April 30, 2008

Color Them Couture? Color Us Impressed

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After a warm British voice welcomed the crowd, the 24th Annual Cornell Design League fashion show, “Free the Runway,” opened with heavy bass line, blonde mohawk, and a pair of shockingly lime green city shorts.
Held in Barton Hall this past Saturday night, “Free the Runway” was an eclectic representation of form, function and fashion, proposing both possible solutions and complications in the continuing struggle to find the intersection between clothing as art and as a quotidian necessity. Other motifs ran through the night, many of which are also currently prevalent in the larger fashion world, including use of color, draping and folding techniques, prints and screen-printing.
It was clear from the moment you entered Barton that as much time was put into perfecting the many technical aspects of the show as designing itself. The runway, designed by Savinien Caracostea ’09, architecture, was astutely designed to give ample room backstage to the designers and models, as well as make optimum use of Barton’s built-in bleachers. Although the set up of the main floor made it so few seats were close to the action, massive video screens displayed the more subtle elements of the designs, as well as the essential but oft-forgotten elements that are hair, make-up and accessories.
Several lines utilized hair and makeup to noteworthy effect. Among these were “Rebel, Rebel” by Liz & Rox, with its glam-rock silver and gold lighting bolts spanning from above the brow bone to the cheek, and “[calling] keller,” whose use of thick, goopy looking lime green masks and black paint around the eyes evoked both spa-induced relaxation and a sense of exhaustion, juxtaposing the playful elements of the line, while harmonizing with the reoccurring bright citrus and the at times institutional quality of the pieces. The name of the line “My Aquamarine Phase,” indicated the most distinctive feature of the line’s presentation, the aquamarine wig each model donned. While this feature overwhelmed the clothing at times, it worked well with several pieces, complementing the color schemes and turning each model into a luminescent mermaid.
Prints of all sizes and varieties abounded, including the daring use of a green paisley in Antoinette King’s swimsuit line (fascinatingly paired with bare feet and black fur leg warmers reminiscent of the guards’ hats at Buckingham Palace), a black on white patterned obi-style belt and trim on a black dress in the line “Allusion,” classic bathing costume stripes re-envisioned in bright yellow and pink in “City Pop,” and multi-colored jungle inspired tights paired with the more smock-like whites and structured elements such as the use of tulle in “A Process,” which chronicled the breakdown of the mental capacity of Alzheimers patients.
Some of the most stunning pieces of the evening were in fact animal prints. “Naturally Fabulous” lived up to its name with a stunning classic white and black, little more hectic than usual, zebra-print dress. When first shown, the dress appeared to have a hood, but as she reached the end of the walkway, the model folded it down to reveal it to be a gorgeous sailor-style collar, with a shawl-like front and large rectangle of fabric open on the back. In the cocktail line, two large-scale giraffe-print dresses, brilliant in one-shouldered royal blue and white and a perfectly rich shade of bright pink and white were a stunning pair, the models gorgeously polished with hair which displayed their faces and shoulders.
Metallics also were a currency throughout the show, surfacing in some cases as quasi-neutrals, as they have been heralded in the past couple of seasons. They were present as the shoes and other accessories of the afore-mentioned glam-rock line “Rebel, Rebel,” as accents and adornment as seen in the fantastically ornate couture line, “Versailles,” straight out of a movie lot, with one gown hosting enormous tassels reminiscent of Scarlet Ohara’s escapades in Gone With the Wind, and another rivaling Drew Barrymore’s butterfly masquerade attire in Ever After.
One non-fabric element of the show that distinguished lines from each other was the choreography or general flow of each line. “Allusion” was notable for the one extra look back its models gave the audience/camera man, “City Knights” for its use of bicylcles to underline the urban warrior theme of the line and the mobility of the pieces, while Antoinette King’s line featured long pauses downstage and culminated in a tableau.
Three lines employed constant movement or dance choreography to accentuate the shape and movement of the clothes themselves. While interesting and often-times affective, this also proved distracting and begged the question of balancing technical aspects with the clothing. “Scalar Value” used a robotic, designer-initiated movement for the majority of the time, and followed it with amoeba like meanderings, which sought to juxtapose the plasticity and hardness of many of the pieces. “Unpeeled,” a meditation on fruit and vegetable forms, used motion to actually develop and evolve the forms of the dresses. “Jeté,” the most well-received line of the evening, exemplified utility over invention, featuring different costumes for a range of dance forms, each accompanied by predictable music genres.
Many of the pieces featured phenomenally designed backs, so one always was left with a gorgeous image. Among these were two solidly-crafted and designed pieces featured in the opening collaborative collections. One, with long, dark green floral strips comprising the skirt, had a light gold bodice and tapered into a surprising t-back. The other was a splatter-painted canvas that revealed the back through two beautifully draped stripes of cloth.
The entire night was one huge, fantastic spectacle, planned and executed to perfection. As one of the T-shirts in the show said, “Color Me Couture.”