A Cantoire Experience

On December 4th, 2010, I heded down to TheArc Theater in Southeast Washington D.C. for a special show designer Carlos Reaves invited me about a month ago. For some reason, the date of the show just seemed forgotten in the back of my mind, but he reminded me a few days prior to the show via facebook, and also reserved two front-row seats for me and my photographer Matt Statler. Though I strongly dislike that less-celebrated, run-down section of D.C., I only intended to make this trip for the sake of fashion. The first time I met Carlos, I was still in high school, oblivious of the majority of what fashion entailed, but I still knew what I had in front of me was pure talent. I vividly remember the day when Carlos showed up with two pieces in garment bags, I gravitated for a leather frock, I examined the garment and extended my sincere adulations. That was the only time I saw any glimpse of his work. Thus this was an apropos opportunity for me to finally witness the aesthetic behind his work. 

A few days prior to the show, Carlos's Facebook status updates consisted of him painstakingly sewing until wee hours of the morning, "It's going on 7 a.m., and I haven't been to bed yet. Preparing the final garments for my show on Saturday", or promoting the event, "Preparing a Christmas collection like you've never seen!!! Don't miss "Winter Praise Fest" concert", with details posted below.

As I walk into the capacious auditorium, I was greeted by a quadruplet of gospel singers serenading the audience. Their voices were powerful with a pinch of serenity. Then, a statuesque man, who appeared to be in his late 40s, wearing the most hideous pleated pants (pleated pants, among other things, are an abomination to society) walks into the stage, gets to the microphone and says a few words, and between his sermon he shouts, "praise the Lord!", and I'm left baffled. Then a few other performers came out and I noticed a pattern. This was a church event. I later whispered to Matt, "I should've read the flyer more throughly", he just looks back at me and chuckles. I was certainly not ready for a Sunday's Best episode, but I just went with the flow. At one point, I thought someone was going sprint to the stage and "perform" all these acrobatic moves, drop to the floor and wither as if the Lord had touched his spirit, but thankfully none of that occurred. One of the performers, Michael Hunt, stepped on the stage and sang his heart out, he later brought out his wife and background singers, all clad in black, who performed a few canticles just so beautifully that it truly touched my heart. It's also valid to mention, singer Lashawna Moore (see below), wearing a off-shoulder rusty golden silk dress with a wing sleeve by Carlos, who closed out the show with a ballad that gained her a well deserved standing ovation. 

Carlos Reaves presented a cohesive collection consisting on twenty looks that echoed the Christmas spirit, yet it was decisively artistic and impeccably constructed. Reaves seemed to have submerged into a pool of references for this special collection. It was obvious the Dior influence found on the movement of a zebra printed full skirt, and a soft wool nipped jacket. The sort of thing a bourgeois woman would wear on the south in the 50's. He even told me after the show that he drew inspiration from Alexander McQueen's fall/winter 2009 collection. That was evident in the  form the models walked; coming out from one end of the theater, making a rectangular shape, posing at each corner, and exiting very nonchalantly. The volumes and shapes he used were also reminiscent from McQueen's highly lauded collection. The origami-like shapes were certainly challenging to wear but somehow  they elicited an appealing silhouette. An off-shoulder grey jersey dress, a gorgeous sleeves purple shift, and a simple open neck dress with soft tiered layers were the stand outs. 

The first clutch of models came out with disheveled puffed wigs with a branch going right through it, giving an illusion of deer's horns. The rest of them were wearing what I initially thought were lampshades (as McQueen's collection), but Carlos later told me they were actually hats draped or stitched. The head pieces, which came in oval or spherical shapes, certainly bolstered the element of surrealism to the collection. I was also enthralled by the make up, which was done in glitzy, sparkling shades of silver and green on the eyes and lips. 

There were few evening options that demonstrated Carlo's deftly ability to play with proportions, but it felt as thought they were overly design. One of them was a strapless gown with a bodice in ivory silk and a skirt in red, with frills on the top, a rosette perched on the chest and a few tiered straps draped on the hips. As dramatic as it may have seen, the overall result was a conflicting juxtaposition of elements that potentially could have worked independently. 

The closing act, a white corseted gown with an olive, drab green skirt over a gigantic crinoline and something that can only be described as multiple orbital like straps stemming from the front and ending on the back was imbued by "the angel in top of the Christmas tree", Carlos told me after the show. As he was talking, the inspiration made sense. I was trying to picture the gown in an actual Christmas tree, a miniature version, that would sure grab the attention of any onlooker. I liked the grandiose attitude of the gown, and the movement while it walked across the stage.

I left the scene a few minutes early in order to avoid the seemingly church-goers, and headed backstage to talk to Carlos about the collection. I caught him on my way to the second floor, dispatching one of his models. He was wearing one of his creations that Raf Simmons would have envied. He seemed composed and graciously greeted me. As I was inquiring about the collection, I immediately noticed the sense of mission and dedication behind his work. He was so knowledgeable about his craft and answered my questions throughly, which is the only thing I can ask for any designer. During the show, I heard a bruit that Carlos was leaving for Atlanta, I initially thought he was leaving for a show, but I later find out he might leave all together. I couldn't ensconce a slight sense of forlornness, but at one point we all have to move on. If this change of location occurs, I can only wish Carlos much success in his future endeavors. 

Pictures by Matt Statler, check out a clip of the collection here


ABIGAIL NY said...

Wow those pieces are amazing, would love one of those outfits!
Now following!


Jimmy De La Cruz said...

Thank you. I'm following your blog now.