Emerging Young Designers and Business Owners Honored During Akron Fashion Week Awards Gala 2021

On Friday, Oct. 29 the Akron Fashion Council held the annual Akron Fashion Week Awards Gala at the El Patrón Tequilería & Cuisine on East Mill Street. The gala was an invite-only event held from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. with many local Akron fashion industry professionals in attendance.


Image via Ronson McDowell

The 2021 honorees of the Akron Fashion Week Awards Gala along with attendees from the event and the host of the event, Raphael Dixon.

By Mckenzie Uhrig, Arts & Entertainment Editor

The Akron Fashion Council hosted this year’s Akron Fashion Week Awards Gala at the El Patrón Tequilería and Cuisine restaurant with an audience full of emerging designers and business owners being honored. Most of the honorees were either based locally in Akron or from the Akron-Cleveland area.  

AFW Awards Gala host Raphael Dixon, with award recipient Highland Throwbacks owner, Ben Howe. (Image via Ronson McDowell)

The event was hosted by Raphael Dixon and was the ‘ultimate celebration’ for Akron’s local fashion community, its members, and their successes. Dixon was an engaging and captivating host introducing those in attendance to each other for networking opportunities. The 2021 Awards Gala was a night for entertainment.  

The event’s festivities included eating, drinking, mingling, fashion vendors, a ‘Toast to Fashion,’ and the awards presentation for the honorees. Attendees were asked to follow a dress code with women wearing little black dresses and men in collared shirts and blazers. One of Dixon’s numerous responsibilities as host was enforcing the dress code as the Fashion Police. Everyone in attendance was dressed to impress with some designers wearing their own creations.   

Emerging designer and AFW 2021 production liaison, Shayla Hicks (Image via Ronson McDowell)

Dixon wasn’t lonely in his hosting duties, he had the help of emerging designer Shayla Hicks, who also played many roles including production liaison and honoree. As production liaison, Hicks was the point of contact who provided the public and members of Akron Fashion Week with relevant information. She was also responsible for organizing everything alongside the director and ensuring everyone felt comfortable.  

Hicks does it all. From designing her fashion collections to advertising, marketing, running her online website, strategic planning, artistic direction, and booking photoshoots. When asked where her inspiration for her work and designs comes from, she said, “My inspiration mainly comes from my sisters, my mother mostly, my dad, we always liked to look nice.” She credits her mother the most, discussing how her mother stressed the importance of dressing nice playing a big role in how you feel.  

This year Akron Fashion Week focused on the future with the theme, “The Future of Fashion Week is Now.” Hicks sees the future of fashion in sustainability. She works to offset the negative environmental impacts of the fast fashion industry by keeping her own fashion practices sustainable. She often goes thrifting and promotes thrifting practices as a designer and fashion industry member.  

Akron Fashion Week seems to share this thought as they honored thrift store owner, Ben Hyle, in their 2021’s awards ceremony. Hyle is the man behind the popular retroactive fashion thrift store Highland Throwbacks which specializes in ‘80s and ‘90s vintage clothing. There are two store locations, one in Lakewood and one in Akron, you can check out the online site here. Hyle says he grew up thrifting and embracing sustainable fashion practices which led to his stores where he can share his love for thrifting with the local communities.  

The local Akron fashion community is continuing to grow, as many local artists and entrepreneurs were honored for their contributions this year to help the community. Local Akron fashion, lifestyle, and musical icons, Mrs. Dean and T. Vickz, were honored as entrepreneurs of the year. The married pair have numerous established artistic endeavors including creating their high-end luxury clothing brand (with a hip-hop undertone), Trillionair, which promotes quality fashion. Their brand stands for “sheltering yourself and providing yourself with everything that you need to make it through the next layer of life” according to Mrs. Dean.  

“We’re trying to really empower people, empower couples,” stated Mrs. Dean. 

Dixon presents the entrepreneur award to hip hop artists and designers, T. Vickz and Mrs. Dean. (Image via Ronson McDowell)

The pair recently produced their first hip-hop album, Zamunda, which features their hit single, Same Chick. The couple also has a viral show, Tap In with T. Vickz and Mrs. Dean, which is a weekly show with around 30k views every week. When asked about their work, the couple’s relationship is put into the spotlight as a core reason and driving force behind their brands.  

T. Vickz said he gets his creative inspiration from his wife, “We get our inspiration from each other. We want to see each other win so much that it makes us go harder, we want to make it happen for each other. Love fuels everything.”

While Mrs. Dean agrees whole-heartedly, she added that “We love to see others win as well. That’s something that really fuels our fire, inspires us, keeps us stronger, and keeps our fire burning. Iron sharpens iron.”   

All the photos featured in this article were taken by famed photographer, Ronson McDowell, who was also honored during Akron Fashion Week’s 2021 Awards Gala. McDowell not only volunteered his free time to take pictures of the entire event (without pay), but he was also one of the honorees of the evening.   

Hicks, Dixon, and others mentioned in the article can be found on Instagram and/or Facebook: 

@xshayrene and @shadedxshay 


@ronson.mcdowell and @ronson_originals 

@highlandthrowbacks and @highlandthrowbackscle 

@officialtrillionair and @tvickz and @mrsdeanmusic and @tvickz_mrsdean