WRJ’s Fashion Weekend 2016

Full cast & Crew info here: fashionthrope.blogspot.com

Keeny Paige
Mark Ezra Merrill
Sophie Kirpan
Allyce Good
Alyssa Couture
Daisy Shaver
Erin Mullen
Orin Pacht
Stacy Hopkins

Full cast & Crew info here: fashionthrope.blogspot.com

How it started:
The genesis of White River Junction's Fashion Weekend (hopefully we're working our way towards a bonafide week!) began in 2001 when Kim Souza, the then owner and operator of the specialty boutique Revolution, began her spring and fall runway exhibition featuring models of all ages and sizes wearing items available for purchase in her store, which also included selections from local designers. Over the years The Revolution Runway grew in scale and now includes over 40 models with up to 80 looks, so you can imagine the level of production this entails! In 2013 Kim made the tough decision that she would only produce the fall show, leaving local designers (many of us because of Kim's Runway shows aware of each other's presence) jonesing for a spring show. So in 2015 I initiated the first annual "Spring Collective" hosted by the Main Street Museum featuring 100% local designers, and in 2016 we showcased work from nine local designers.

Is there is a yearly theme?
Right now, there's more a vision than a yearly theme. You see it's because of the success of the fashion shows here in the Upper Valley for the past 15 years, and because of this overwhelming support pouring out from our local community that I have to ask, “where can this all go?” To me a design community is a rare and special gift, one that I hope to nourish and see grow in ways perhaps no one else expects. Within five years I see us moving full throttle towards a true design collective, encompassing all aspects of design, production, marketing and sales––with our own unique “made in VT” line. This design collective in fact could look something like a design ‘school’ or fashion ‘institute’–– that’s how I’m envisioning it to be at the moment. I’m very inspired by the concept of the Scandinavian cooperative MUUSE and have my own particular slant on this idea––that is, what we could do here in Vermont. 

How are designers and modes are selected? 
Currently our collective is organized and run by local designers and advocates for local design here in the Upper Valley region of Vermont and New Hampshire. We work from January to May in preparation for our spring show. Anyone is welcome to participate, but this is a very 'boots on the ground’ type operation, so there's a great deal of commitment and planning that goes along with exhibiting your work. If you are willing to make that commitment then you're welcome to show with us, no matter where you live! So far we've had designers in high school right alongside folks with 30 years in the biz interested in exhibiting with us, but in the end it's all about that commitment. The show is a very intimate salon style runway, designers show in multiple rounds or in very quick changes. Designers are responsible for securing their own models and we continue to encourage models of all ages and sizes. To date this concept has worked out exceedingly well.

Do you pick a different charity to donate to every year?
Another reason why our design collective is so special is because it is part of the Main Street Museum's new educational outreach programming. The Main Street Museum is itself a local 501(c)3 non-profit community based art center (with an exceptionally odd victorian flair) now entering its 25th year of operation. The Museum has supported a wide range of community events in the past, and is now pleased as punch to be able to extend its resources to the local design community. Our goals here are to enable a sustainable local design community and present opportunities of growth and advancement for designers. I believe all opportunities like these start with conversations, just like the one we’re having now! 

Who are some of your sponsors?
This year was the first year we needed to seek out sponsorship. Revolution’s events are a much larger production and therefore generate more revenue. In 2105, because of the more intimate scale of our production, just selling-out all of our seats didn’t quite generate enough revenue to break even. So, for that reason this year was really the litmus test to see whether we could pull it off––if an all-designer showcase could support it’s own weight. There was an ultimatum that if we did not at least break even this season––there would be a serious question as to whether the Museum could continue footing the bill for these productions which are quite costly. But we did it, and we did it with the help of local individuals and business (the entire list included below). For me personally, the most amazing thing I’ve found about working with our fashion community is the power that is has to unite even the most diverse regions of our community. In previous incarnation I was a studio painter for 15 years and I’ve never felt this sort of ‘togetherness’ –– it’s quite something to experience. 


* ALL PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.benfleishman.com

A Note from the Producer:

A Note from the Producer:
In the previous two year’s I’ve been producing these shows there’s always been one or two comments that have stayed with me––you know, something someone said that gave me that extra-special little something to affirm my efforts––this year it came from one of the models, and I’m not sure who, but someone referred to me as “Vermont’s own Tim Gunn” …now and that’s a compliment I can surely live with!

