***

“I’m trying to decide if I should be analytical about this or just experience it with my senses?” asked David. We were standing amid a multitude of half-naked bodies going through a fitting. You could see many eyes running around the room in circles like Apolo Ohno, Olympic worthy.

How did David get here? He stands out as clean cut, shaven, wearing casual, dark clothing.

“Are you in a show?”
“No, here with a friend.”

Supporting a friend is an oft-mentioned reason when I ask others how they happen to be here tonight. Another common answer: it’s fun.

King Gurvy

King Gurvy

Another onlooker, Siri, a designer and owner of Treehouse, mentions recollections of her previous participantion:
“we’ve done aerials, [a] Japanese punk band, just didn’t know where to go this year.” All present enjoy the vignette format, it allows people to dance and fuck off in between and have fodder for the next conversation once another designer goes on. The parallels are clear, the multiple shows with a rotating cast of an audience, but unlike the heavy-birthed official shows, the lack of stratification means more interaction with the designers.  For each one, their after party starts immediately (after some backstage photos are taken), overlapping the next show on the stage. A unity is formed even while the attitudes, and the clothing shown, varies much more than in the mainstream fashion world.

Saddle Tramps

There is a lot of nudity and a bit of raunch, but it’s kept in mild doses, this is not The Box or the Slipper Room, and the emphasis is on the clothing. Each of the designers had elected to put on the best show they could at the moment. This includes full make up, hair and fittings; the other elements are thrown in just as they would be in a theater dress rehearsal, but this one is all about the dress while the script is still being written.

SDN Madeline Zombie Freak

SDN David Zombie

SDN

Shortly, Marcus Hicks arrived to outfit the models for his line, SDN. He came straight from a trade show with clothes in tow, the latter were quickly arranged by the label’s stage manager, Jennifer Naso, and dresser Eva Hageman. He needed another male to model. The clean cut David was mentioned as a possibility, and soon, this spectator was in the makeup chair to become another beautiful zombie at the nimble hands of make up artist Carlota Montealegre.

SDN Group Post Show

SDN

***
Power in fashionable numbers

King Gurvy (aka Arthur Arbit) conceived the first WFW with the help of friends as a way to show off his own collection. As he mentions while discussing the early history of working on the concept: “with the help of Eric Z from Secret Project Robot, we came up with a name…” Instead of waiting at the heels of the established community or seeking a dramatic appearance on Project Runway, they created their own performance.

“That was a first incarnation and then I decided that I want this to be a platform for new and avant garde designers. People who are not necessarily looking to sell stuff, but who are looking to experiment with what ‘clothes’ means,” continues Arbit, before adding, “basically start your trend, pushing your design aspirations.” Eric Z and Rachel Nelson are still participating, and just presented their line Robot Death Kult this February.

Robot Death Kult

Arbit says, “there has been some back and forth between the core organizers about the direction of the fashion weekend whether it should be a pure art party or a ‘stricter’ fashion show.”

King Gurvy

King Gurvy

In support of the latter, the shows moved to showcase designers who produce locally and those who aim to develop healthy business practices. Maxwell of the Rufeo Hearts Lil’ Snotty line, for example, is considering reopening old mills to revitalize the economically-ravaged Midwest to manufacture fabric, taking a cross between the art-centered birth of WFW and some of the better practices of American Apparel. For those endlessly bemoaning “go back to the Midwest” toward the general idea of a Williamsburg denizen, this would be poetic justice.

Speaking of which, next up is Ruffeo Lil’ Hearts, their neon-bound Freddy Mercury spandex suits affluter, almost simultaneously flitting on the stage. There is a lot of post- and meta- in their line and as Maxwell starts to rhyme, there are plenty of large looming shapes that look like bright tent houses which start colliding on the dance floor. Perfectly timed.

51AT5321

Ruffeo Snotty Lil’ Hearts

My attention is turned toward the stage with the chorus:
“Im a chick with a dick/still a chick.
The models are now taking turns toward the front of the stage as the singer recites their transvestite anthem. We all have both in us, chicks and guys.

One of their jokes involved throwing hot dogs, or more specifically, canned Vienna sausages, down the hallway as they made their way backstage. Of course, that was inspired by the hipster grifter (Kari Ferrell) phrase: “throw your hot dog down my hallway,” a turn of a phrase remade from “like a pencil in a pot,” mixed in with other American vernacular for sex.

Ruffeo Snotty Lil’ Hearts

I’ve asked Arthur if he’s ever thought of offering a more explicit way of teaching people about how to make the clothing, the “greenest” approach to fashion. He replied that a part of the inspiration behind this show was to “demistify the manufacture of clothes, it’s not something that has to be made in a factory thousands of miles away in a context that has no connection to your own.” His King Gurvy line this season uses found sweater material disassembled to create new outfits. There will be sewing lessons at Treehouse in addition to their knitting lessons.

Total Crap UnInc

Total Crap UnInc

Rawan Rihani

Models for the excellent show of Rawan Rihani waiting backstage

***
The Future Now

“To me hipsters are people without roots or identity.”

“Since Williamsburg Fashion Weekend is a biannual event, we’re building up ideas to keep the visibility throughout the year,” Arbit muses. “One is a fashion party where the audience members come and are judged by designers from past shows and past winners.” This idea comes at a fertile time.  As evidenced by a Thursday Style section in the New York Times, young people have been dressing up forever, perhaps more in the last two years than even in the “glory days of the 80′s club scene.” They are abandoning the washed out look so often blithely applied to the hipster label, branching out into innumerable other styles, all staving off boredom, economy (as it is now mentioned) and other mood killers.

Rawan Rihani Show

Other plans sound like level-headed business development bullet points, for one, to expand working with local boutiques like Treehouse and Sodafine, which have already been instrumental in introducing new designers to WFW and selling clothing of alumni. Pop-up shops in more esoteric locations supported by friends are also mentioned.

***
The Reaction

Media reaction has been warm but with reservations.  This event sews a stitch between the fascination with creation, a great party and the mainstream reaction to it. Every subculture is split between attempting to avoid a blasé description by those outside of it and finding a common identity. In the case of Williamsburg Fashion Weekend, there are three main ideas at play: those who are there for the ability to create without reservation, those there for the fun and excitement of a spectacle fueled by spirits and music, and those summarily describing it as “hipsters [do this].”

FLAWK

Flawk hawks hot hats

The Huffington Post report on WFW was titled “Hipsters Hit The Runway,” and when I ask Mr. Arbit for his reaction to the title, he abruptly dismisses it: “To me hipsters are people without roots or identity, they grab on to trends in a hope to be of the moment, in a word, to be hip, as opposed to being brave enough to set the trend themselves.” A lot like press. He adds, “every single person there has something that’s ‘a real job’ that supports what they’re doing and what’s in their heart.  They work really hard at both, each piece takes a long time to make, especially more so the inspired first sample.”

Peruse the absolutely amazing gallery of images from both days of the 2010 F/W Williamsburg Fashion Weekend here, all of the photographs are by the esteemed Angus Smyth. I’m pretty sure it’s a moniker but one he should use more often to shoot hot tramp boys with fashion in them and chicks with good designs adorning them.

 
  1. Once again real reporting from Sentimentalist, you guys have your finger on the pulse of America, and not afraid to say it like it is, very refrashion! Thank you for being you!

    [Reply]

    zabatay Reply:

    @Arthur, Pricking America’s finger to see if the blood is still red since MMXXIII

    [Reply]

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