Jacob Taylor's fashion philosophy revolves around two principles: diversity and empowerment. Or at least that's what he's creating in Voices of Fashion, a three-day celebration of fashion in its many forms beginning on June 27. Taylor hopes to bring greater cultural awareness to the community and to highlight diversity in style and in people. The inaugural event, Taylor says, is "meant to inspire, educate, and develop a long lasting appreciation for multicultural influences in and on fashion. We're looking to broaden the experience of fashion in the lowcountry. We're highlighting diversity, and that's not limited to ethnicity. It's diversity in fashion, diversity in shapes and sizes. It's not about the typical 5-foot-9 or above model."
The show is also an opportunity for designers from the area to showcase their work. "A lot of designers around here source out to Atlanta and other places. These are some creative people who just don't have the platform around here," explains Taylor. "We have both male and female minority designers represented. All of them are a wow factor." His hope is that Voices of Fashion might help kick-start the designers' businesses. "It's about providing a platform," he says. "There's a lot of talent in Charleston, especially in the arts, but the lack of platforms is the missing link." Voices of Fashion, he says, wants to provide that exposure to designers and models across the spectrum.
While the event is based on multicultural influences in fashion, it's also about lifting up the individual. Taylor's been hosting fashion events intended to prop others up for years. In addition to "Voices of Fashion", he's also the founder of two pageants: Lady of Charleston and Classic Man of Charleston. Each celebrates women and men who embody class, elegance, and style — qualities that Taylor holds in high esteem. But these concepts aren't necessarily equated with the stereotypical representations of beauty that we see on most runways.
One model who's walking the runway with Voices of Fashion is 27-weeks pregnant. "She asked me if she could walk. I asked myself if I wanted true diversity and inclusion in all aspects, so I said yes. She has one of the most fierce walks amongst all the models." Taylor said he's also including a 46-year-old man who owns a barber shop in Goose Creek. "He's in good shape, and he's going to represent aging with grace, so to speak," says Taylor.
Voices of Fashion kicks off with a Meet and Greet on Thurs. June 27 at Blue Note in North Charleston. Models, designers, and staff will run through the agenda together and toast to the event's opening. The public is invited to join in and mingle with the show's participants. On Friday, Taylor and his crew will shut down a portion of Vendue Range downtown (near the Pineapple Fountain) for a catwalk fashion show in the street.
Attendees are given another chance to meet with the Voices of Fashion participants at Deco for an afterparty. Saturday wraps up the weekend's festivities with a finale at the North Charleston Convention Center. While Friday's events will focus on the work of Charleston-based designers, Saturday's finale is a larger show and will incorporate designers from around the region.
Taylor's love of fashion started with family. He's a self-proclaimed "country boy from Walterboro," but metropolitan style made its way into his life despite his rural upbringing. "My dad's side of the family were city slickers," explains Taylor. "They'd wear suits. Hugo Boss and Stacy Adams was the thing in their day." His paternal relatives weren't the only influence on his passion for fashion. His mom loved clothes and how they could make you feel, too. Taylor says his mother would change his outfits three times a day when he was a kid just for the love of dressing up. "I also watched a lot of Italian mob movies growing up. I loved that high fashion style in the films and always had an eye for it. I've worked in various retail stores, and I do made-to-measure suiting. I didn't go to school for fashion, but it's a natural gift that I've monetized over the years."
Now, Taylor spends much of his creative energy thinking up ways to empower the community through fashion. He hopes that by doing so, he can help fill the cultural void he's observed and give voice to those who have something to say.