This year, TheGlamourWire’s coverage of the 2012 Bellevue Fashion Week was provided by up-and-coming fashion student, writer, and designer Cory Boberg, who’s keen eye for quality design and appreciation for individuality has proven to be one of her greatest assets. We are proud to offer this guest post to our readers, and for the opportunity to work with Cory.
As I enter my second year as a Fashion Design & Construction student at New York Fashion Academy in Ballard, I’ve become more and more convinced that independent design is the future of fashion. Just as the internet has become the great equalizer of tastemakers by allowing fashion bloggers to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with style editors of print magazines, so a strong independent fashion market gives a voice to young and experienced designers alike. In the hierarchy of fashion sources, independent designers form a necessary bridge between Target and Neiman Marcus as an accessible and affordable source of both quality and great design. I know this because my first exposure to fashion was through smaller labels like Effie’s Heart, Samuel Dong, and John Fluevog, and although I now count McQueen and Dries Van Noten as favorites, independent design remains in my roots. With the current push towards local, handmade craftsmanship among niche groups like knitters and foodies, I’m hopeful that mainstream fashion will soon follow suit.
That’s why I was so excited to hear about this year’s inaugural Independent Designer Runway Show at the Bellevue Collection’s Fashion Week. The show featured ten independent Seattle designers, including two designers from NBC’s Fashion Star, Lizzie Parker and Lisa Vian Hunter. Although The Bellevue Collection has been hosting its own Fashion Week since 2006, the Independent Designer show is a new and welcome addition to the lineup.
I was impressed by the diversity of the collections that were chosen for this year’s show: menswear, accessories, and women’s sportswear and eveningwear were all represented on the runway. I had some personal favorites of the designers – BD Homme’s classic menswear looks and impeccable styling were the highlight of the evening, and Lisa Vian Hunter’s gorgeous vintage-inspired pieces would fit right into my wardrobe– but overall, I found something compelling in each collection:
The beauty of working independently is the flexibility to experiment and develop a distinct creative voice. And although some voices in this show were clearer and more confident than others, I have no doubt that each of these designers will make their mark.
In a nod to all the well-dressed men in the audience, there were three different collections that featured menswear: BD Homme (shown at right) and Built For Man showed full menswear looks, while Carole McClellan showed both men’s and women’s looks. Although the pieced leather pants featured in Built For Man’s looks spoke of an urban and on-trend esthetic, the sheer knit tops and fur-cuffed cardigans may have pushed bounds too far. In contrast, BD Homme’s strong color story (grey, dusty lavender, terra cotta, and black), wearable but edgy pullover sweaters and cardigans, and well-cut jackets and coats would enhance the closet of any style conscious man.
Carole McClellan’s collection (left) was the most conceptual of the evening; though her men’s looks were not as distinctive as her women’s, the most successful looks were incredibly detailed and compelling. The final look, a collared dress made of heavy gold and blue floral brocades, with fur tails hanging off the hip, evoked the desolate beauty of an exiled Russian princess. The same story did not come across in every single look, however. The result: collection as a whole suggesting a depth of creativity that made me want to know more. (The judges were similarly impressed, and McClellan was named the winner of the independent design panel’s $5,000 prize for this year’s show. Congratulations, Carole!)
Of the two accessories collections shown, styling made all the difference. The first, Ampersand As Apostrophe featured looks that were polished and fashion-forward, distracting from the desired focal points: the bags. Much of the styling hit target; a sheer black shirtdress paired with a textured brown shoulder bag with double zips worked beautifully. But the wide variety in the other looks didn’t demonstrate versatility as intended. Several remarkable pieces, including a black and white geometric-print clutch and a neon-strap satchel, were upstaged by chunky jewelry and fabulous shoes.
The styling of Anne Sylvain’s collection, in contrast, was inspired. I’ve had the discussion with several classmates: how do you show accessories on the runway without confusing your audience with clothes that you didn’t design? Anne Sylvain’s solution was just about perfect: every model wore the same knee-length turtleneck sweater dress, but each dress had a differently colored ribbon tail that fell from the back neckline to the knee and fluttered as the model walked. This allowed you to fully see the bags: diagonally pieced clutches in rich, autumnal colorways and totes with horizontal stripes of textured leathers, all pieces that could hold their own in outfits both simple and complex.
In women’s sportswear, Fashion Star alums Lizzie Parker and Lisa Vian Hunter both showed wearable, figure-flattering designs. Hunter’s collection began with classic little black dresses, including her signature v-neck sheath dress with crossed straps at the neckline and small bows at the shoulders. Next came her Spring/Summer 2013 offerings (shown at right), a fabulous collection of Jackie O-inspired separates, dresses, and swing coats executed in bold, neon corals, pinks, and oranges. Silhouettes included sheaths, fitted waists and flared skirts, and bauteau necklines – classically flattering styles that will, fingers crossed, herald a return to the fit and glamour of midcentury style.
Lizzie Parker showed her signature draped jersey garments, and the overall effect was cool, easy, and universally appealing. Her strength lies in well-cut dresses and tops in solid jerseys, and these were beautifully rendered; standouts were a sky blue crossover bodice dress and a dramatic plum dress that swooped from knee-length in front to floor-length in back. However, there were also several looks that were more courageous, including a sparkly gold one-shouldered turtleneck and a skin-tight gold cap-sleeve dress with a high slit on one side and a long hem on the other.
Where Parker and Hunter’s collections offered wearable basics, the other three designers explored luxury fabrics, extravagant silhouettes, and finely detailed embellishments. La Belle Reve’s collection possessed a wonderful energy that may have benefitted from editing. A slinky, high-necked black charmeuse gown was classically elegant from the front, but a string of huge pearls that swung from the cut-out back overpowered the look. Other looks were more judicious in their use of embellishment, and these worked very well: a sheer skirt with stitched channels dotted with pearls and a bias-cut gown with panels of sheer beaded fabric used embellishment to great effect, as a subtle hint of luxury rather than an overt signal of it.
In contrast, Masha Osoianu’s trademark mesh was used to varying effect in almost every one of her looks; the mesh turbans added a playful nod to ‘20s aesthetics and an abstract floral-print dress with a bright green mesh yoke was fun and youthful. Overall the collection could have benefited from more fantasy and less practicality. However, the more extravagant pieces were stunning: a fitted silver mesh dress with a cross-back detail and pale pink full-length gown with mesh falling from the shoulder to the floor were both fit for a screen siren.
Kate S Mensah’s collection began with three beautifully designed black dresses, then progressed into draped jumpsuits and dresses in soft, fluid fabrics in rich golds, warm yellows, and silvers. One particularly beautiful black dress had a simple shape with a fitted waist and slightly fuller skirt, but on a second glance a glimpse of sheer black polka-dot fabric was visible through a keyhole in the front bodice. The other looks were more ambitious, with standouts of a draped dress of gold and yellow fabrics as well as a sophisticated jumpsuit with gold panels layered over a yellow body. Her collection felt organic and feminine, with a slightly conceptual undertone that showed the promise of more innovation to come.
Overall, the Independent Designer Runway Show was an exciting and visually stunning presentation of the hard work of ten diverse designers. Each designer displayed a different facet of what it means to be independent, creative, and driven in this city, and the resulting picture was one of both great beauty and of a deep, intuitive passion for this industry. This kind of show is a great step in fostering independent design in Seattle, and I hope that this is only the beginning.
We’d like to thank Cory for her work and for being part of the inspiring, growing fashion scene of the Northwest, and to all the Independent Designers for their spirit, individuality, and fearlessness.
Photo credit: Cory Boberg