Mark Ezra Merrill
Designer, Co-founder WRJ Fashion Weekend
Complete Sponsor list for WRJ Fashion Weekend Spring Collective 2016
Underwriters: Revolution, Hiv/HCV Resource Center
Sponsors: Susanne Abetti, Nancy Heyl, Raq-On Dance, Hotel Coolidge, The Silver Screen, Streamline: Artisan Upholstery, Northern Stage, Daily UV, Ronin Hair for Men
Contributors: Farnum Hill Ciders, Harpoon Brewery, Co-op Food Stores, Upper Valley Food Co-op, Valley Flower Co., Oodles, Aujudi, Nutty Steph’s, Elixr, Molly’s, Candela Tapas Lounge, Stinson’s Village Store, Yama, Base Camp, Oriental Wok Express

Special Thank you:
Susanne Abetti
Kim Souza
Nancy Hyle
Rebecca Levi
Michael F Bryant
 Erin Mullen
Center for Cartoon Studies
Upper Valley Young Liberals
Karrie Cosgriff
Robina D’arcy-Fox
Hilary Mullins
Max Perkins Cornell
Matt Bucy
Robert Craig Baum
Kevin Burke

The First Monday in May (REVIEW)

A perfect introduction to the thrilling fashion of the spring season should include a viewing of the new behind the scenes documentary about the annual Met Gala Gala: The First Monday in May. Every Gala taking place on, you guessed it, the first Monday in May. The film centers itself specifically around last years 2015 Met Ball Gala China: Through the Looking Glass . Many of you may remember that was the year Rihanna almost stopped time itself by wearing an unforgettable bright yellow embroidered coat by Chinese designer Guo Pei

Amidst the grueling planning schedule and precise execution of the event the main focus fell upon two very important topics: clothing as a viable form of art (does it belong in the Met? Why is the team sequestered away in the basement of the museum?).  Secondly the risk of cultural appropriation in using Chinese culture as a "theme" (Is it oriental-ism? How do you showcase a fashion past rife with controversy accurately and respectfully? How to tactfully navigate a presentation highlighting a time period when Chinese culture was exploited and misused in both fashion and film?) 

Of course as a voyeur dejour the scenes with infamous editor-in-chief of Vogue America Anna Wintour were a nice treat. While careful to meter the exposure of her personal life the filmed showed select scenes in Anna's home, a dress fitting with her daughter, personal chats with close friend Andre Leon Talley and other moments that offered peaks into her vulnerable side. Much to my delight the writers still managed to keep the mystique of Anna in tact. Peaks of her no nonsense ice queen persona on display during a few tense planning meetings were particularly riveting.

As the costume institute curator Andrew Bolton was tasked with addressing the aforementioned issues of validating fashion as art while also carefully presenting a grand exhibit which was both detailed and respectful of Chinese culture and fashion.  Through a myriad of scenes he and his staff complete whirlwind promotional tours, planning meetings, press junkets, grapple with timing issues, fuss with set changes, and tackle funding concerns. Fixed securely at the helm Bolton seemed to maintain his cool throughout it all with an end result of sheer perfection. His passion and dedication to the costume institute shown through brighter than any other person involved in the production. His tireless commitment to the project brought both smiles and tears to my eyes. 

The film was particularly important to Tailcoat Times because showcasing diversity in fashion is one of our key missions. It was eye opening to see the issues of cultural appropriation on a global scale. The idea of misrepresenting or mocking Chinese culture is not often addressed in America. The Met Ball committee took the time to not only bring on board international film maker Kar-Wai Wong as a key consultant/adviser but they also traveled to China to conduct press interviews and sit down meetings with key players in the world of fashion and art. During  these sessions they responded to concerned investors, critics and the public as a whole about their intentions in presenting China: Through the looking glass as a gala and ongoing public exhibit. The feedback Anna and Andrew received mainly focused on ensuring the final product was respectful and accurate. There were also numerous inquiries about why the exhibit was focused so heavily on the historical past and not the current fashion of China. 

Of course there were many cameos and side interviews with a few fan favorites including iconic designers: Karl Lagerfeld and Jean-Paul Gaultier.  There were also scenes that including footage of Rihanna rehearsing (she was also the guest performer for the event) a secret discussion about her astronomical booking fee and red carpet interviews with a few of the celebrities who attended the star studded ball. A scene with our most favorite and beloved fashion photographer Bill Cunningham also set our hearts a flutter. To the surprise of many Beyonce, who wore a sheer gown gown designed by Givenchy, was not mentioned at all during the film with the exception of a brief glimpse of her ascending the met steps.

