Posted by: Necci – Sep 24, 2012
On the evening of September 6th, the production team of R.A.I.N. (Richmond Armada Intelligence Network) put on its third show, one that solidified the collective’s ascent towards its aim of uniting the fashion community of Richmond. This event coincided with Fashion’s Night Out, a nationwide event created to stimulate the fashion industry. Stores throw parties on the eve New York Fashion Week’s beginning, creating the perfect consumerist precursor to a week of pageantry. Steven Ramirez thoughtfully planned this show to fall in conjunction with the heralding of fashion week, and the confluence of local and national fashion laid the backdrop for a statement making evening. The decision to host an event on this particular evening confidently asserted that Richmond not only has a burgeoning fashion scene, but that R.A.I.N.’s mission of creating a more cohesive fashion community is well underway.
The night’s program presented not just a fashion show, but an entire audiovisual experience. Thumping music, lights, and two dance performances accented what proved to be an impeccable quality of design. The show opened with a dance solo by Teddy Gregson, followed by a womenswear collection created by Kristin Griffin, a collection of menswear provided by Rumors and styled by Nyki McCan, womenswear by Brittany Covington, and closed with an androgynous sportswear co-operative named Wealth of Knowledge.
The first collection, designed by VCU student Kristin Griffin, evoked futuristic designs from the perspective of someone living in the 60s and 80s. She explained that she loves all things retro, especially the Jetsons-esque way that people in those decades perceived the future. Hyper saturated, mardi-gras colors were featured on jackets and high waisted body-con silk shorts. This segment of the show featured an improvisation on the part of one of the models, who took one of Kristin’s jackets, reversed it, and continued to strut. According to the designer the jacket wasn’t created with this function in mind, but the accidental move on the part of the model created one of those magical moments which complemented Kristin’s already fantastical collection. I was left wondering if her aim was to create wearable clothing or a conceptual vision, meant to stand on its own as a piece of art. Kristin explained, “This collection is my alter ego. I create clothes that I would wear if i was my more confident self... this is my personality on steroids.” One would certainly stand out wearing the collection’s hybrid of Eastern and futuristic looks here in Richmond, but I do believe that a more brazen dresser could pull it off.
Next came a series of menswear provided by Rumors and styled by Nyki McCan. Bandanas, denim and leather reigned supreme, establishing a trifecta of pure Americana. A denim cowboy shirt coupled with slim black pants and loafers was accented by an American flag printed windbreaker tied around the model’s waist. My personal favorite look of the series featured a leather paneled denim shirt, a utilitarian fanny pack, and a bandana with the American flag motif. It seemed that John Travolta himself made an appearance when McCan sent one particularly striking model down the runway in a leather biker jacket, black shades, and skinny black jeans. McCan nicely showcased Rumors’ savvy for finding unique, playful vintage pieces.
Brittany Covington sent five diverse looks down the runway. The collection highlighted the designer’s affinity for sumptuous fabrics, drapery, and screen-printing. My favorite of the night, a loose-fitting knit top with a bare midriff and low hanging back, featured a graphic I initially described as “Father Time morphs with an octopus.” Chatting with Covington after the show, I found out my mythical evocation wasn’t entirely off. The designer drew her own interpretation of an image inspired by the Azmats tribe in New Guinea. Covington carefully calculates each and every factor that goes into her design process. I learned there was more craftsmanship behind the collection than I originally speculated. The graphics featured were hand drawn by Brittany, tweaked with Photoshop, and screen-printed using a process she perfected on her own. All of the fabrics used were painstakingly hand-dyed. She explained that she loves “experimenting with different types of fabrics and dyes.” Some household names in fashion, such as Nanette Lepore, fight to bring clothing production back onto US soil, and Covington is of the same mind. She is “passionate about sustainable fashion,” and uses as many second hand fabrics as possible. She laments that so much clothing production takes place offshore, using irresponsible manufacturing techniques. True to her word, her process is as hands-on and sustainable as possible.
Wealth of Knowledge closed the show with a line of clothing for both sexes. Black, navy, and saturated burgundy knits provided the canvass for bold graphic prints. What stood out from the final line was the omnipresent letter “W,” often accompanied by their signature owl. Reminiscent of the type that emblazons high school letter jackets, the signature “W” gave the collection something of a collegiate, old school preppy vibe. Also memorable from this line was pair of men’s pants with a large square pocket on the left front thigh, a reinvented and streamlined take on the cargo pant. This collection may have achieved the impossible: a compromise between Richmond’s urban edge and its oft-scorned preppy west-end stepsister. Whether the designers intended for this effect, I do not know, but isn’t half the fun of fashion the freedom it affords you to form open-ended interpretations?
There are times when it becomes undeniably apparent that a group of creative people with ambition are riding a shared energy, and this event suggested that this may be happening amongst those involved with R.A.I.N. Covington provided the words that best summarised my impression of the evening: “This is a lot of ambitious people coming together to work on their passion.” Unlike many of the designers at New York Fashion week, these local artists oversee every aspect of their design completely on their own. In other words, there were no unpaid interns or stressed-out assistants behind the scenes of the show. The event ended with “an applause for living in Richmond, Virginia,” led by Ramirez himself. Under Ramirez’ ebullient leadership, the event is sure to grow and has the potential of turning Richmond’s fashion scene something worth talking about. I must say that while Selba has a great vibe (and yummy martinis), I think these designers deserve an elevated surface, as in a runway, to properly show off the fruits of their labors and creativity.
By Kristina Headrick