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14 Monarch Beach, #301, Monarch Beach, CA 92629 www.ocfashionweek.com

THE EXPERT: Kathryn Marino,  President of HAUTEOC Inc., Orange County Fashion Week®

Lights, camera, front row! Your front seat to high fashion, talented designers, and a one-of-a-kind fashion experience begins in the always beautiful and sunny Orange County. It is easy to see that the OC exudes fun in the sun with its cool beaches, red hot Angels, and home to the happiest place on Earth. But the OC wouldn’t be the hottest place in town without its haute talent and stylish community that lives, breaths, and always shops for great fashion. What better way to get a front row seat to the freshest and newest trends than to experience the clothes first-hand on the runway at OC Fashion Week®? Kathryn Marino, President of OC Fashion Week®, has always been a fan of great style, but more importantly has been a true supporter of great and inspiring new talent eager to share their designs with the community. With OC Fashion Week®, Marino has created a platform for designers to showcase their talented work and share with the community just how exciting, encouraging and fun fashion can truly be.


For young designers and aspiring models, breaking into the fashion industry is not always as simple as opening one door. There may be many hurdles to the first jump over when it comes to having a show or walking the catwalk. But with OC Fashion Week®, the right door may be just around the corner. It has always been a goal of Marino’s to create an outlet and an organization such as the Orange County Fashion Council where professional development can be enhanced, and emerging designers can finally have a spotlight. OC Fashion Week® is open to the diversity and creativity that comes from an array of new talent. Whether it is women’s or men’s apparel, children’s wear, surf wear, shoes or jewelry, the door is always open to those motivated for an exciting new opportunity.

To experience fashion in all its beauty, is to experience OC Fashion Week®. The beauty truly lies within the community of fashionistas, production staff, the amazing talent of designers and of course, strong and positive founders such as Marino. Orange County can never go out of style but rather grow haute, haute, and hauter with the growing and popular OC Fashion Week® and a community filled with a passion for fashion.


Q: How does OC Fashion Week® create its own image and step away from the larger shows such as in New York?

Kathryn Marino: OCFW has its own image already, mainly because of its own cultural hub in the luxury coastal market. NY Fashion Week is “the” pinnacle of everything encompassing the launch of new and established retail brands because it is of course the mecca of the fashion world. Without stepping away from larger shows there, we can say that OCFW is uniquely built to complement the industries, and if we are talking about reasons to be at OCFW, we can justify this due to our year-long beautiful weather and the line up of buyers that live among us who attend. Creating our own OC Fashion Week® also embraces our coastal surroundings debuting collections in resort wear, iconic surf and skate wear as well as urban, street wear and that bohemian chic culture that cannot be found on the other side of the world.

Q: When it came to establishing OC Fashion Week®, and even creating an OC Fashion Council, what was the motivation or inspiration behind such great organizations?

KM: All of Orange County is a fashion community. You can’t go a year without anybody hosting a fashion show. It’s very common to see the frequency of fashion shows here pop up, so it was imperative to create a different kind of organization as the OC Fashion Council and more importantly to have buying experts as members. We wanted to go in a different direction and have expert buyers, because at the end of the day, when a designer comes in and registers to become a designer, their hope is that they’re going to be discovered not by a retail store but by the buyer, and this process authenticates a designer’s opportunity to exposure to the right audience.

Q: How are partnerships with sponsors built for OC Fashion Week®?

KM: We build partnerships based on their relevance to the community and their influence on the community. We find that when they are very genuine about the outcome of the designer’s dreams, it speaks for itself. Their connectivity with them and how they help rebuild that confidence and relationship to other audiences is clearly visible and influential. Those partnerships that we built are quickly expanding, helping us build a greater and better show each time. It speaks volumes, and it’s clearly visible at the events. Ultimately, it’s gratifying to know that designers’ showcases are sustained because of this relationship and they can go back and say, “This sponsor, Nolet Spirits U.S.A., did an amazing event as the Seven Deadly Sins venue to support hair, make-up and beauty moguls.” We were ecstatic to have their support last September, and it means more to us to have their brand behind us. Seven Deadly Sins is a great example of successful partnerships of which we had an amazing turn out and we have Nolet Spirits U.S.A. to thank for supporting it 100 percent. Other partners include Dawson Cole Fine Art, AnQi, Laguna Design Center, John Wayne Airport, Lyon Air Museum, Crevier Classics, the Orange County Ballet Theatre, World of Dance and more.


