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Hartford Fashion Week To Salute Japanalia Designer Eiko Blow

Chango Rosa is known for its unique spin on the cuisine of Mexico. But on April 19 another country will take over the vibe: Japan.

A launch party that night in the downtown restaurant kicks off the third annual Hartford Fashion Week, which runs the weekend of April 19 to 23 with runway shows, vendor markets, clothing viewing and parties.

The Chango Rosa party, from 6:30 to 9 p.m., includes a salute to Eiko Blow, who launched the Hartford fashion line Japanalia in the 1980s and ran a shop until 2014.

Many longtime Japanalia fans will attend the party, wearing their Eiko creations, inspired by designs, fabrics and colors of kimonos, obis and other varieties of the traditional clothing of Blow’s native country.

A love for clothing runs in Blow’s blood.

“My father was a tailor. He worked with English worsted suit fabric. My mother was really talented, too,” she says. “I was one of seven kids. She made all our kimonos and Western clothes. She could look at a picture in a magazine and just make it.”

Blow, 73, was born in Hiroshima and grew up in Osaka. After she married Dan Blow, they lived in Tokyo for a while, then they relocated to Hartford in 1980.

“The Hartford fashion scene was pretty conservative then,” she says. She and several friends set up a shop selling all their designs. Later she went solo and developed a devoted clientele.

“Our customers have really followed me for the last 37 years. I got lots of clients from New York and Washington, D.C.,” Blow says. “I like working with four-ply silk in sliver and gold. It’s really hard to sew. Even the finest nail can’t push it through. It’s a luxurious thing to do. It comes out so beautiful.”

Thomas Foran, a longtime friend and client of Blow, asked Hartford Fashion Week to salute her.

“Hartford Fashion Week is always honoring the young designers and that is wonderful. It’s a good vehicle for them to show their work. But I’m 80 and I thought we should be highlighting, giving some credence to the people who have been in greater Hartford and involved in the fashion world, who have left their mark,” Foran said.

Blow still makes clothes at her home in Glastonbury and many clients still call her to buy her work. “I can’t stop. It’s my bad habit,” she says.

Fashion Week

Katrina Orsini, director of Hartford Fashion Week, says the clothing presentations will be a little different this year.

“A lot of people don’t necessarily find the runway to be the most suitable way to present their clothes,” Orsini says. “We have a couple of designers that don’t emphasize wearability as much as presenting their things as works of art worn by humans. They wanted to allow people to get closer to see the detail.” On Friday and Saturday evenings, four designers will use the runway. Other designers will present their work off the runway, to give spectators a chance to view the work in close detail.

In the past, those runway shows have been at Union Station. This year they are in the Colt East Armory.

“Union Station is a great, beautiful, empty space, with great chandeliers, but it was a bit too formal for people presenting street wear, not gowns,” she says. “The Colt building is a blank canvas, stripped bare, white, no colors, no chandeliers. It gives the clothes a space to shine.”

The first runway event — April 20 from 7 to 10 p.m. — will feature work by Styled by Jazz, RoundTableClothing, Troy Anthony and FASCHINN, with an off-runway presentation by Rachael Karrington. The second show, April 21 from 7 to 10 p.m. — will feature work by LàMoo, Brian Hernandez, Animated People and Toshaz, with an off-runway presentation by Taj Mirage. Admission is $35. VIP tables are available. Vendors will sell their wares on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., also at Colt.

The final event is a panel discussion titled “Culture & Community through Attire” Monday from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at UConn Hartford, 10 Prospect St. Co-presented by the UConn School of Fine Arts, it features Christina Lorraine Bullard, an assistant professor of costume design at UConn, and Brandy S. Culp, curator of American decorative arts at the Wadsworth Atheneum of Art in Hartford. The moderator is Anne D’Alleva, the dean of the UConn School of Fine Arts. Admission is $10, which includes hors d’oeuvres and an open bar.

For details on Fashion Week, visit hartford.fashion. To register for the panel discussion, click here.

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