Photos by Tiffany Bri.
On Friday September 18, Fashion First held their twelfth annual fashion show benefitting Inspire Youth Project and The Crescent Moon Foundation. An independently run fashion show, Fashion First has always had a claim to legitimacy with their hard-hitting sponsors and fundraising events for good causes. Inspire Youth Project’s main mission, to “offer emotional support and advocacy to at-risk children and youth,” is an undeniably great cause whose pull at the heartstrings only further draws in guests. The Crescent Moon Foundation also aims to support youth with opportunities for educational support and scholarships. Fundraising for admirable causes and the fun of a fashion show is the ideal partnership of supporting the community and fostering the arts.
In the spirit of September, I was excited to attend Fashion First. This month has held a whirlwind of fashion-motivated events. I started the month with the Bellevue Arts Museum’s “Counter-Couture” exhibit, concerning the fashion movements of the ’60s and ’70s that reflected culture and society (read my article on what went down at the VIP Preview Party here). While looking ahead to ending the month with the Bellevue Collection’s Fashion Week, September 23-27, Fashion First was well-placed as the perfect Seattle event to get my feet wet in the runway business.
This year’s Fashion First was themed 12th Man, a Seattle shoutout that also alludes to the runway show’s twelfth consecutive year. The show had an impressive roster of sponsors, primarily Shane Co., who auctioned off beautiful jewelry throughout the whole night. Representatives on the runway included boutiques like Magnolia boutique The Brik, Bellevue’s perfect street chic La Ree Boutique, men’s easy style from Annette Dresser for J.Hilburn and big retail names like Intermix. The boutiques put together cohesive looks for fall while showcasing what they have available for customers. Sydney Mintle, a fashionista and founder of Gossip & Glamour, heads the Public Relations and Marketing aspects of the show. All these prominent fashion names and labels raised my excitement for a successful show and a big evening of fundraising and fashion.
The standard for Seattle fashion shows has been set by the Nordstrom Designer Preview Show, which I attended a month prior (check out the scene of Nordstrom Designer Preview here), and my expectations were set accordingly. But upon arriving at Showbox Sodo, my expectations of the upcoming evening immediately shifted. Parking was hard to come by and the valet was steep. The vibe of the venue was very different from the elegantly set-up Pier 91, as pop music blared a little too loudly. When VS photographer Tiffany Bri and I went to go check in, our names were nowhere to be found – disorganized but understandable, as the PR people likely had a lot to deal with. Tiffany and I shrugged it off and were not quick to dismiss the event.
When I walked in, I was immediately labeled as “media,” which turned out to be a negative. Tiffany and I were told to stay in the Media Lounge during the show, and Tiffany Bri was not allowed on the platform with the other event photographers, so she would not be able to get optimal photos, I would not be able to see a lot of the show. Being 5’2″ is not ideal for concerts, but I never thought it would be an issue at a Fashion Show. The Nordstrom Designer Preview I attended earlier this season respected their media as much as the rest of the guests, with seats labeled for all press representatives, despite their being segregated to a designated press area. And while the Nordstrom Designer Preview had international guests dressed to the nines, at Fashion First, I felt like I was witnessing Forever 21 on coke. I quickly came to accept that this was not Nordstrom Designer Preview.
Moving on, the night itself was a circus, and I spent a lot of energy trying not to dismiss the event. The causes were amazing and the turn-out impressive, so I continued to be optimistic. The auction portion of the evening commenced with the energetic John Curley as the auctioneer, auctioning off different packages with a few Seahawks goodies. Joan Kelly, Fashion First’s organizer and director, urged guests to keep bidding.
Once the actual fashion show began, I found that I was actually pleased with the first set. La Ree Boutique hit the runway with beautiful fall pieces, including lots of burgundy and layers. Intermix also took the stage and did not disappoint, with a black and white palette complete with leather jackets, fur and turtlenecks. These pieces definitely induced an excitement for fall fashion, and my hope in this show began to flutter again.
But then the show got confusing. Some of the dresses, while beautiful, were pastel and floral, seeming to belong more to a spring collection rather than a fall one. Then designer Elizabeth Jane presented a show not just of Spring attire, but swimwear.
The last set consisted of pieces made by Seattle Art Institute students. In order to keep with the 12th Man theme, students had been instructed to design pieces using Seahawk paraphernalia, limiting their talents to the theme of something that is hardly fashion related. I can’t imagine that the resulting outfits were the best showcase of these young designers’ skills, and I also couldn’t help but notice that some people around me took this time to take a restroom break.
For someone who was so excited to see previews of fall trends, I finally gave up the notion that I was there to see a serious show. It became clear that fashion was not being treated like an industry in which peoples’ livelihood and talent are important, but rather that the event was about fundraising and partying.
I understand that Fashion First is primarily an auction, but to me it felt like the art of celebrating fashion had been completely abandoned. That the evening included an auction and fundraising efforts is not the problem at all, but rather that it ended up feeling like a justification for the lack of world fashion standards. Even the behavior of the guests felt skewed: people were yelling in support of certain models, again taking the focus away from the actual fashion. To add to it all, the social bit of it was bizarre, and the cliquey aspect of this particular crowd was tangible. It seemed to be an opportunity for a lot of people to exaggerate their own importance while corrupting the integrity of the fashion and businesses in the process.
In what ended up feeling like a train wreck of a high school reunion, a good cause was all that kept it afloat. Fashion First was able to raise $100,000 for Inspire Youth Project and the Crescent Moon Foundation, and those at the event got the benefit of entertaining people-watching and extremely strong drinks.