A boss can be described in several ways. It is someone who takes charge and directs, someone who leads those around them, someone who is not afraid to take chances. When you think of a boss in those terms, look towards Kelly Cunningham, a local boss lady.
A Danville native, Cunningham attended George Washington High School. She continued her education at Norfolk State University studying tourism, hospitality management, marketing and fine arts. While at NSU, Cunningham was a member of the Spartan Legion Marching Band where she was a part of the dance line “Hot Ice.” Cunningham says that is where it all started. Her time as a Spartan helped her gain confidence and molded her into the CEO she is today.
Cunningham is the founder and CEO of The Fashion Haus in Danville. Back in 2016, The Fashion Haus had its very first Danville Fashion Week. Here we are in 2020, and Cunningham is producing her fifth annual fashion week. “It feels unreal. I didn’t think we would get past the first season, but the City and surrounding area keep us alive,” she said.
Fashion has always been a part in Cunningham’s life. “It’s in my family line. My grandmother sewed. My great aunt sews, and my aunt is where I get my fashion sense from.”
In just four years as a CEO in the fashion industry, Cunningham has seen tremendous growth with her brand. Each year, the shows grow more elaborate. The first fashion week, “Colors of Fashion” debuted 19 models. By year two, Cunningham said she had 50 models come from all over the USA. Her strides in this industry have paved a way for future success. Under Cunningham’s leadership, Danville Fashion Week, DFW, was named the Official Fashion Week for the City of Danville proclaimed by former Mayor John Gilstrap.
As season five approaches, be prepared for “Organized Chaos.” Danville Fashion Week takes place this November. While it may seem nearly impossible to put on a fashion show amidst a pandemic, Cunningham isn’t worried. “Our venue has multiple rooms that we are using and luckily our space is a good amount to keep individuals separated within the six-foot guidelines.”
When Cunningham returned home in 2009 from NSU, she saw a need for more appreciation of the visual arts. Since then, she’s learned a lot about herself through the years of creating a community event. “I can do anything as long as I trust and put forth the efforts. Connections matter, and a great support team is vital.” Danville Fashion Week means everything to her. “I don’t have children besides my niece, so this is my baby. This is what I want to do full time. Increase individual’s confidence using fashion and modeling, runway workshops, sewing class for our youth, a multipurpose art studio for creatives.”
Not only is Cunningham branching out in the community, she helps all those involved in The Fashion Haus. From the first time her models take part in a practice, to walking down the runway Cunningham can see their individual growth. “Confidence is the biggest change. Once you start practice, and you continue, it makes a difference. But there is nothing like showcasing fabulous designs by a well-known fashion designer in front of hundreds of family friends and community support.”
Cunningham has big expectations. “I hope to be in a location for a development firm. To provide my services and be able to reach more. DFW is one event I put on each year, but there are several workshops that lead to it. Hopefully, you will see a ‘The Fashion Haus’s’ sign going up soon in our downtown area.”