March 26, 2010

Santa Fe's Emerging Designers

Last night I had the great pleasure of attending a fashion show featuring the chic designs of seven Santa Fe Community College fashion students.

The event, Art of Fashion, is a monthly show hosted by Stephen Cuomo and Buzz Networking. It is designed to encourage networking among designers, models, photographers, and other creative individuals in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, but also to bring fashion to local nightlife.

I previously attended the January Art of Fashion show, which featured three designers, one of whom was Walter Barney (it was an exciting showing by Barney, as I have grown to expect from this designer). I also attended the February event, and I must say this latest one was the best event so far. No doubt this was partly due to Cuomo working out the kinks of this new project of his, but it was also due to the talent and drive of the seven designers. They advertised the event widely, and it was well-attended - my guesstimate is that over 140 people were in attendance. At one point, when I stepped out to use the restroom 30 minutes into the show, I overheard the greeters turn people away. They were at max capacity.

Being a scholar and researcher, I've learned the value of ethnographic (participant observation) research - a.k.a. the 'fine art of hanging out.' And listening to peoples' reactions and responses to the show are some of my favorite things to do at these types of events. The responses were overwhelmingly positive. People loved the dresses, the creativity, how each designer brought her own design aesthetic to the runway. They were blown away by the fact that these were 'students.' But, after this show, I don't see them as students, I see them as emerging designers - ones who will carry Santa Fe's reputation as a fashion town into the future.

First off, the young (17 years old!) Bianca Garcia showed her four looks "Inspired by Kimono." I have spoken frequently about 'appropriation' and so my eyes are always open, looking, analyzing. Garcia's line was undoubtedly inspired by the Japanese robe. However, she quite wonderfully dissected it, showing us the parts: featuring the characteristic loose sleeves for one dress, the bundle in the back for another.

(My apologies - it took me a few rounds to get the right setting for my camera and I missed some great outfits in the process)

Next was Jessica Rimmer's "Hotel NM" collection of four looks - my favorites being the cute tailored jackets she produced with fantastic collars. Of note was a jacket and skirt outfit made from New Mexico sky blue fabric patched with material that featured a horse and Native design motif. It's like she turned a 'Greetings from New Mexico' postcard into a trendy ensemble - this outfit deserves a photo-shoot out on Route 66.

Another young designer, Paola Palacios presented her sexy "PcarolinePC" line. Her four looks included a red and black halter dress and a denim and black dress (it had three belts, much to my delight). All were short, but Palacios was exceptionally creative with this little bit of fabric and space, and the couple next to me adored her dresses.

Rachael Maestas' "Granny Floral Chic" holds a special place in my heart - just last month I was visiting one of my best friends in New York and she epitomizes 'Grandma Chic.' Oh Rachael how truly wonderful it was to see Granny chic on the runway. An adorable romper with a faint floral design, along with a sweetheart neckline strapless crisp white dress (yes with large floral pattern) - so feminine, so cute, and dying to be worn in a park, at the horse races, or out to brunch.

Consuelo Pascual's collection of five looks, aptly titled "Pleating Story" (the girl loves to pleat!), was introduced with the Shiny Toy Guns' song Major Tom playing in the background. It was so very appropriate - have you seen the video? When I think of Pascual's designs, I think of the sleek aesthetics of outer space. A subtle skull pattern on one dress adds a keen edge to her refined work. Working with a palette of mostly black, silver, and grey, her work is meticulously constructed, creating such fantastic silhouettes with all those wonderful pleats.

Next up was Lynne Kudus, the leader of this pack. An amazing stylist, Kudus' collection, "Punk Romanticism," included ten fully styled looks. And punk romanticism it was - with a loose white ripped dress, a one-shouldered black and denim dress, and wonderfully placed zipper accents everywhere. Kudus is clearly aware of the latest trends and incorporates them into her artistic approach to fashion.

The grand finale came with Shelly Lang's "The Wild Garden Collection Spring '10" (and a magnificent bridal gown!). These loose flowing dresses in soft summery colors were inspired by the plant life of Northern New Mexico. She explained, "The closer I looked the more each bush displayed unending inspiration of color, texture and silhouette." Lang combined raw edges, earthy tones, hand-dyed silk, and asymmetrical silhouettes to produce heavenly frocks fit for a princess.