On Thursday the 4th of February I had the chance to attend one of many shows that Crystal Couture was throwing off. For those of you that don't know what I'm referring to, Crystal Couture is a week-long celebration of fashion business and emerging designers in the DC metropolitan area. This convivial gathering was held at Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia. This years theme was "Wild, Sexy, Fashionable Fun!", which I read was chosen by popular' demand. The venue was extremely spacious, just think of it as an empty warehouse revamped to hold some of the most stylish people in the area. I got to the event more than 30 minutes late due to my irresponsible time management, on top of that Mother Nature just dumped 10'' inches of snow a few days before, so it was lovely timing. I was initially invited by a former teacher of mine to review her student's creations exclusively made for this event. Francois (which I'd like to call her, but Maggy to you) is the director at Project Stitch Studio in Alexandria, Virginia. This program, which I had the privileged to be part of for two years, facilitates and trains young adults from surrounding high schools with the needed skills to enter the competitive jungle that is the fashion business. These kids are trained (just like I was) with a variety of tools and techniques that will enable them to pursue their fashion dream. The class curriculum includes; garment construction, pattern making, fabrics, fashion history, techniques on creating a cohesive collection and much more. Along with the hard work comes the payoff, in a form of a filed trip to NYC, in order to explore more deeply the fashion industry. In retrospect, this trip in a way, serves as a wake-up call, it sort of widens your eyes and slaps you with the reality of the situation. It makes you realize and ponder about the sacrifices and dedication one must put in in order to get out what you want. then fashion becomes less of playing dress up with Barbie and more about making a living out of it and doing what you love. Now this comes into play, passion can take you places, but will it be enough to literally give up your life for the position you always desired? This is one factor that will make many doubt about entering into the lion's mouth, and most importantly coming out alife, if you know what I mean.
One more thing I must also add about this wonderful program is that it completely changes your initial naive ideas about what fashion really means, especially for those who are interested in pursuing a career on the field. Let's say for those who aspire to become some fabulous designer, the idea of preparing a fashion show seems to be a walk in the park with your chihuahua? it's not. The seniors students must present a rather small but cohesive collection by the end of program, obviously using those skills acquired throughout the two-year program into designing, constructing and presenting their collection. This year the show would be held around March, the date has not been set up yet, but I'll keep you posted on any updates.
Once I get there late as ever, I started getting this redolent feeling from last year's event. These nostalgic images are, let's just say are not my best moments in public. By the end of the nigh I suffered a small accident backstage and had to be ushered out the venue and get driven home by some caring friends. I don't think I'll ever be thankful enough for taking care of me that day. I felt somewhat special that day, so thank you guys.
Moving on, as I walk in I feel the vibe and the atmosphere is filled with glamour and joy. There were vendors stations settled around the venue showcasing their clothes and jewelry. There was also this make-up area where folks could get their face painted like some feline, or exotic creature. Then what I like the most was the runway set up. Unlike the one last year, this time the catwalk seem rather longer and more thought-out. The beautiful drapes adorning the back and the two flat screen tv's at each side of the runway, made the presentation much more believable and it looked like there was more effort put into it. The catwalk was conjured up in the prominent side of this warehouse, where everybody could see, thus giving a sense of importance, playing a major character rather than being outshine by the surrounding vendors. Moreover, this place sort of mimicked what was taking place out there. The pale grey high ceilings and the bare walls sort of depicted our current economic climate while the industry is displaying an optimistic and positive face to the matter. This event felt like a manifestation of an affluent fashion capital rather than a crude rendition of an struggling fashion industry.
I was more than delighted to reconnect with some of my friends that I've slightly lost touch with. It was great seeing almost everybody enjoying themselves and sharing a moment of joy. We laughed, we caught up and gave each other our usual complements on how we look. "I like your scarf" I said to one girl and then she replied scanning my entire ensemble from head to toe, "I like your whole outfit", I just smiled back.