If you see the film only to  gawk at John Galliano's most recent nip and tuck or marvel at Anna Wintour's ability to be both charming and cutting in the same moment, your time and ticket are well spent. Those looking for a deeper view inside the Met ball planning process will appreciate the power plays, business acumen and overall grind of a global fashion force.  

In the end the 120 Piece exhibit speaks for itself. A collection of exquisite, rare and custom made designs were breathtaking and certainly worth a view through the looking glass.

The question still remains when does a presentation go from cultural appreciation to appropriation? Did you see it? Tell us what you thought in the comment section below. 


New Hampshire Fashion Weekend 2016

Rating: 3 Out Of 5 Stars

Tailcoat Times had the pleasure of attending the first ever New Hampshire Fashion Weekend. The 2 day event put on by Cynthia Hudson &  Amy Azeredo-Samson (Almorinda Photography) was a special and unique event for Manchester New Hampshire and the surrounding areas. The event raised funds for two amazing charities End 68 Hours of Hunger and Janie’s Fund. NHFW 2016 also featured entertaining performances by; Ella McGowan, Traci C, Shaded Glitch and more. One of the featured sponsors was Shane's anti bullying campaign, they also conducted a riveting interpretive dance performance for the audience. There were swag bags and a silent auction that included custom made fashion pieces from Shaco Couture and multiple jewelry lines.The Mayor of Manchester Ted Gatsas also spoke during day 2.

Venue: NHFW took place at the Radisson Manchester Hotel, a VIP cocktail hour was held in the front lounge area on Saturday and both shows were held in the large Armory Ballroom, the space was massive with a wood vaulted ceiling and a center runway stage. The step and repeat was well placed and featured event sponsors including 26th on Hanover Color & Design Studio Aspiring Magazine, Bayleaf Communications, Maria Bucce and J.Scott Salon, The entire perimeter of the show room housed multiple vendor tables selling a variety of fashion wares and beauty related products. There was also a check in desk with staff and a full service bar. 

Hosts: Saturday was hosted by Seraphim Ann Victoria D’Andrea (Aspire TV) and Tharon Cottrell. They had a wonderful chemistry and did an excellent job of engaging the crowd between collections. Sunday Seraphim hosted again alongside Jeff Lawrence (WRKO). Seraphim made her way effortlessly though multiple stunning gown changes during both days. She was upbeat and charismatic, it would be great to see her host again next year. 

Overall for a first year this show was a decent success. We are really looking forward to see what they have in store for the 2017 NHFW

Designers Day 1:

(We've included a pic of our standout favorite from each designer along w/ a note on why we loved it)

Jewelinga Designs 

A bold and creative accessory line by local designer Inga Puzikov. The runway presentation featured bejeweled pieces with crystal accents and beading in a variety of lengths and configurations. Models sported an array of both causal and dressy clothing options with the pieces which really demonstrated the lines versatility. Jewelinga offers custom creations and unique design patterns for fashionistas looking for something different. Why we loved it: the gold ring and red/white beading of this statement necklace is just the right big piece to add pizzazz to any solid color outfit. The drop earrings were also a nice touch.



The budding swimwear line by fashion model extraordinaire Francine Makuwa debuted a colorful line to strut the beach in this summer. MSW rocked the runway with an exotic take on the crochet swimsuit trend. Each piece is personally designed and hand crocheted by Francine herself. The styles had intricate patterns, bright hues and daring cuts, definitely a must have for your summer/vacation wardrobe. Why we loved it: Not withstanding the abs of steal on this model the detailed pattern of crochet, middle webbing holding the top together and the flirty tie string bottom brought the love of a staple white bikini to another level,  especially with the color tone pop against tan skin. (www.wearmsw.com)


Wearable Art by Rimma designs - Rimma Zaika & Over 40 Collection

According to web sources Wearable Art by Rimma collection is now going by Rimma Zaika. Rimma showed a lovely collection of dresses, crop and lace tops, and crocheted skirts. Most of the pieces incorporated varying shades of purple or yellow and the styles appeared to be geared mostly towards day, beach, and casual wear. One particular model wowed in a beautiful head piece adorned with ribbons and pearls that streamed down creating a modern veil effect over the face. Why we loved it: The crushed silk material on this asymmetrical shift dress was a real eye catch on the runway and would surely do the same out at a day or garden party. The flow of the fabric offered timeless beauty while the crocheted top added a bit of quirky and colorful fun along with the lavendar piping around the top of the dress.. 


