Women We Laud: Diane Vara, Director of Communications for Runway 7, Talks on the Platform, Past & Passions for the Future

Runway 7 stage

Runway 7 Fashion has recently come up in the years to be one of New York City’s most exciting fashion show producers to run during New York Fashion Week. As a hybrid vertical-platform and show producer, the multifaceted aspect of Runway 7 offers a lot for both designers and attendees.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Runway 7’s Director of Communications, Diane Vara to learn more about Runway 7, its origins, and a sneak peak into what the future of Runway 7 may look like.

Paramount Hotel Lobby
Paramount Hotel Lobby // Photo from Paramount Hotel Official Website

Our meeting took place the Saturday of Runway 7’s 3-Day NYFW week event. Portraying 50+ designers Fall/Winter collections for 2023.

I had initially wanted the classic coffee shop backdrop for our meeting. However, with the typical fashion week chaos encircling all of Times Square, Diane and I opted for a more secluded location at the Paramount Hotel, conveniently located right next to the bustling Runway 7 shows occurring next door at Sony Hall.

The hotel’s lobby was rather crowded – tourists, fashion show attendees, models and the like enmeshed together, taking refuge from their itineraries on the lush couches.

We found the mezzanine on second floor, with its stoic armchairs overlooking the lobby crowd, perfect for our needs. If only we had taken some coffee to go and it would have felt like the perfect NYC rendezvous.

Paramount Hotel Mezzanine // Photo from Paramount Hotel Official Website
Paramount Hotel Mezzanine // Photo from Paramount Hotel Official Website

Runway 7 is mentioned in various places online as a hybrid and vertical platform. The defining terms, while accurate, were also quite complex in nature. So to start, I asked Diane to clarify what does “hybrid” mean in context with Runway 7.

Diane stated that when they were creating Runway 7, they were aiming to create something that would be the first of its kind.

“When we mean it’s a hybrid vehicle, we also offer apparel manufacturing. And we do all of our production at our factory in Peru. We partnered with 360 Fashion, which is essentially an extension of our company.”

Diane Vara Director of Communications Runway 7
Diane Vara Director of Communications for Runway 7

Many of the brands seen at Runway 7 shows had their garments produced by 360 Fashion, which is a part of the many services that Runway 7 offers their designers.

“We’ve got an entire operations, marketing, visuals and photography team – all of those are just add-on services for our designers.”.

Diane brought up a point that it can be hard for designers to get into these types of fashion shows.

Runway 7 does indeed present itself in a unique way where it’s a clear path versus a complex obstacle course of vague requirements and who-to-knows.

I asked Diane, what would be the best way for new designers interested in working with Runway 7 to reach out.

“We are at a point now where a lot of the designers are reaching out to us luckily so we’re able to kind of pick and choose who we want to work with. However, we are always looking for diversity and inclusivity.”

New designers are not Runway 7’s only focus. I made a note of Runway 7’s vast roster seen last fall. A tremendous range of designers, from recent grads, to competition winners, to seasoned designers all stood upon the very same stage.

“We created this platform for pretty much anyone in the fashion industry to be able to have that space. We have worked with all sorts of different designers, from CFDA certified designers like Naeem Khan, and we have worked with international designers from all around the world. Just yesterday we had a bridal collection and a really cool hearing-impaired designer’s collection. They were both all the way from Australia. Today we have some other people that are coming from Puerto Rico and Peru. It really is kind of an eclectic group from all around the world.”

Peru Dancers during Runway 7 NYFW 2023
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 10: Performers dance on the runway during the Runway 7 Fall/Winter 2023 Shows at Sony Hall on February 10, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Runway 7)

There are a lot of aspects to Runway 7. So the task of outlining the vastness of the platform and all it encompasses is overwhelming. One of these details is their live stream aspect. I asked what made them decide to add live streaming to their shows.

Diane mentioned that they received multiple requests from fans to view the shows live, and the Runway 7 team decided the very agreeable “why not” as a response. For audiences around the world that can’t make it to New York City, the live streamed shows were a way to connect fans and designers together.

360 Fashion Planning
Photo from 360 Fashion Official Website

With the amazing set of designers and the mass turnout during shows, it can be hard to believe Runway 7 is only 4 years old. I asked Diane what did Runway 7 see in terms of growth, handling big personalities ( as the fashion industry is notorious for this ), and what are things that the public may not know about running an event group of this size as well as being something the first of its kind.

Diane was kind enough to oblige my set of questions and shared the internal makings of the Runway 7 team.

“We are minority owned. We are a diverse set of people. Everybody speaks so many different languages.”

360 Fashion Production Services
Photo from 360 Fashion Official Website

In regards to when those “big personalities” come into play and handling conflicts, Diane said, “Of course, yes, everybody has their moments. I’ve had my moments. We do our breakdowns and go to our little corners and stuff. We have had our learning curves and through every single event we are able to learn from that what we can do better.”

Runway 7 is also known for their Bartschland Look series created and curated by Susanne Bartsch.

“She’s definitely a big personality and a New York socialite. We’ve had a relationship with her for a few years. Our director and owner of the company has developed a really strong relationship with her. She usually closes down the event but this time we decided to do a private day for her for the Look III show. They also debuted a 50 piece collection that 360 Fashion manufactured. It’s always exciting to see the designs from the backend appear on the runway.”

Bartschland Look II SS2023 Runway 7 Fashion
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 10: Models walks the runway wearing Bartschland at Runway 7 Debuts Spring/Summer 2022 Collections during New York Fashion Week on September 10, 2022 in New York City.

