Fade to Light played to a typically packed Crystal Ballroom last week, to a healthy crowd of fashion insiders, business folk, and fans who just like a good show. As one of the most popular fashion events in town, it seems like each season F2L draws more excitement and anticipation, and this time around they did not disappoint. As usual, there was a diverse roster of new and returning designers, as well as a few established names who were new to the format, which has each participant include a video element to their presentation, giving the audience a peek into their creative process.
The first collection to show was Elephant Room, an experimental collaboration between four Art Institute students. They opened with a video montage of the clothing, as one of the designers spoke with evangelical zeal about the virtues of fashion as an art form ("Fashion is not an industry, it is an expression... My body is a celebration, I am a celebration..." etc). The designers showed a series of dramatic gowns in a striking color palate of black, white and yellow, with an emphasis on architecture and removable pieces—like a skirt that zipped off to make the dress cocktail length. There were some interesting ideas in this collection, and the construction was great, but it sort of left me wanting more. There were only three looks total, and I didn't really feel like there was a clear point of view.
Mag-Big opened with a somewhat melancholic video of a girl playing on the beach in a pretty, breezy dress. This seemingly contradictory theme was reflected in the clothes, which were sort of fun-in-the-sun with a slightly dark edge. Mag-Big specializes in stylish but super unfussy pieces, which can sometimes be a challenge to translate into a compelling runway show, but they pulled it off with lots of sexy sheers and pretty floral prints.
Next up was Everett K, a handcrafted tie and bow tie line. They specialize in androgynous pieces, juxtaposing masculine cotton chambrays with soft colors and playful prints. Fittingly, the collection was sent down the runway on both male and female models, who wore British-style preppy ensembles.
The next was Primal Haunt, a brand new line showing their first ever collection. Their video featured a girl exploring the woods, indicating their earthy, rugged aesthetic. Details like curtain fringe embellishment and animal prints added a good dose of drama to the collection. Highlights included a full-length white lion print gown paired with a long tulle veil, and a semi-abstract purple and green claw print dress.
Urchin designer Sonia Kasperian can always be counted on to leave her audience in awe. The designer uses recycled materials to create high-drama statement pieces that with an opulent yet somewhat gritty aesthetic. Her first ever Fade to Light presentation was a visual orgy of luxurious satin, velvet, tulle and exquisite beading. Kasperian certainly belongs to the "more is more" school of design - each look has quite a lot going on, but her superior draping and construction skills keep the clothes from swallowing their wearer whole. Highlights Included an asymmetrical silvery-blue gown with a long tulle train, and a Jazz Age-reminiscent black and gold beaded number that literally had me on the edge of my seat.
Bad Wolf Clothier opened with a mock in-flight safety video of a stewardess talking about martinis, reflecting the collection's "Mad Men go to Palm Springs" vibe. In the short time since launching the line, designers Devon Burrus and Seth Noles have all but completely cornered the local vintage-inspired menswear market. Some of the more literal iterations of the theme—like a navy double-breasted jacket paired with grey and white plaid pants—may have a somewhat limited appeal, but I was encouraged to see the designers expand on their vision to include some very modern interpretations of the aesthetic in this collection. They included some very sleek, versatile blazers in colors like baby blue and white that could easily become wardrobe staples for many men.
Emit showed some of of their trademark sleek, color blocked dresses in cutout-filled performance textiles. There's no question that this label is good at what they do, but I would love to see them expand their range of silhouettes a little more. How about some voluminous skirts, or super-sexy maxi dresses, or something? They did include one flouncy blue and brown cloak jacket that was a step in the right direction, and the pairing of one of their pencil skirts with a super-structured blazer was very chic.
Sharon Blair showed collections for two lines: StudioSKB, which focuses on vintage, all American style; and SKPDX, her more forward focused offshoot line. Her presentation started with a video in which the narrator, "Elizabeth Blair" described her life story of learning to crochet as a child, and working in textile mills during the civil war, before revealing that she was actually Blaire's great-great-grandaughter from the future (that sounds confusing, but the point was past meets future).
For SKB, Blaire chose a rustic vibe, with lots of crocheted tops, loose, flowing silhouettes, and some denim skirts (always an iffy prospect, but one that worked in this collection). Some of the pieces veered a little bit into costume territory, but overall the collection displayed an interesting and new take on classic Americana.
SKPDX's collection was full of striking contrasts: bright prints and black leather, micro-minis and flouncing skirts—with the common thread being feminine, unfussy style. The definite standout was a sleeveless leather jacket paired with a black mini-skirt that had a long white train in back.
WWJJD, the second menswear line of the night, is a new collaboration between Joshua Buck and Jeanne Tunberg. They opened with a black and white video of 90's Venice Beach skaters to introduce their California-infused collection, which was full of breezy cotton pieces in blue and white cotton prints. Buck is known for his avant garde aesthetic, and this collection did not disappoint on that regard—it had its share of zipper adorned kaftans, experimentally color blocked pants, and the obligatory pair of man panties. But he and Tunburg also put out some very accessible, but still interesting hoodies, pull-overs, and jackets. These two designers hit just the right balance of daring and down-to-earth, and I hope to see a lot more from them in the future.
Bryce Black is known for putting on a good show, and his presentation is always hotly anticipated. Last year he surprised the audience when his models, who turned out to be members of the Nonsense Dance Company, broke out in a high energy hip-hop routine. He had them back again this year, and they performed as the second part of his presentation, after a traditional runway walk. This season, Black stuck to simple, streamlined silhouettes, with shredded and knotted white cotton garments that ranged from crop-tops and hot pants to long, loose gowns. With the arrival of the dancers, he added some neon yellow into the mix. The overall vibe was edgy yet ethereal.
I was sort of hoping for more of the dramatic flair that defines most of Black's work, but this collection was billed as his Spring 2015 Preview, so maybe we'll see more from him soon. Either way, the collection was fun and cool, and he ended the show on just the right note.