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What really went wrong with Milwaukee's Fashion Week

Hillary Fry responds to the fall of Fashion Week


Back in May 2008 the style beat here at OnMilwaukee.com made an exciting announcement: Milwaukee was joining the ranks of New York, Chicago and L.A. by hosting its first official Fashion Week.

The three-day high fashion function was scheduled for Oct. 3-6 and promised celebrity appearances and national attention for our local designers. OnMilwaukee.com ran an interview with event organizer Hillary Fry on Sept. 23 but just over a week later, one day before go time, Fry announced that Fashion Week was canceled in full, providing only a vague explanation and citing "unfulfilled financial commitments" as the primary problem.

In mid-October WTMJ reporter Shelley Walcott aired "Why Milwaukee's Fashion Week Went Bust," an interview with former Milwaukee Fashion Week sponsor and participant, Barb Berg, owner of Boutique B'lou inside The Pfister's lobby.

Berg claimed unsecured venues and a lack of sponsor commitment caused the event's collapse. Fry says this is untrue.

Fry recently addressed the accusations and used her blog to provide clarity for a curious public. The entirety of Fry's response to Walcott's report is here.

We caught up with Fry to ask a few follow-up questions.

OnMilwaukee.com: If the information that Barb Berg provided was false, then why did Milwaukee Fashion Week go under?

Hillary Fry: I have no understanding whatsoever of her motives for going on television and lying. It was an inaugural event, and nothing ever goes perfectly, but everyone I had been dealing with has been pretty much been straight forward with me that we had all kinds of national sponsors. (Berg) has had a presence here for years and when she told me she was going to pay ... I thought she was going to pay.

On Sept. 26 she was going to have a meeting with Harley (Davidson) and she did not want me to attend; she was going to deal with it. On the 26th, I e-mailed her because clearly we had to use her money to pay for this venue, and she was arranging everything and she started talking about purchasing too many dresses or something. I said, if what you're telling me is that you don't have the money, then why don't you talk to Nancy (Davidson, wide of Harley-Davidson VP Willie G Davidson) about a comp date.

I believe what happened was, she went into this meeting knowing she didn't have the money for the pledge she was going to do, couldn't get a comp date and said, "I'm pulling out."

OMC: Was it at that moment that you knew you had to cancel the event?

HF: No. Obviously we couldn't continue the way it was planned, but we thought we could resurrect something. In my mind I thought, "Great, she's out," but I couldn't understand why she was pressuring me to cancel the entire weekend. I thought we could still do something. My god, we had celebrities, famous fashion designers and reporters coming in; sure we had to work around it. Had she given us a little bit more notice, we could have tapped other resources, but then I started getting e-mails and text messages saying the event was canceled. One thing after another kept happening.

OMC: Who was telling venues you'd already secured that it was canceled?

HF: I don't know who was making those calls. I was told the hotel (The Pfister) called the celebrities.

OMC: But you never called The Pfister and said it was off?

HF: Absolutely not. It was a huge snowball that kept growing. Agents started re-booking people and models, hotels re-booked their rooms and we were unable to move forward.

OMC: At this point, have all the tickets been refunded?

HF: No, I'm still refunding people weekly.

OMC: The big question is, is there any chance of a Milwaukee Fashion Week in the future?

HF: I would love to. I so much want to see these people get the recognition they would have gotten for their clothing during this week. There's so much talent here. Personally, I can't move forward until I make this right for everybody. That has to be addressed first. Would it be great in the future? Of course.


Talkbacks

musicnomad | Jan. 13, 2009 at 1:18 p.m. (report)

FRY is NOT telling the whole story!!! She was elusive with most of her answers. For the record, I'm one of the designers. I was not contacted by FRY when she canceled the event (24 hrs prior). This event was very disorganized and many questions by designers sent to FRY went unanswered. I had to file band fraud to get my refund. She did not return my emails or money. My wife designed the Botique B'lou postcard in 24 hours, after we found that the event was canceled. Barb Berg was gracious enough to allow some designers to recoup their investment, she (Barb) was unaware that we designed a quick postcard. How can the OWNER of the event, not know about the money??? How can the OWNER of the event , not secure place in advance??? I could on and on. Barb Berg and the rest of the designers deserve a response.

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OutAndAbout | Dec. 2, 2008 at 9:09 a.m. (report)

Unfortunately, Fashion Week was cancelled. But I must say... it is inexcusable to yet receive ticket refunds for a Fashion Show Week that never took place. Fashion Week was scheduled for Oct 3-6 2008. As of now (Dec 2, 2008), I have yet to receive a refund, return email or return phone call from the organizers of Fashion Week. What a shame that it has now turned into He said, she said. Next time a fashion show is organized by either Hillary Fry with Solessence and Barb Berg with Boutique B'lou, I WILL NOT BE ATTENDING. And other Milwaukee fashion enthusiasts will be informed of the lack of follow through with Fashion Week and its organizers.

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nlwerra | Dec. 2, 2008 at 7:52 a.m. (report)

I find it interesting that everyone is sticking up for Hillary Fry. Who is sticking up for the people who bought tickets and haven't received a refund?! People, like me, who have also filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau only to have that complaint, and numerous attempts of contact by me and the BBB, go unanswered?! Personally, I think Hillary Fry and Solessance are nothing but frauds and should be EMBARASSED for even bringing themselves to our wonderful city.

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JKrunken | Nov. 29, 2008 at 1:03 p.m. (report)

Given that you guys use that picture all the time, you might well let us know who the model is....

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