Nick (in purple plaid), Oscar (in black pleather jacket) and me acting a foo
All of the sudden in a moment of confusion, I turned my head and see a pair of semi nude models posing for the camera standing in this cube-shaped pew. The guy was wearing nothing but some olive-green briefs, fingered-painted head-to-toe displaying an imagery of cannibalism, standing next to him was this young woman with her face smeared with white paint, feathers adorning her hair and wearing something that looks out of The Lion's King movie. Intrigued by the look, I later approached them expecting to hear an amusing story for their provoking display of panache.
"What are you guys suppose to represent" I ask them.
The girl answered, "I'm an exotic bird" and then I said looking to the guy, "and you?".
"I don't know", he replied, "this is my first time", sounding somewhat nervous.
The girl adds, "you suppose to be an African warrior" they looked unsettled, but I added.
"How long did it take you to get the whole thing done?", 45 minutes she replied.
I nicely said thanks and just walked towards a front-row seat, but then I thought, "How are you prancing around in some indigenous costume and not know what you're representing? Why waste your time getting your privates air-brushed and your face painted, while some poor guy spent almost an hour on the floor trying not to miss a spot for no reason? How sad, it was just a waist of time, I hope next time, these people know what the hell they're doing. And if they were hired to promote some type of product, they miserably failed.
As I mentioned before, I was late for the West Potomac presentation, but I got a glimpse of one of the looks shown. This strapless cocktail dress with a printed silk skirt (shown below) designed by Latasja Rousey looked like the right dress for sexy nigh out dancing, or a romantic dinner with a lover. It seemed like it had a young and hip attitude without being so unmatured and tacky. It was just simply gorgeous, though the red tulle underneath was not necessary. I can't wait to see her collection in a few months and I hope to see this dress in the lineup.
The first presentation I saw was by Toucan Boutique, the name alone sounded exotic, clothes that would come from some place in the Caribbean or even the Amazon and tweaked to cater to more metropolitan consumerism. There were all sorts of day dresses in shades of deep purple and blue, with metallic accents on shoes. They were perfect options for any summer day. Then we saw Dress Barn, I felt there was a mix of day and evening dresses, but what stood out were these shift belted dresses with multicolored prints, such as green, turquoise and black. I just loved the classic silhouettes with a strong color choice, the looks seemed wearable and appropriate enough for work.
After that we saw Bernos, a t-shirt line with a strong emphasis on tradition. The t-shirts that came down the runway were festooned with hints on African culture. A few of them emblazoned "Made in Africa" signs, an outline of Africa with a barcode in the background, and tribal shields in others. There was obviously a sense of patriotism here, but in a way, it was also secluding. It was targeted for those with an African background, which historically we all do, but it left the rest out. I wished the message had a much wider receptiveness. Regardless, I got the chance to talk to Dawit Kahsai, the owner and designer of Bernos. I asked him about the idea behind his line, he said, "I really love a unique t-shirt, but it was hard to find them representing Africa". He also added, "I wanted something that would showcase Africa in a positive way". This method Dawit chose to radiate that positivism and optimism of his mother-land through his line felt so naive and sincere, I bought it. I then asked him about his creative process, he told me he first brainstorms ideas with his business partner who is a graphic designer, then they choose what they like and then it goes to printing. He also told me that he wanted to stick with what he knows, "we wanted to stay with t-shirts, but we're also getting more requests for kids". Though I like the focus on a single product and then branching into another territory, I also admired his ambitiousness, "we just don't want to be known as a t-shirt line, but as a brand".
