A Day In the Life of Austin Fashion Week’s Matt Swinney

 Written by Nadia Chaudhury
Photography by Hannah Vickers

Matt Swinney is a busy man, especially during the weeks leading up to this year’s Austin Fashion Week, which he started seven years ago.

The 39-year-old native was already familiar with the fashion and promotional world in Austin when he owned the now-defunct Rare Magazine. The “serial entrepreneur” thought that a fashion week was the next logical step, though he admitted it was a “terrible idea to be perfectly honest with you.” The fashion industry was basically non-existent at that point. “We’ve literally had to build the industry,” he said. “There were pockets of people that existed,” he continued, “but people weren’t working together to create a bigger focus on it.” That’s where he stepped in.

Fashion Week started as a retail-driven event, but it has grown into a nine-day showcase incorporating designers, retailers, and consumers. This year’s Fashion Week takes place from April 10-18 and includes runway shows, galleries, parties, and even a brunch. “Welcome to my life,” Swinney joked. “I thrive on being busy.”


A Day in the Life

of Austin Fashion Week’s Matt Swinney


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Swinney and friend TJ Turner are hosting Give Back Jack, the male-focused charity program affiliated with I Live Here, I Give Here, which encourages younger people to get into philanthropy. The two meet with ILHIGH’s Celeste Flores and Catherine Lucchesi on the second floor of Caffe Medici in downtown for advice on what they should do for the fall event. “It is incredibly difficult to get 180 interesting guys in a room together,” Swinney explained. Coffees in hand, the four talk about the format of the evening. “In my brain, I want it to be like, ‘man’s man’ kind of feel,” said Swinney. They discuss what sort of mentors, who would advise attendees on how to give back to communities, they would like to get. “I want the [Swift’s Attic’s] C.K. Chins of the world. He’ll bring a restaurant industry kind of feel, or a Shawn Cirkiel, somebody like that,” he said, highlighting 18 different industry sectors.


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Swinney stopped by his office in West Austin for an email check. “I spend a lot of time answering emails,” he said, “whether I want to or not.” He has to deal with plenty of meetings, so he’s “picky and choosy about who I give face time to.”
 


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Before heading into clothing designer Ross Bennett’s home for Austin Fashion Week fittings in Oak Hill, Swinney checked more emails on his phone in his Jeep.
 


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Swinney tried on three and a half outfits designed by Bennett for the runway shows and brunch during Austin Fashion Week. Each jacket featured Swinney’s monogram name on the inside. According to Bennett, he lost some weight from their initial measuring. He used to have a personal stylist, but now he preferred working with his designers, “because, at the end of the day, I want them to show what they want to do, too,” he said. Bennett is well acquainted with Swinney and his wife. “He knows where he can push me,” Swinney said, referring to “a suit in there that is definitely a little outside of my comfort zone, but only just so much.”


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Swinney took a lunch break at Maudie’s Cafe near his office, where he ordered the Mexican Plate and ran into someone he knows from high school.
 


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Swinney met with Caplan Miller Event’s president and owner Courtney Caplan to go over details for the three runway shows taking place at the Austin Music Hall, along with Kristen Chin from POM PR. They talked about the black and gold color scheme, event logistics, floor plans, and decor details. “It’s going down for real,” Swinney joked. He will move his office into the apartment above the Caplan Miller space later this summer.


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Austin Fashion Week and Swinney received a proclamation from Council Member Sheri Galo and Mayor Steve Adler.
 


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Even though today was an exception, Swinney makes sure that everyone knows: “My day is over at 5 o’clock.” He goes home to his two children and wife, who works as a pediatric physical therapist. The cut-off time helps him work better during the day. “When you do that, and you force yourself to have limited hours,” he said, “you become really efficient.” The evening begins with quality time with his children, followed by dinner, then baths. Before bedtime, the couple sometimes tackles some work, email for him, papers for her.


Writing: Nadia Chaudhury
Photography: Hannah Vickers
Photo with Mayor Adler and Council Member Galo courtesy of Erin Bradley


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