When we asked Angela Watts where she was from, she let us know, “the hometown of James Brown – Augusta, GA.” Her pride in her hometown oozes over into the pride she carries over to her work. She has been diligent in creating a home or nest in Atlanta for the fashion industry. The work she’s done has culminated in to RAGTRADE ATLANTA where emerging designer show their work which also gives exposure to local models, makeup artists, accessory makers and everyone who’s helped make the show a huge success for the past five years.
Angela took a few minutes out of her extremely busy day of planning the next fashion event and running 10 Squared PR, her eldest entrepreneurial success, to tirelessly answer a few questions for Imagine In Style as the inaugural guest of our “Questions on …” section. Take notes as she shares how she’s made it happen and what she expects and is working toward for fashion in the city of Atlanta.
IIS: What sparked your interest in fashion? What about your history has given you this passion?
AW: Growing up, I never thought about working in the fashion industry. I always loved fashion, read fashion magazines like Vogueand InStyle, and kept up with trends but choosing this industry as a career was not my first choice. It was not until I learned about New York Fashion Week in 2000 that I begin to do more research about the industry and all the hardwork and glamour that came along with it. Immediately after seeing images from some of the shows I knew I had found a new passion. I wanted to produce shows in Atlanta.
IIS: How did you get started in this push / endeavor to increase the visibility of the significance of fashion in Atlanta?
AW: Ever since I began working in the marketing / communications in 2001/2002, the first project I wanted to produce was a fashion show. However, I felt it was not the right time to start. In 2013, I began to see film and TV productions pick up in Atlanta and knew with film/TV, fashion follows, therefore, I formed a team to produce our first fashion show at W Atlanta-Buckhead, August 2014. The show was a huge success! We hosted two shows (a student and an emerging designer) and both shows sold out. It was in that moment that I realized it was time move our fashion industry forward.
IIS: What are your expectations for the fashion industry in Atlanta?
AW: My expectations are to see Atlanta become a major player in the global fashion scene in four key areas: creativity, business development, reputation and innovation and tech. For this to happen, we have to find our own voice. Who are we as a community? What makes us different from other cities? Why should the global community take notice?
IIS: Is the Atlanta fashion scene progressing as you expected or hoped it would?
AW: Yes. We have made huge strides since we started our efforts in 2013. One of our biggest milestones this year was when the City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Film and Entertainment announced they were going to expand their department to include the fashion industry. This means there will be opportunities announced in the near future that will encourage our designers to grow their businesses in Atlanta.
IIS: Have you faced any objections to building / growing the Atlanta fashion scene? What are some reasons for the objections?
AW: My experience since starting this journey has been mostly positive. A lot of our partners have been open to supporting our efforts. The only thing I see lacking is media coverage on the work our team and the fashion community as a whole is doing. In order for us to garner the eyeballs to grow the industry, we need more media attention on our designers, events, etc.
IIS: Are the big names in the fashion industry making their way to Atlanta?
AW: Based on a few conversations I have had with my peers in New York, Atlanta is buzzing. I believe within a few years, some of the major brands will consider Atlanta, and the state of Georgia as a key player in the warehousing and logistics sectors. For example, the Port of Savannah is the second largest port on the east coast. Major brands such as Tory Burch made a decision to open a new distribution center in metro Atlanta to support its e-commerce division. This is due to our proximity to the Savannah and Brunswick ports, our interstates and rail networks and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
IIS: Atlanta has been constantly growing, how will the city have to change and expand to welcome the fashion industry giants?
AW: Atlanta will have to increase their grant funding for non-profits arts & culture. The City of Atlanta awarded $995,000 in grants to non-profit arts & culture organizations in FY18. The City of Nashville awarded $2.4M and the Arts & Science Council of Charlotte awarded $13.7M. As you can see, Atlanta does not compete nationally or in the southeast when it comes to public support for arts & culture.As with any industry, funding is needed to grow the industry. I believe Atlanta has all the resources here but as a community, the private and public sectors need to come together to see its growth.
We need our private and public sectors to invest. There are several projects that are in discussion and unfortunately, we cannot speak about them at this moment. More information will be shared later this year.
IIS: Where would you like to see the Atlanta fashion industry in the next ten years?
AW: Right now, Paris, Milan, New York and London are considered the “Big 4” fashion capitals of the world. In 10 years, I will like to see the ‘Big 4’ grow to the ‘Big 5’ with Atlanta positioned as one of the top markets for fashion.
IIS: What role do bloggers play in this growth?
AW: It is important for bloggers to support our designers here. Interview them just like you would interview celebrities in film/TV and the music categories. Our fashion community needs your support to spread the news about what Atlanta’s fashion industry is accomplishing.
IIS: What is your advice to those who are endeavoring to start a journey that is not often traveled?
AW: Enjoy the process…achieving goals do not mean that you are successful. One of the reasons why people obsess with what the future holds is because they think that achieving goals means they have succeeded in life…by constantly doing this, you anchor your entire existence on that goal. The moment you fail in achieving the goal, you think that you are a big failure, which is not true. If you enjoy the process, regardless of the outcome, you will still feel good. You have traveled, learned from your mistakes, met people and become inspired.