Runway 7 had their first season in September of 2021. After 4 seasons, their 4th being this past February with Fall and Winter collections of 2023, Diane mentioned that Runway 7 has gotten to that point where things can be viewed by the directors from a larger perspective and see where improvements can be made.

A lot of these learnings started from the teen fashion brand Chick in which Diane Vara and Anthony Rosa, CEO of Runway 7, started the fashion industry in.

The brand has been around for awhile and had gone through several changes throughout its existence.

“It started off as Glossy Chick back in the day. It was really for younger girls to create a sisterhood type of thing.”

The brand also used to be subscription based before switching over to a more accessible e-commerce platform.

“We’ve been lucky enough to work with so many influencers and young girls that are really empowered and they come from all walks of life, whether they are actresses or singers or influencers.”

The brand is currently going through another evolution. Diane mentioned that she’s worked with many of these girls since they were young and as they’ve grown the brand also grew with them.The girls themselves became the reference point for desirable fashion. Following this, Chick is creating a new line called Crown by Chick that is targeted towards older girls aged 18 – 27.

Chick, as a company, acts almost like a family, being run by a decentralized group of individuals that include Diane, the fashion director of Runway 7 and the team in Peru who handle day to day operations. And it’s actually because of Chick that Runway 7 was created.

Diane Vara and Anthony Rosa had worked with several platforms for Chick to showcase during Fashion Week. It was during this process that they conceived the idea for Runway 7.

Anthony Rosa Director of Runway 7
Anthony Rosa CEO of Runway 7

“We have all grown together, even just the growth we had with Chick. In the beginning it was just [Anthony] and I, running this, so we had taken Chick to several different platforms. After working with all these different platforms that’s when we had this bright idea…Why can’t we make our own platform? We already have the manufacturing apparel aspect of it. We could create this hybrid all-in-one platform. That’s where Runway 7 was born.”

Through all these sales, services and songs of diversity, the core of why this platform exists is seen through why they donate 50% of all their ticket sales to MS Research. Diane revealed that this effort was due to someone close in the Runway 7 family passing away in 2020 from Multiple Sclerosis after a battle of 23 years. This silent disease, as she stated, is something not a lot of people know about, and so they dedicate every single show to him.

“To date we have been able to donate about $50,000 to Mount Sinai and their Dickinson Foundation for MS Research. This year specifically we have a target goal to double that and at least be able to donate $100,000.”

All aspects of tickets are a part of reaching this goal, creating a range of offers for attendees to experience the Runway 7 shows to their preference. From livestreams to various levels of in-person experiences, everyone is covered.

Runway 7 Dancers
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 10: Performers dance on the runway during the Runway 7 Fall/Winter 2023 Shows at Sony Hall on February 10, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Runway 7)

So with Runway 7 growing as they are and improving with every step, what did the future look like?

Diane gave us a sneak peak into a few things that they were looking to do.

“Well definitely an expansion. We have started viewing other event spaces. I think we have outgrown Sony Hall. However, it is an iconic space and it coincides with Runway 7. You think of both of us together. We may keep this for emerging designers and open up for renowned designers in another space.”

While it is a beautiful and impressive space, Runway 7 will be needing more space to house everything together in the same location.

“We’d like to elevate the experience for everybody. Not just the guests but also the designers, the press, media and everybody that’s within the building.”

dancers at runway 7
Dance performers at Runway 7 NYFW FW2023

The expansion for Runway 7 will not only be for its physical space.

For the upcoming season they are expecting to see anywhere from 60-100 designers, with their interest already doubled, and including more renowned designers. Eventually, the 3-Day event that show-goers have been used to may potentially increase to a 4 to 5 day event.

For now, Runway 7 has confirmed Season 5 will occur this fall on September 8, 9 and 10th at the beautiful Sony Hall.

Performer wearing Crown by Chick during Runway 7 NYFW FW2023
Performer wearing Crown by Chick during Runway 7 NYFW FW2023

Final Thoughts

Runway 7 is definitely a unique platform covering designers from concept through production to the final showcasing while giving accessible entertainment to the public.

For the creators, they position themselves as a one-stop shop for those looking to share their vision with the public. Which is exciting, and offers an interesting look into the future of fashion now that many of the mystery components are clearly outlined and more readily accessible.

Seeing the global distribution of designers also helps introduce them to western audiences, and I can only imagine, having emerging designers right next to esteemed CFDA members gives them the opportunity to say “I made it”. I’m sure any designer can note the feeling of making it to their first fashion week showcase and to have it next to a fashion designer idol must be awe-inspiring.

Then there is the consumers’ point of view. The receiver and witness to the visions upon the stage.

As attendees, we often forget amongst the glitz and glamour and pure delight ( hopefully ) that there are people behind these efforts. The models, the designers, the organizers, and the sponsors are a part of the stage that we sit beyond.

As a NYC based magazine, and a New Yorker, the spirit here has always been a fighting one whether it’s for your dreams or someone else’s. Runway 7, is a case of taking both a “what if” dream and the transmutation of loss and creating a platform that serves many, entertains all, and grows in that true fighting spirit.

But all seriousness aside, it’s a fun place to be and place to be seen. And in the end, a stage is what you make of it.

Dancers during Runway 7 NYFW FW2023
Dancers during Runway 7 NYFW FW2023

We want to thank Diane Vara for giving us the opportunity to have this chat. We look forward to the future of Runway 7 and what it will show us next for Season 5 this upcoming fall.

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