One woman’s mission to put New Hampshire on the fashion map

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MANCHESTER, NH – New Hampshire Fashion Week is the brainchild of Cynthia Hudson, creator of Aspiring magazine and director of NHFW, which was held this year April 13-15 at the Downtown Manchester Hotel (formerly the Radisson).

If you missed it, you weren’t alone. Hudson is not deterred, even though turnout to the event was not what she’d hoped. But she’s back at the drawing board, determined to make NHFW 2019 bigger and better.

I attended on April 14 and found that the Main Stage featured designers from throughout New England. The evening was exquisitely choreographed with the award-winning, intuitive precision of DJ Stephanie Stardust. An array of fashion design worked the runway from African chic to ’70s glam, and everything in between.

Donna Sousa contributed her flawless makeup artistry while the Fancy Nancy Salon team  executed romantic, stylishly messy coifs for the second consecutive year.

Sterling Golden of Boston Free Radio expertly emceed the evening with high energy and Hollywood-like pizzaz.

Cynthia Hudson, the woman behind New Hampshire Fashion Week. Courtesy Photo

Alexander Renae summoning the spirit of a 1940s Adrian, with her Katherine Hepburn-like pink, square-shouldered dress, coupled edgy and elegance with plunging necklines, bias cuts, and ’70s flair as well as an obvious nod to Lady Godiva.

I Candy Clothing, a mother and daughter team, upped the ante with Flash Gordon-esque, futuristic metallic golds, reds, and turquoise that made one take notice. Meticulously designed footwear complimented the sexy imaginative frocks that seemed to end just past the “glimpse” point. I Candy’s thigh-high blue and green sequined boots, garnered much attention.

Nina Boblick of Ever Unique Designs, chic fascinators, and millinery fashion,  made one easily believe that it’s time for the races and earthy one-of-a-kind handcrafted pieces by Jewelinga were so stunning, that the clothing became an afterthought.

After the event, I wanted to ask Hudson about her passion for putting New Hampshire on the fashion map. Turns out it’s been a huge undertaking – and she spoke honestly about the challenges she faced in 2018, which included low attendance.

Below is a photo gallery from the event and a Q&A with Hudson about the creation – and future of – NH Fashion Week.

Fashion Photo Gallery by Sangeeta Kumar

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Q. Is fashion week exclusively your idea or was it a joint effort/how did it start?

In 2015 I went to the drawing board with a team and we would meet and plan. They produced! 2016 was our first year. We held it at the Downtown Manchester Hotel. We had more than 120 models, 30 designers, several performers and we had just under 1,000 attendees for the weekend. We had some hiccups – the backdrop was supposed to have video and the hotel wouldn’t let us run it. So we had an eyesore of a backdrop on the runway. But it was all good we just ignored it and made it work. The second year we decided to move it to Nashua Radisson hoping to draw more Massachusetts folks. We had more than 100 models, 28 designers, a student competition and several performers, but we only had about 560 attendees. We dropped and we had triple the exposure of the prior year through all streams of media. We couldn’t understand. So we thought OK,  maybe we went too far down to the border – let’s bring it up closer to Manchester and see how it goes. Unfortunately, attendance dropped to about 420 for the weekend. We worked hard and can’t understand the outcome, but will work on it differently for our fourth year in 2019. But please know that there is no “I” in team and it takes a team to create such a production.

Q. What is your ultimate vision for NH Fashion Week?

My ultimate vision is that New Hampshire does have fashion – just like any other state. We have been talked about saying, “What would NH fashion week have… work boots, flannels and overalls?”  My point is that, say it all you want, but New Hampshire has and knows fashion! I think through our team we have proven that! New Hampshire has a lot to offer in fashion. I will continue to show that through the eyes of the designers and models. My first year I did invest after everything, as well as my second year. However, our third year, I think we just about broke even. I am not going to continue funding this effort if the state as a whole doesn’t support it, but will give it one more year to see if we actually can get where we should be. We need to find a venue to work with us and work together as a partnership. We need to show as a whole that we in New Hampshire do have fashion!

Q. How did Aspiring Magazine come about?

Well, that is a long story in itself. But the short version: Years ago I was involved in coordinating photo shoots for a magazine through my agency and another magazine. I acquired the magazine but never did anything with it, so it was always in the back of my head as something I wanted to do. I was producing (still do sometimes) a local cable show called Aspire and wanted to do a magazine along the same lines. I first tried the original name from years ago and it came back that someone else had it. Then  I was going to name it Aspire, after the TV show, but that name was already taken. So third try,  I came up with Aspiring to stick with the same theme. Back then when I started it there wasn’t another Aspiring Magazine. Now there are a few. All different. My vision is to distribute it nationwide to be sold in stores.

Q. How can local business sponsor NHFW?

Local businesses can sponsor us by going to our website and clicking on “sponsor,” or contact us via our business page on Facebook, New Hampshire Fashion Week, and follow along, or emailing us at