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OFFICIAL JOB TITLE: CEO & Creative Director NWA Fashion Week
CITY: Fayetteville
Where are you from?

Born in Louisiana, I went to elementary in Siloam Springs but graduated high school in Fayetteville.

Where’d you go? Why’d you come back?

First I moved to New Orleans to work on an international contemporary art biennial. Then I moved to New York to get my graduate degree in curating. I spent some time living in Holland, then back to New York, then back to New Orleans. I spent several years being very mobile, moving from city to city and curatorial gig to gig and I was exhausted. I moved back to get my bearings and decide what my next move would be. I was almost certain my next move would be LA. I never thought I would stay longer than six months, but here I am four years later! I just fell in love with this place again with fresh eyes and saw how much potential there truly is here.

What do you love most about Northwest Arkansas?

The landscape. It’s so beautiful and you can drive 45 minutes in pretty much any direction and be completely isolated in nature. I love that, I grew up in that, and I really missed it while I was gone. I also love being near my family and my lifelong friends. Having a strong network of support has made everything I do possible. I wasn’t able to strive so hard to achieve such big goals when I was living on my own in a city with no family nearby.

It’s also a place where you can dream really big. The sky is the limit here, and the community of support you find when you hit on an idea is truly amazing. I could never do what I do here anywhere else. There just wouldn’t be the financial reality to do it, the cost of living is so high and working to build a small company costs so much in both time and money. It wouldn’t be possible in a more expensive climate.

If you can dream it, you can do it.

Robin AtkinsonNWA TAGLINE
How do you describe Northwest Arkansas to people that have never been here? What’s our story?

We are America’s best-kept secret. Since I’ve come back I have been amazed at how quickly the cultural landscape has blossomed. I see things popping up in our backyard, like The Momentary for instance, that rival the best cultural hotspots around the world. We have cultural density without the population density you get in big cities, so there is still a really pristine natural landscape as the background to these truly remarkable cultural touchstones. Art, music, theater and now fashion with NWAFW. We have organizations that rival any metropolitan cultural establishments in a natural setting unlike any other. But we also have this really down to earth mentality here that is truly remarkable.

Dispel a myth.

My friends on the coasts could never believe that there was a liberal and progressive, truly inclusive, community here. But there is! I’ve seen more work on diversity, equality, and inclusivity here than anywhere I lived. In Holland, for instance, there is so much talk about a socialized democracy and equality, but even there the isolationism of the national culture against anything foreign was truly striking. Here we work hard to create a welcoming space for all cultures. There is always more work to be done, but NWA is actually much more forward-thinking than many of the cities I’ve worked or lived in.

Describe your NWA tribe.

My NWAFW community, our volunteers, designers, models, artists, stylists – they are the best of the best! We pull together this really diverse group of people who all want to build something bigger than ourselves, to bring something really remarkable to the area. They are overachievers, all of them, and they have lived all over. They come from here, but they are also from California, New York, Germany, Mexico – you name it. And they have all this cultural experience that they bring to the table to create something that is at once both intensely local and also completely foreign in terms of anything else going on here. They want to create something they can be proud of, and they want to create the community they see as being worthy of them and this place.

What is your biggest hope for the future of the region?

I hope that women continue to get promoted and elected into influential positions. For as progressive as the area is, there can still be a boys club mentality in some areas and some industries. I want this area to shine for female leadership and to be an example of what it looks like if there is true equity among the genders in terms of leadership opportunities and value of opinions.

How do you experience the region in your free time? What are some of your favorite spots?

We love to take our 14 month old daughter to Crystal Bridges. She is really tuning in to art and loves to look at paintings and sculptures in the collection. We are also avid hikers and kayakers, so the Buffalo River gets a lot of our weekends. We love how much exploring there is to do, so many different natural parks and trails and dirt roads to wander down.

You know everything you currently know about the region, but you’ve never been here. You arrive and have 24 hours, where do you go, what do you do?

Lunch burgers at Hugo’s, Eureka Springs walking tour, dinner at Preacher’s Son and a concert in the forest at Crystal Bridges. Suite at 21c and brunch at Pressroom.

Why should we go? What’s the vibe? What makes it different?

NWA Fashion Week is built similarly to other fashion weeks across the country, we took several ideas for the model from other weeks like Charleston, Kansas City and Phoenix. What sets us apart is our specific focus on supporting and showcasing designers from or working in Arkansas. We focus on bringing the best fashion from across the state to the shows. We want it to be a truly urban or cosmopolitan experience so we focus on high production values and curating the experience to be above and beyond.

One thing we might not know?

Arkansas-based Designer Runway time is paid for by the non-profit organization the Arkansas Art & Fashion Forum. We believe in supporting artists and entrepreneurs and want to keep creating this platforms for creatives in our state to show their work to the world.

Describe Fashion week in 3 words.

Only The Best.

NWA Fashion Week is 9.20-9.22 this Fall at Fayetteville’s Drake Field. There will be more than 25 runway shows over three days with special musical guests and more.