Caronah's Designs

A perfect season to show for brides to be, Coronah Designs filled the runway with a stunning assortment of beaded and lace gowns. The dressmaker even threw in a few looks that could easily translate into prom wear. Deviating from the traditional gown cuts many of the skirts featured delicate overlays with unique patterns. The makeup for this showing did well to further serve the bridal aesthetic with glowing cheeks and whimsical lip colors. Why we loved it: This strapless mermaid gown with full tulle bottom offered so many possibilities for brides of all sizes. The flexibility of design made this look simple yet very elegant  with raised floral swirls along the entire bodice.


Lainy Gold Designs -  Menswear/Womenswear Swimwear/designs

Lainy Gold Designs seemed to be the featured designer for this event with a total of three different runway collections over the 2 day event. There was a staggering amount of LGD on display. Each collection offered something completely different and served well to show the versatility of the designer. Why we loved it: Almost every single piece from the menswear / leather collection show on Saturday night was a signature look. A fresh approach to the "leather and lace" style LGD mixed daring cut leather and fringe with full length lace skirts and leather head/arm bands. This dress gave lots of sex appeal combined with a no nonsense tough girl twist.


Zadon designs

A collection with a piece for everyone Zadon Fashion had a very mixed display with heavy inspiration in tribal print and bold color blocking. The majority of items were skirts and dresses in varying lengths perfect for evening or date night. Zadon has been showing at quite a few shows recently and they always bring something fun and daring to the fashion scene. Why we loved it: The 2 piece crop top skirt look has been very much on trend for the past few years. The bold approach of this abstract neon print reignited our love affair with this racy yet classy look. The idea that an outfit so bold can be paired with bright statement shoes and accessories or even toned down with neutral shoes and no accessories was very appealing.


Battle Designs

To be marked as one of the local Icons of fashion can only be made sweeter when the body of work continues into the here and now. Battle Designs (aka Battle of Earl) creator Earl Battle is steadfast in pushing his creations through the decades with each and every stitch, A separate article will be written about the design life and works of Earl here on Tailcoat Times. To keep it brief; the showing at NHFW was a mix of things we have seen may times and things we've never seen before, we were equally wowed by both. Battle has a knack for dressing women in a way that is bold and powerful yet very feminine. Why we loved it: The dramatic billowed shoulders and v neck cut were so very alluring, The possibilities of being able to wear this as an open or closed coat, dress or top really took it to the next level.


Sharon Cox Cole - Shaco Couture 

Sharon Cox Cole designer extraordinaire brought her eclectic collection to the stage with over 20 pieces of Shaco Couture. Running the gambit from beach to formal wear Shaco Couture pulled out all of the stops with quite a few styles featuring sweeping capes and bold pattern detail. There is a real magic in the unpredictability of the Shaco Couture brand, every piece to grace the runway is a unique surprise. Why we loved it: The standout cobalt color or this dress is exquisite. Details on the one shoulder creation featured a bejeweled broach and translucent bottom with a cinched waist. One of our favorites of the night.



Queens Know Launch Party

The Queens know launch party took place at The Harborside lounge on Saturday Aug 1st. After purchasing my V.I.P ticket I entered an empty lounge about 45 min before showtime. The door greeters seemed marginally uninformed and somewhat confused about how the evening was supposed to run. After an opportunity to visit the "model suite" which didn't have the most welcoming vibe, I delivered a bottle of bubbly to the staff and models to lighten the mood. After seating myself in the "V.I.P" area - a small crowd began to role in. I also noticed that there was little to no distinction between the general public and VIP. I went through my "swag bag" which including a variety of products including a plastic hand held mirror, a plastic compact mirror a small nail kit and a bottle of nail polish. The same gift bags were also given to some of the other guests..  The host of the show tried to connect with a surly and non participatory crowd. I appreciated her efforts and energy, she is a great host/MC and I hope to see her continue to be involved in more shows this year. Once the show started, what came down the runway was essentially a collection of t-shirts in varying sizes and lengths with the queens know logo across the front paired with a variety of basic bottoms including short shorts, jeans, and tutus, I was not really clear on the actual design aspect or exactly what had been created in the way of fashion. As of today's date the quenns know retail website / boutique is still pending (I will try to update w/ purchase info if I receive any). The most exciting part of the event was the model runway performance. There were several choreographed steps and movements that were very creative and entertaining. The event also touted authentic Haitian cuisine, and while I am no expert of that type of cuisine I am certain hoagies and a cheese/cracker platter does not a Haitian dish make. The queens know has a very good message of empowerment for women. More than fashion this seemed like an attempt to promote a lifestyle vs a clothing brand. While it is very important for Tailcoat Times to embrace and promote all things related to diversity in fashion here in Boston,  attempts that may fall short will be clocked as such. There is a standard level of quality that was not met and I truly hope to see Queens Know utilize their resources more wisely for future events.

