Energy, ambiance and bright runway styles came together Saturday to lend Virginia Fashion Week a celebratory feel for its 10th anniversary main showcase event .
The house was packed at Waterside’s Harbor Club for the return of the fashion extravaganza to a resuscitated facility buzzing with life. The last time Virginia Fashion Week was held at Waterside, in 2011, the place was all but in the grave. And you would have thought on the event’s third and final day there that, based on attendance, it, too, might go the way of the building.
But what a difference a makeover makes.
The works of some 10 designers were featured in Saturday night’s show. And earlier in the week, runway and beauty events were held at Gallery 21 in Norfolk’s Ghent, and Neptune’s and Dillard’s-Lynnhaven, both in Virginia Beach.
Here are some highlights from Saturday night:
Willie Hall. The veteran designer from New Jersey made a welcome return to Virginia Fashion Week, opening the show after having been absent since 2014. Hall, known for meticulous construction and collection cohesion, generously used red and bone as her color story. Hall’s offerings included both fun and classic elements, like the mixture of off-the-shoulder peasant-style tops on A-line dresses. Lace overlays and graceful maxi dresses and skirts also anchored her presentation.
Styles by Salome. Salome Autolino, the model and fashion personality from Ethiopia (now living in Newport News), presented her first clothing collection. It mainly featured bright boho chic tunics and dresses with strong cultural elements in the trimwork. A standout: The gold empire-waist maxi dress with tapestry trim running from the neckline and down the length of the center back.
Blas Couture. Designer Azi Blas of Richmond (originally from Puerto Rico) presented an imaginative collection of party and social dresses inspired by painters from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, and pop artists from the 1970s. Blas’ taste for fur and feathers was evident, as he used the textures in mixed media dresses – from necklines to bodices to full skirts. The socialite wearing Blas Couture would never be a bore.
Urban Masala. D.C.-based designer Sehar Peerzada hails from Pakistan, and her East-meets-West style sensibility remained apparent in her copious use of exotic print fabrics, textural elements and bright colors. A fashionista could find something suitable for a range of tastes in the collection – from a sleeveless knee-knocker romper to asymmetrical skirts cut on the bias to flowing pants, tunics and ethnic print duster coats.
Brehon Williams. The audience’s reception of the Chesapeake native’s collection proved he remains the darling of Virginia Fashion Week. Every audience member who was asked by one of the emcees to name her favorite designer named Brehon. Williams, who joined the lineup of VAFW in 2009 but had not shown in fashion week since 2014, presented a collection of dresses and skirts that went from graphic prints and blocking to Americana. “I started looking into other cultures, and I cut and spliced fabrics to make my own take. Prints are always eye-catching,” Williams said backstage.
White Dress by Greta Kay. Don’t let the brand’s name fool you. Although Greta Kay’s niche is bridal, her palette is not stuck on white. Last year the Waynesboro-based designer’s collection incorporated blue and leather; this year her color story was black and white. And for the dress alternative: a twist on the tuxedo in the form of a cropped vest and tapered ankle pants.
Earlier in the week. Mario Daughtry of Chesapeake finally included womenswear as a true part of his Reckless athleisure and urban contemporary brand. Loved the jersey jumpsuits.
Also part of the activities. Virginia Fashion Week isn’t all about fashion. Shows of late have also featured talented singers, musicians and dancers. Yet the inclusion of excessive live entertainment breaks (I counted six during Saturday night’s show; I wished I’d had a reclining chair and a pillow) calls attention to the fact that more high-quality models are needed for the roster. Having more models would allow more time for clothing changes. It was a disappointment that the models wearing Hall’s collection did not come out for the usual encore walk.
What also would help. This tip is for any fashion show producer: Please provide information on how to buy items shown on the runway. I’m sure the designers would appreciate some orders. It’s hard out there for an independent artist.
Catwalk competition winners. Congratulations to Haley Robinson, 17, a senior at Grassfield High in Chesapeake; and Francois Pretorius, 25, of South Africa but now living in Richmond.Read more at:QueenieAu