes into the success we had through the first and second show. When we came up with a third show, that's when the Pier Shops at Caesars actually approached us and said, 'Hey, listen, we are thinking of bringing this thing down here. Are you interested,'" said Bowling, 48, who added the first two shows were held in OneAtlantic. "We said, 'Of course we are.' ... We were fortunate that we did well right out the box with our first event, and it's just gotten easier from that point to negotiate."
The third annual Atlantic City Fashion Week started Thursday and concludes with the first annual South Asian Fashion Festival, being held 2 to 5 p.m. today by the water fountain at the back of the Pier Shops at Caesars, overlooking the ocean.
Each day, 500 people have been attending this edition of Atlantic City Fashion Week, Bowling said.
"Some people just enjoy fashion shows and fashion events," Bowling said. "Some people like going to the ballgame; other people like going to the fashion shows. Some people just like to come and look, and it's definitely a form of entertainment for them."
Bowling said his event is giving visitors another reason besides gambling to come to Atlantic City.
"A lot of the people that come to this show may or may may not be gamblers. Atlantic City, with its 'Do AC' campaign, is looking for a younger, hipper crowd, and I think our demographic of 25 to 35, that younger, hipper person who is stylish, who is a fashionista, I think we fit right into that," Bowling said. "We literally bring in 500 fashionistas (daily) from Phllly and from southern New Jersey, who probably wouldn't come to Atlantic City under any other circumstances, certainly, not to gamble. There are casinos in Philadelphia."
Harry Geety, general manager at The Pier Shops at Caesars, has been impressed with the way the Bowlings operate.
Geety wasn't involved with their first show but worked with them on the second edition, which was held in OneAtlantic. He helped them with organizing, getting their vendors in and getting trucks onto docks, among other things.
"I was there, and I was blown away," Geety said about the spring edition of Atlantic City Fashion Week. "It was such a well-run show."
In the post-mortem of the spring show, Geety suggested moving the event from the enclosed OneAtlantic to a 4-1/2-foot-tall stage over the water fountain overlooking the ocean at the back of the Pier Shops. By moving the show onto the main floor of the Pier, Geety expected an increase in restaurant business from the attendees.
At least a couple of the Pier Shops tenants, Shoe Be Do and Tommy Bahama, were participating in the the show, so Geety hoped that would drive some traffic into their stores.
There is no big, high-end fashion event in this state, said Bowling, who believes his show is filling a niche. The men who created Philadelphia Fashion Week, Kerry Scott and Kevin Parker, support his show, and he supports theirs, and many of his attendees come from Philadelphia, Bowling said.
One advantage Bowling sees in his show over Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, which is held in New York City, is that his show - at $40 general admission and $100 VIP - is not too expensive for an average person.
"Unless you are a Kardashian, or unless you are Kanye (West), or Beyonce, or unless you have $800 for a ticket, you can't get into Mercedez-Benz Fashion Week. So this is an opportunity for someone to see a high-end show, a high-end fashion event, with full-scale lighting, staging and everything and see it at an affordable price," Bowling said.
Jeffrey Vasser, president of the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority, has not attended any Atlantic City Fashion Week events, but he said he is familiar with it.
"I have heard that it has been successful, and I think that's fantastic. I wish the producer of the event much success, and I hope it does continue to grow," Vasser said. "I think the value to Atlantic City is it's another tool in our tool kit to reach out to a different consumer to say, 'We have different things going on,' and it fits into our 'Do AC' moniker of whatever it is you want to do, you can find it here, and if someone wants to do fashion, they can find it here."
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If you go
The third annual Atlantic City Fashion Week concludes with its first annual South Asian Fashion Festival from 2 to 5 p.m. today at The Pier Shops at Caesars, Atlantic City. Tickets are $40 for general admission and $100 for VIP. Tickets are available at www.atlanticcityfashionweek.net.