Last year was the first annual Independent Designer Runway Show (IDRS) held by The Bellevue Collection in partnership with Fashion Group International. The concept was developed by Kemper Freeman Jr., founder of the Kemper Development Company of The Bellevue Collection as a way of building community and supporting local designers at the kick-off of Fashion Week. This has been a brilliant contribution for the local fashion community on many levels. Primarily, it legitimizes the people in the industry while educating the public on what it means to be a designer in Seattle. The show is the culmination of a year-long review process. Washington state designers who already produce and sell product are eligible to submit their work and a panel of industry professionals selects the top ten entrants. Each entrant receives a stipend to develop a collection for the show and is mentored by the IDRS panel. Half of the ten looks required for the show must be new creations for Fall 2013. At the Independent Designer Runway Show, the designer of one exceptional collection receives a cash prize of $5000, donated by The Freeman Family. This year the audience was pleasantly surprised to have two runner-up prizes of $2000 donated at the eleventh hour. During the selection process many designers were interviewed in March: Independent Designer Runway Show 2013 – Designer Interviews from Kemper Freeman on Vimeo. The panel had a tough choice to make among ten designers who have so much heart and clear vision. The criteria are clearly stated for the selection process, which demand that the designer show vision as well as savvy in the fashion industry. Half of the scoring is based on the “creativity and originality” of the collection. One fifth of the score is based on workmanship and another fifth scores the fashion designer’s business model, including brand positioning. The remaining ten percent is based on presentation at the show. Fashion is a complex gestalt of craft, art and trend in which each of these elements is a universe unto itself. A fashion designer—if he or she is to succeed—must have a mastery of all three. A gap in knowledge and savvy in just one of these areas makes futile the efforts of the designer, in terms of how the larger market will receive a collection. This show and the mentoring process involved for the designers is an opportunity for them to learn how to expand their knowledge and expertise by putting these skills to practice. Without such opportunities, designers work in a vacuum and have no real way to fine-tune their craft and marketing acumen. A look at the invaluable support given by the panel: 2013 IDRS 4 Approved from Kemper Freeman on Vimeo. Seattle Met, is the media partner for the show, and Seattle Met’s Style Editor, Laura Cassidy, has hosted both years. This year she wore an avant-garde leather dress designed by last year’s winner, fur and leather designer Carole McClellan. Cassidy epitomized a cool, edgy glamour, while reminding the audience of the show’s mission as a support for fashion creatives. Her acknowledgement of them as artisans and craftsmen learning to navigate the industry gave show attendees a sense of an exciting and young industry being cultivated right here in the Northwest. She is clearly passionate about this project and announced that Seattle Met will be doing an in depth write-up about the process the designers underwent in crafting their garments which we will be able to read in the December issue of Seattle Met. Laura Cassidy took part in a larger panel of judges, who also served as mentors to the designers during the process of building their collections. Bringing a cohesive concept together for ten designers to showcase as many distinct stories is incredibly difficult, but IDRS 2013 produced by Terri Morgan of TCM Models was one of the best locally produced shows. The models, hair and makeup, music and transitions in between collections were seamless—a new standard of professionalism, sophistication and entertainment is being set around this fashion event. It even manages to be all that while still maintaining a grassroots, local feel that is so important to fostering a healthy community around an industry or cause. IDRS was a sold-out show and will surely gain popularity with every year.
The grand prize for the evening was awarded to Aykut Ozen. Our first introduction to him was at the EMP Black Leather Jacket show where he rocked the stage with a 60s/70s, Easy Rider-inspired collection. His designs speak to that motorcycle-rebel side of us that wants to ride out into the wild with nothing to lose. I only wish I could look good wearing that leather aviator skull hat I saw on the runway. The runners up were Erin Roby and Paychi Guh. If you missed the show or would like to know more about the artisanal aspect of these designs, don’t forget to read the December issue of Seattle Met. For now, here’s a brief overview of each collection.
Benu Cashmere by Claire Kim
The collection designed by Claire Kim is a combination of simple, easy to wear styles with not so simple design elements. These pieces are highly wearable by almost any woman and have a huge range for styling. When the garment is hanging it looks cozy and soft, something you would want to wear on a cold rainy day. But once styled for the runway, the pieces became chic enough for the most sophisticated fashionistas. Claire Kim has an extensive background in knitwear design and is well versed in machine and hand knitting techniques. The quality of her work and eye for design were evident throughout her collection.
Corban Harper by Corban Harper
The Corban Harper collection seemed to be designed and showcased to appeal to an idea of a super urban sub-culture. It has pieces that could be restyled and worn in other ways, although being versatile is not the point of this collection. The designer certainly had fun with the concept from the music, which was electronic and ultra hip, to the intensity of the actual design of the garments. High fashion designers frequently take their inspiration from a number of sub-culture references and this one is definitely that kind of collection. Watching it, one got the sense that these garments are something a certain type who frequents a certain kind of club would wear in a clique-ish setting. Maybe it had something to do with the ears on the models that made me think of furries. Glamorous, chic furries. Designer Corban Harper was named Best Emerging Designer by Seattle Met during 2012 Metropolitan Fashion Week and seems to have an established following in Seattle.
Erin Roby by Erin Roby
Erin Roby has earnest designs that suit a woman with an understated, demure, no nonsense approach to life. I thought of women from the suffrage movement and women in the 70s who walked the fine, often worrying line between being beautiful and being taken seriously by male colleagues. This kind of restraint runs the risk of being boring, and puts the pressure on the wearer to be fiercely intelligent and good looking on her own accord with little to support her. However, on the right body, the feminine lines with mannish accents can be astonishingly sexy. With that said, most women will find that having a few pieces from this collection as anchor pieces—the intention of the designer—could be a practical investment.
