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Avoid The Grey

7 Feb

Danielle Everine clothing, KR Designs by Kristi Relopez accessory design, box design by Isa Gagarin.

A body in motion tends to stay in motion, Isaac Newton once so succinctly observed. The annual Cliché Avoid The Grey show has traditionally been a welcome way to spark the local fashion scene into motion, kicking off the new year with a quirky range of designs and thematic ideas. That spark is always welcome mid-winter and the designs usually move us forward, unless of course, they are trapped in a partially opened shipping crates and dotted through a lofty concrete warehouse, which is what happened Saturday night at the Grain Belt Studios in Northeast.

Instead of a traditional runway show or presentation, this year Cliché went with a novel approach – they asked artists to design the interiors of enclosed boxes wherein the models would stand and the audience would mill around trying get their faces pressed up to one of the little peepholes to get a glance. This is a great way to create a buzz of limited supply and to get people who give up on jostling for an eyehole to stand around and buy drinks while listening to some chilled out beats and Poliça. It is not a particularly comprehensive or engaging way to appreciate the full capacity and detail of the clothing design, which would seem to be a key element for a business engaged in selling clothes. To get that full capacity, you need vision and motion, both of which were effectively curtailed in the presentation. There’s a reason it’s a runway and a catwalk, not a standway and a catbox.

Of the designs themselves, it was a night of mixed successes. The designers of whom we have come to have high and exacting standards did not disappoint. Kimberly Jurek of Kjurek went for a full peasant look with a barefoot model wearing light tan leather vest with long fringe and full skirt of red, green and pink-and-tan cheetah print silks, Kathryn Sterner of Kathryn V created an elegant yet sly look with strapless gown out of re-purposed floral wallpaper and a long chemise of nude nylon accompanied with three fingered porcine gloves to riff off a Devandra Banhardt lyric about consumerism and Amanda Natzel of Amanda Christine Designs showed a smart crimson jacket and skirt set with an open front and black silk lining.

Those three designers were relatively well served by their surroundings (in box designs by Emilie Robinson and Caroline Debevec for the last two, respectively) in that the box designs did not generally interfere with the clothing itself. The most compelling box design came from Isa Gagarin, who covered the walls of her box in an Edward Gorey-esque black-and-white floral wallpaper and hung mock branches across the top to create an internal gothic forest. Those branches became unintentionally funny when placed in context of a model wearing a headdress that had two stuffed arms coming out like bulls horns (by Lela Baumann of Chrysopeia) which made it look like Rachel Blomgren‘s charming knit skirt and stocking look was trying to tear down the branches. That box, by the way, will be used for a video project by Margaret Lane, formerly of Hildur Victoria, so the care that went into that creation will get a second life.

Not so amusingly lucky was Kerry Riley of Needle & Black, whose excellent floor-length gown in black-on-black minisequins was marred by signs being hung off strings inside the box (another of Robinson’s designs) which blocked the already limited view, not to mention an overly large, unmatched, pseudo-Tlingit papier-mâché bird mask (Cocoquette by Andrea Oseland) perched atop her models head. Sarah M. Holm also had cause for pause, showing a bustier that had a number of plastic rifle barrels jutting upwards from it. Christine Carmichael of Carmichael Claith had also used a rifle earlier in the evening as a prop for her demure, Out of Africa-inspired jodhpurs and lace-overlay blouse, but Holm’s punky appropriation (paired with a pink plaid, ribbons and transparent floral hoop skirt) had the air of a hot-glue gun addition to it. The box by Daniel Jaffe that Holm was placed in was also the most problematic, with cardboard elements blocking peep-holes. That this was the first box upon entrance, and that the first designer, Gina Landes of Gina Marie Vintage, was showing a tank-topped and skirted model with bound legs, it set the unfortunate tone of unseeing stuckness that lingered over the rest of the night.

Newton also noted the opposite of his first observation is true, that a body at rest tends to stay at rest and it cannot be said that Cliché or the designers they serve are at rest. Even if there are bumps in the road, it is because movement in new directions is rarely smooth, if it were, it just wouldn’t be that much fun or worth doing. But please, as human beings wearing fabric sculpture, let your models move.

For a full slideshow of pictures, check out Staciaann’s shots for City Pages here.

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