February 24-27 marks the sixth anniversary of West Reading Fashion Week, a chance for the small business owners of the eclectic shops lining Penn Avenue to showcase their inventory. Featuring locals modeling unique designs that span from hand-made clothing to wearable art, West Reading Fashion Week has become a much-anticipated annual event in Berks County.
In years past, the week leading up to the West Reading Fashion Show on the last Saturday of February was full of events at local restaurants, where live models would wander gracefully between the tables.
This year, due to the pandemic, fashion segments have been pre-recorded, and the fashion show itself will air at 7 p.m. on February 27 at https://event.gives/supportwestreading, with a Facebook Live pre-show premiering at 6 p.m.
Martha Ressler, the director of Art Plus Gallery (604 Penn Ave), is delighted that the gallery will be participating in the fashion show this year. Their unique fashion segment will feature local models decked in unique “wearable art” pieces: jewelry made from beads and polymer clay and purses by artist Marilyn Pounder, jewelry made from crystal, fused glass, metal and leather by artist Leann Wolf, and painted silk scarves created by artist Judy Ballinger.
“[The staff of Art Plus Gallery] is all volunteer-based,” said Ressler, noting that all artists whose work is on display pay dues, and are juried into the gallery.
Allison Shannon, owner of Allison Clothing Company (522 Penn Ave), took a delightfully quirky approach to her fashion show segment this year. Rather than using live models, Shannon’s hand-dyed clothes are displayed on “Judy”, the store’s creative mascot–a blow-up doll.
“There’s a normal spiciness to life,” said Shannon. “I wanted to make light of it!”. Everything in Shannon’s store is carefully cultivated to include “earthy, feel-good” products.
“Everything [here] is hand-crafted”, said Shannon, noting that everything from the stamps she uses to create unique patterns on her handmade clothing to the healing crystals infused into the dye reflects an important energy transfer of objects. “This is the root of all I do,” she said. “The love transfer is there.”
Casha Rosario, owner of Snazzy Beauty Supply (408 Penn Avenue), was thrilled to participate in West Reading Fashion Week this year for the first time, noting that her models included friends and even her son. Rosario noted that she is excited as she plans store events for the future–mimosa brunches, beauty classes, and so much more–and that she is grateful to own a small business in a place as amazing as Penn Avenue. “West Reading sells itself,” she said.