Lia Pal by Liuba Palanciuc
Over the top is Palanciuc’s design style. This collection is an example of the clothes wearing woman rather than the other way around. While some of the fabric combinations have the potential to be interesting, they simply go a few steps too far. By exercising restraint the designer may have been able to achieve the class and glamour she was aiming for. Throughout the show I found myself thinking of that Coco Chanel quote about taking one thing off before walking out the door. With some good ideas, there is room for improvement. I would have liked to have seen some longer skirt lengths and less texture in most cases, to avoid the feeling of redundant or superfluous elements within an outfit. Where I liked a top, I wished the bottom wasn’t competing to be the star of the outfit and vice versa. The archetype of Jackie-O meets married to the mob could be a target market…and this designer appears to be a good craftsman. This designer can certainly improve on her vision and do one better.
Michael Cepress by Michael Cepress
After seeing Michael Cepress’s show this summer, it was good to see the kind of momentum a designer can achieve when he or she gets press and community support. His segment of the show featured looks from his very cool and all American collection that has combination of hippies and civil war/plantation references. Artistically, his social commentary is beautiful. His fabrics and design concepts are well combined. The tailoring on the men’s pants is unique, giving them a distinct look that is very, very sexy. The rugged style and vests for men are also quite appealing. The women’s pieces do not have the same sexiness, nor are they body conscious the way the men’s garments are. They tell more of a story of a place in time without speaking too much to the needs of a modern woman. As art, Cepress’s collection is smart and well crafted. Cepress is an instructor at the University of Washington’s School of Art.
Ozen Company by Aykut Ozen
Ozen Company—another collection I was familiar with from a previous fashion show at the EMP—has Seattle written all over it. The styling creates nostalgia for the late 60, early 70s and it’s easy to imagine hipsters and Capitol Hill scenesters in these garments. It’s the garb of rebels and cool kids. Made from handcrafted leather with artistic elements from art deco and 30s work wear, the collection runs the risk of being costumey. However, in the case Ozen Company it doesn’t really matter because when taken on their own terms, individual pieces have the potential to add a very cool element to anyone’s wardrobe…and kids on the Hill really do dress in this very style, as do the scenesters in Portland and along the West Coast. Ozen Company was the pick of the show for a good reason: The collection is as Seattle as Seattle gets among the rock-n-rollers, and that is one of our cultural mainstays. Congrats to Ozen Company!
Paychi Guh by Paychi Karen Guh
Young, fun and flirty, this is another knitwear collection made entirely of cashmere. The styling targeted a wide range of women, and would be a confident way to spend a day being casual and comfortable while still looking great. The graphics show the complexity of design and care that Guh invests in her garments. Creating the concept for patterns such as these in the weave of a knit garment is challenging. Engineering high quality garments with style, while keeping them versatile and cohesive is her strength as a designer. Seeing this collection made me realize—I simply don’t own enough knitwear.
Sarsen by Heather Blanchard
The Sarsen Collection was intriguing. At first, I thought of a distinctly 80s aesthetic from a time when we were all hanging out in Seattle at Skoochies, and later The Vogue listening to Depeche Mode—all of a sudden I found myself wishing I had one of those Sarsen hoods back in those days. The next thought was, “How can I do it now? Oh wait, this is now, and it is being done!” I was a little hung up on the styling, however. My guess is that there is a local market that will appreciate this collection as is, but it could more sellable with some subtle tweaks. Either way, designer Heather Blanchard brings another distinctly Seattle perspective. With a black, white and red color motif, and enormous hoods, the collection made one think of a fetishistic Little Red Riding Hood all grown up. Overall, the concept is strong, and I would love to see women all over town wearing absurdly large hoods in the rain with bright lipstick and New York ponytails.
Trina Pierre by Trina Pierre
The Trina Pierre collection featured some great jackets, not to mention an outerwear smoking jacket with a polar fleece lining, which was a clever concept. There were some knit tops with interesting silhouettes as well. Although I am not a fan of the wrap dress featured in the collection, the rest of Pierret’s dresses were great. The silhouettes were flattering and chic, giving the wearer an instant air of sophistication for social and professional occasions. The hot pink dress featured in the photo was a beautiful garment, but the styling pulled it apart. The classic lady in pink—art patron meets dominatrix, perhaps—did not serve as the best showcase for this garment, because the tension and contrast is already in the design of the garment with the collar, the length and the shade of pink. The overall designs were good ideas, however the attempt to achieve a tension with contrasts in the styling gave the overall effect the feel of too much unnecessary stress. Nevertheless, there was a lot of good work shown by Pierre.
Wyatt Orr by Liise Wyatt and Karly Orr
The woman wearing this collection will be sneaking away from her friends tonight to meet up with her boyfriend, James Bond, after she single handedly saved the world from blowing up, and rescued puppies from a disastrous fate at the hand of evil doers who are now paying the price. The Wyatt Orr collection is hands down the most wearable and relevant collection in terms of dressing the modern woman in Seattle or anywhere. The perspective is consistent all the way around and highly marketable. These designs were suited for a corporate woman, an artistic woman, a community activist attending fundraising events, or a style maven hitting the latest gallery or hip new restaurant. Not only is this collection stylish, current and cohesive, a women with these pieces in her wardrobe could travel the globe and still be the among the most stylish in the room. The femininity, the cool edge, the level of simplicity and ease involved in this concept made this collection the winner for me. Photography by Haley McLain