Fashion designer

RI fashion designer Jessica Abernethy returns to the catwalk

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 runway where local notables including Colin Geoffrey, the owner of G Hospitality; Kristen Adamo, CEO of Go Providence; real estate entrepreneur Michael Sweeney; Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea; and designer Kent Stetson were among the crowd and judges.

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

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

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

“I missed the excitement of the shows, the pre-show jitters and seeing it all fall into place at the end,” she said before the show.

Abernethy has shared her designs on numerous StyleWeek Northeast runways in the past.

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

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

She’s made political statements in her designs, like sending models onto 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 get back on the track.

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

“After this past year, this whole collection was all about spring and a revival,” 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 crazier” than what she normally designs.

“People have been home in sweatpants and yoga pants for a year and a half,” she said. “Nobody wants to fit into a tight shirt. Everything is a little more loose, fluid and square.

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 over the top.”

She used liberating fabrics like cotton and linen, soft pastels like avocado green, pink and raspberry cream. Each model wore bright white tennis shoes.

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

Almost all of the fabric used had been stored upstairs in her two-family home. They were scraps and spools she hadn’t finished using in the past.

“I used this technique where I pieced together a lot of scraps to create a new piece of fabric and cut the pattern or garment from that. It was pretty fun trying to use everything I already had,” she said. Because of this, she says, the number of pieces she has is limited — and in most cases, she only has one per design. She will offer them for sale via her Instagram in the coming days; sizes will start at a size 4 and work up to about an 8 or 10.

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


Alexa Gagosz can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.