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Fashion designer RI Jessica Abernethy returns to the catwalk

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On Thursday night, StyleWeek Northeast returned for its 19th season with a micro-fashion event at Capital Grille in Providence. The restaurant’s outdoor patio has been transformed into a track where local notables including Colin Geoffrey, the owner of G Hospitality; Kristen Adamo, Executive Director of Go Providence; real estate entrepreneur Michael Sweeney; Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea; and designer Kent Stetson were among the crowds and judges.

People sat in rows (probably happy to be out of their homes and dressed in something other than a pandemic yoga pants) to see the designs of Abernethy and Boston-based designer Melina Cortes-Nmili for Lalla Bee, who takes classic dresses and gives them a modern edge.

For Abernethy, a Providence-based designer, the show marked her return to the Rhode Islands fashion scene.

A look from designer Jess Abernethy.
A look from designer Jess Abernethy.Matthew Healey for the Boston Globe

I missed the excitement of the shows, the nervousness from before the show and seeing everything fall into place at the end, she said before the show.

Abernethy has shared her designs on numerous StyleWeek Northeasts catwalks in the past.

In 2017, she designed looks that looked like streetwear chic with geometric patterns, pops of neon yellow, off-the-shoulder tops, faux-leather pants, and whatever outfit: black and gold platform sneakers. .

For several years, she designed looks for the StyleWeek SWIM catwalks. Her 2014 offering included hot pink and silver one-piece swimsuits with a retro look.

She has made political statements in her designs, such as sending models to the runway wearing futuristic-looking gas masks, deliberately showing what could one day be the norm if climate change continues to worsen.

But after a three-year hiatus, which included more than a year of pandemic downtime, she was ready to return to the track.

A look from Providence designer Jess Abernathy.
A look from Providence designer Jess Abernathy.Matthew Healey for the Boston Globe

After the year has passed, this whole collection was about spring and an alarm clock, she told The Globe.

She incorporated her usual clean lines, contrasting patterns, and what she calls a simplicity, but this year, she said, everything was a little more wacky than she normally conceives of.

People have gone home with sweatpants and yoga pants for a year and a half, she said. No one wants to step into a tight shirt. Everything is a little more loose, fluid and square.

A look from designer Jess Abernethy.
A look from designer Jess Abernethy.Matthew Healey for the Boston Globe

And with contrasting patterns combined in one outfit, she admitted, it can be a bit of a stretch.

She used liberating fabrics like cotton and linen, soft pastels like avocado green, rose, and raspberry creme. Each model wore shiny white tennis shoes.

She designed knee-length Bermuda-style shorts in a dramatic print, hot pink sweatpants, short collared dresses with balloon sleeves, loose dark green checkerboard skirts and soft pants.

Most of the cloth used had been stored upstairs in her two-family home. They were scraps and coils that she hadn’t finished using in the past.

I did this technique where I reconstructed a large part of the scraps to make a new piece of fabric and cut out the pattern or the garment. It was quite fun trying to use everything I already had, she said. Because of this, she said, the number of parts she has available is limited and in most cases she only has one by design. She will offer them for sale through her Instagram in the coming days; sizes will start at a size 4 and work up to around 8 or 10.

I’m definitely back, she said. I think I’m addicted to shows again.


Alexa Gagosz can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz.



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