Q: For someone who has never attended a fashion show, or more specifically OC Fashion Week®, how would you describe the atmosphere?

KM: I definitely think they’re going to find a match made in heaven when it comes to the expectation of the designer. We recreate the venue with the designer’s look and feel, and we find that when attendees walk into our fashion canvas, we help convey the mood surrounding that designer’s collection. That’s how we look to frame each designer, so the venue is as equally reflective of that designer’s showcase, and it becomes an entire fashion experience for them. On our last day of fashion week, we were looking at some of the audience’s faces, and some of them were stunned because they weren’t expecting a private runway which is what we did. Gina Marie Living and Provasi Collection really allowed us to create a whole new ambiance. I think that when people come to fashion week for the first time, they are going to find that it is an entire experience, and that is what we want to give them.

Q: Creating a successful event such as OC Fashion Week® I imagine can have some challenges. Has there been one you can recall and how did you overcome it?

KM: The biggest challenge that we run into is time. Because when you get down to the wire, it’s all those tiny details. Are we going to have enough time to add one more designer? Add one more show? Bring in some last minute changes? It’s usually the people that step up and help you that pulls you through. And those people are usually all of the sponsors and the council members. They are great. Sometimes it’s the parents of the models and the extra food runs for the models backstage. It’s really become a community born fashion week. We’re not corporately driven.

Q: What advice would you give to young designers and individuals looking to break into the fashion industry?

KM: I would be like Nike and say, “Just Do It.” At OC Fashion Week®, we’re all about supporting the risk takers; the people that push the threshold of what is common and predictable. We’re all about breaking that. We’re all for the rebels and the cultural revolutionaries or visionaries. We don’t want to see predictable. We want to see edge. Because ultimately, it’s those people that thrive off edge versus a template of how to build resort wear. It’s ultimately those people that are going to be the trendsetters.


Q: Speaking outside the box, do you feel fashion is about breaking the rules and setting new trends?

KM: Fashion should be liberating! It should liberate your soul. It can change someone’s confidence from zero to 300 percent. It can open doors. A lot of people don’t realize what a difference fashion can make in a world about personal perception and presentation. Fashion is its own language. Those people that break the ice that are cultural revolutionaries in fashion also inspire new talent. There are a lot of really great things about fashion that are so revolutionary; that are so iconic that it’s important that we embrace and not keep designers in a nice square box where they can’t thrive. We want it to feel free.

Q: Where would you like to see OC Fashion Week® and the industry itself in the next five years?

KM: I hope to see OC Fashion Week® as another fashion capital. I think that we have the ability to support a sizable fashion week where every hotel room is filled on the coastline of OC because we can handle the frequency of international tourism. Year-round, I run a luxury travel agency on the outbound. During fashion week, it feels good to advocate tourism here on the in-bound. I feel good about promoting Orange County as a favorable fashion itinerary to support fashion tourism and our local economy. We can justify travels in-bound because our weather is like Monaco year-round. We have yacht-loving communities on the seaside and five-star hotels that are all within walking distance between each other. We are an important and thriving fashion county that would support designers from all over the world and a thriving fashion buyer community that can justify for growth among both emerging and major established brands in house and in their stores. But it does take a lot of work; it does take a fashion community to help build it, and I believe we have all the right decision makers that could really help make that happen.

Q: Congratulations on being nominated for the 20th Anniversary Women in Business Awards by the OC Business Journal. Being a woman in this industry offers a lot of competition and hard work. How do you take it all in and continue to challenge yourself to just keep going and produce more great work?

KM: People motivate me. I’m inspired by others. I think when it comes to challenges however, the greater the challenge the better the athletes we become. Perhaps, in being a woman in business, this opens up different personas and perceptions with great peripheral vision. Maybe there’s an instinct there that just collaborates well with others. And perhaps on a basic and human level, a motherly instinct to making sure that the designers and the sponsors and the models and the staff are all taken care of. I think that we all tend to become one big happy family at the end of production day and we kind of regroup to get ready to do it all over again. But the motivation has always been the passion for fashion and the people that inspire us all. I was really flattered when I was nominated by OCBJ at the time because I’m usually behind the scenes; I usually like to push everyone forward, so it was humbling to receive recognition.