Simeon Talley and Amanda Lesmeister are determined to put Iowa fashion front and center.

Founders of the Iowa Fashion Project, the duo are unveiling the first-ever Flyover Fashion Fest tonight through Saturday (5/5-7) at locations around downtown Iowa City.

Though it centers on highlighting the work of Iowa designers, the festival also includes music and an "ideas" portion, with panel discussion and art installations.

"There's kind of an intimidation factor when you hear fashion," Lesmeister said. "This is really a celebration of the art of it."

Talley said he hopes the festival fosters conversations and creativity. His number one piece of advice for people who want to be involved with the fashion industry?

"Trust your crazy ideas. The idea of a fashion festival is a crazy idea, and here we are," he said.

The festival will feature eight bands, both Iowa talents like Christopher the Conquered and national acts like Mansions on the Moon. Twenty-nine people will share fashion and ideas. Here is a small glimpse of what a few of them are bringing to the festival.

Dondre Smith, Almvghty

Find his clothes at and The Full Kit, 332 E. Washington St., Iowa City.

See him at the festival: Iowa's Top Designer Showcase

Ever since he was in high school, Dondre Smith, 21 wanted to have his own fashion line. Now a junior at the University of Iowa, for the last two years the Chicago native has balanced full-time school and creating his own brand of streetwear, which he sells to customers as far away as Australia through his website.

"I just have so many different ideas. I have a notebook full of designs," he said. "I just have to believe in my ideas and keep going."

He created a brand name, Almvghty, adding the "V" to "almighty" to represent versatility and influence, two things he wants his clothing to reflect.

"I want to influence others," he said. "I want people to feel good in the clothing and have a sense of clout in the clothes."

Monica Beranek, Cielo

Find her clothes at area farmers markets, and The Shop, 424 B Ave, Kalona

See her at the festival: Emerging Brands Fashion Show

Monica Beranek, 38, taught herself to sew while living in New York City with little money. Once she started, she never stopped.

"I like using 100 percent cotton and linens. I like classic silhouettes," she said. "I love the traditional way of making things, practical things, pretty things, simple things."

Hand-sewing children's clothes, scarves, skirts and vintage-inspired dresses from her home office in between work for Pearson in Iowa City, Beranek started selling her clothes at craft shows in 2008. A year ago she began building Cielo from a hobby into a business.

"I love being out in the community, meeting other artist, other makers," she said. "It really just is a creative outlet for me."

Andre Wright, Born Leaders United

Find his clothes at and The Full Kit.

See him at the festival: Iowa's Top Designer Showcase, Panel: Fashion & Technology and Iowa Retail & Streetstyle Showcase.

Andre Wright, 37 was sitting at his desk job one day when he started thinking about what he really wanted to do with his life.

"I decided to come up with a clothing brand that represented leadership, via my vehicle, which is clothing, fashion and art," he said.

His brand, Born Leaders United, originally BLU Collar Fashion, launched in March 2012. He wants his sweat shirts, T-shirts, jerseys and hats to do more than provide people with stylish streetwear.

"I have a shirt that says, 'They don't want you to lead,' with the 'don't' crossed out. It's about promoting positive messages," he said. "You think about streetstyle, and a lot of people think it's just about being cool, but I also want it to portray a message."

Communications director for the Iowa City Area Development Group, Wright said he is excited to be part of the Iowa Fashion Fest.

"It's about getting networks going, understanding there is a fashion scene here and telling that story to the world," he said. "There is talent that lives here. We're going to change the game."


If you go

What: Flyover Fashion Fest

When: Tonight through Sunday

Where: Various locations in Iowa City

Tickets: $60 festival pass; individual event tickets also available. Many events are free.