Rating: 2 Out Of 5 Stars

Boston Curvy Week (The Curves Are Coming Fashion Show)

As part of the first annual Boston Curvy Fashion week, night three brought us a fashion show at the Boston Common Hotel on Saturday July 25th. I have recently seen quite a few fashion shows utilizing this venue in recent months. While it may not be the prettiest location it certainly serves the purpose and has a great location in the heart of Copley square.

Upon arrival, through a semi hidden side door entrance guests were greeted by Sandra Augustin (Founder of BCFW & CEO of Your Desired Dream Event Production Company ) and her staff members at a sign in table. I was pleased to see such a well organized and professional welcome. Once upstairs guests entered into a round foyer which housed a few vendors including John Casablanca's and a step and repeat banner. Having guests pass through the vending area prior to seating was a very smart move, often times show coordinators place vendors in a separate room and they are never seen by the public. If you absolutely must have vendors hawking their goods it's a clever strategy to place them in a high traffic area.  

The staff were recognizable in uniform and did a great job managing the crowd and directing guests to their seats. Once inside the main runway area, the room was packed and press was positioned at the end of the runway. The show started on time and the host was engaging, humorous and genuinely entertaining to the crowd in between designs. While the fashion was not what I considered to be high-end couture the clothing fit the models well and the actual designs ranged in style from punk rock (ASK fashion) to Caribbean inspired (Lleya P). 

There were also 2 musical guests that provided entertainment between collections. The DJ also did a great job of keeping the crowd hyped with up beat tunes.

For a first year run - the Curves are coming fashion show was successful and I can't wait to see what they will be able to do next year.

The entire show was a great representation of female empowerment and embracing all body types. A portion of the proceeds were scheduled to be donated to Dress for Success-Boston.

Rating: 4 Out Of 5 Stars

Conrad Lamour @ Bastille

I had the pleasure of viewing a Conrad Lamour event @ Bastille kitchen downstairs on June 25th. It was a creative and moody set showcasing Lamour's designs. Guests were able to view the sleek and bold collection through an intimate photo shoot taking place at the end area of the downstairs venue. The majority of patrons seemed focused on personal conversations and the beauty of the models vs the amazing clothes or high level of fashion. There were really no announcements or interactions with Conrad and the audience which set a very hushed and inquisitive mood. I have been to quite a few random venues throughout Boston touting "pop-up" or "showcase" fashion events in an evening / lounge setting, for me this was the first time it seemed to really make sense. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

Casa De Angelina - F/W 2015

This was by far Angelina's most cohesive and well presented collection to date. The production of the event coupled with artistic and sophisticated pieces made this show a hit. The stand out design was most certainly the white gown that closed the show. Are we seeing wedding bells?? The rest of the collection was very dress focused. A few of the other stand out pieces were: a floor length metallic fishtail gown with red trim and a simple white gown with a very dramatic deep royal lace overlay draping one shoulder and flowing down the back of the garment.

CDA selected a wonderful venue (The Exchange Conference Center-Seaport) to showcase her most recent collection. The night started with a VIP mixer. There could have been more / better music during the crown mingle, it felt a little awkward and unplanned. The best feature of the space was the surprise reveal of the runway which was concealed behind a partition during the cocktail hour. Swathed in white curtain and dramatic lighting the runway was beautiful and sleek. The  coordination of the seating and beginning of the show came with a few slight hiccups however the powerful music and walk of the first design made up for it. 

The crowd was hype and for the most part very fashionable. It was a very exciting affair and I look forward to seeing what she has to offer with a larger venue in the future. 

Check out more: http://www.casadeangelina.com/

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Rating: 5 Out Of 5 Stars