The models did not just strutted their stuff half naked wearing Bernos t-shirts but the tops were accompanied with some hot denim. Blind Addiktion is a relatively new brand that promises to impose it's importance on material and detail, thus placing it's aesthetic above the rest. There was a range of sorts. One of the first girls that walked out was wearing this light washed high-wasted piece that looked amazingly good on her since she possessed the legs to do them duly justice. There were also dark-washed options, ripped or distressed and even slim blacks. After the presentation I went to talk to Christopher Grace, the brains behind BA. I caught him tweeting away, seating on a table next to where his jeans were delicately displayed. While he was addressing his virtual duties I managed to get a few words from him. Chris told me his brand focuses on the fit, quality and material, evident by just brushing your hands onto one of his jeans. There was also a strong emphasis on details as well, such as the stitching. "It forms an "A", and it accentuates a girl's ass", he uttered while pointing to the backstitching on the backpocket on one of his jeans. Moreover, I was curious to learn about the price point, taking into account the high quality denim material and keen attention to the details, my mind was around $100 range, but then he said, "it starts from $150 to $175". I finally asked him on the availability of his gear, he told he's looking at different shops on U-street and some spots in NY. It felt great reconnecting with Chris after we lost touch for sometime now, I first met him when his designs were on paper, and his website was nonexistent. Now his creations are coming into life and he's slowly building up his brand. I can truly see the potential behind his craft, and I really hope one day to see his clothes on Bergdorf Goodman's racks, or even showing in New York Fashion Week.
Moreover, there were also sings of those long-awaited summer days on the runway. Belafigura, introduced as "thoughtful swimwear" showed something relevant amid all these designers that had no sense of direction. A trio of girls comes out; two of them wearing one-pieced suit with ruffles cascading down the edges in purple and black, the other wearing a similar version in white, there were also hooded jersey tops worn with cheetah print skirts. It seemed like the brand wanted to explore a thing with ruffles, evident by this side-ruched one-pieced with ruffles protruding on the front. This whole swimsuit minicollection felt so out of place when the pavement outside was flooded with piles of snow, but it was refreshing enough to get a glimpse of summer even if it was for 3 minutes.
Ibhana Creations seemed to be evoking women who prefer reservation rather than sophistication. Right from the start, the clothes looked heavy and outdated. The collection was composed primarily of long sleeved print dresses done in silk with leaves motifs. The shades of earth-tone present on every dress did not add any sensibility nor positivism to the clothes, these type of garbs are definitely targeted to a women who is not under 25.
Nido, in the other hand, had a hipper younger audience in mind. I have never heard this brand, but it sounded like some underground rock band, and that seemed to be the underlying theme behind this brand. There were cropped pleather jackets, super tigh shimering pants with side zippers at the hem, embroidery tops and graphics tees with baroque prints, some had an 80's Miami vibe and others showcased Andy Warhol's pop art. The standout piece from this collection was perhaps this black tank dress with a feathered-skirt (see two pictures above), it exuded such sexiness and commerciality that all the girls watching the show letted out a scream suggesting a moment of intense crave.
The climax of the night was when Craze Camelon Studio made it's presence felt on the runway. The first girl out setted the tone for the rest of the collection. She comes out seductively swaying, nonchalantly dragging her feet, wearing this linen shredded sack dresses underneath this flesh-colored bodysuit, her haired looked rather messy with a leaf perched at the top. As the show went on, the look became more primitive; one model came out in a cheetah print belted halter top dress with the lower back out, revealing much of her derriere; other in a loosen knitted fish net tops; and one of the last girls looked like as if she gathered up a swath of fabric and wrapped it against her body, exuding an image of cannibalism. The reference back to prehistory seemed like a compelling story, thus giving a great show with a strong sense of direction. It was great to watch a designer putting on a collection with such confidence on her stance, though most of her clothes were not wearable, they told a story and engraved a lasting memory in many of the attendees.
Around the end of the night I spotted these models backstage ready to step on the runway wearing Nido motorcycle jackets. Soon a naughty image past through my head, but I managed to keep a serious face, though my body temperature started slowly raising up while these guys walked across the runway. The next day for some odd reason, the dude on red asked me why I posted a picture of him on facebook, unbeknown to me he was the guy I saw on the runway, I never realized that was him, we started talking, but that was it, what happens next would be posted in another future post (if ever). And btw if you know the other two, leave me a message or shoot me an e-mail, business purposes only! Find more pictures of the show here.