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After a Fashion

Your Style Avatar wants Austin to actually have a fashion industry, not just the appearance of one

By Stephen MacMillan Moser, Fri., March 11, 2011

Dancer Mizarre, aka Raven Hinojosa, nestles with AAF Editor Kate X Messer after the dancer's performance at ASA's Viva! Las Vegas event.
Dancer Mizarre, aka Raven Hinojosa, nestles with "AAF" Editor Kate X Messer after the dancer's performance at ASA's Viva! Las Vegas event.
Photo by Seabrook Jones/www.juicythis.com

VIVA MAX I always love it when you've just gotten out of your hearse limousine (www.hauntedatx.com) and entered the lobby when you hear your name being called from the stage and have to work your way through the charmingly dressed crowd of guests and friends to make it to your seat at the table of honor ... to be thanked for your contributions and support. It was indeed a special appearance for me at AIDS Services of Austin's annual Viva Las Vegas fundraiser. I can't even remember how many years I've been going, but I can tell you that this is the kind of fundraiser that makes it so much fun to do so much good. It has evolved tremendously while still retaining its original concept. The showgirl presentations put together by the beautiful Coco Coquette further cement her growing reputation as someone you want involved in your event. Brava, Viva and ASA, on a job well done.

GOLLY-ANO John, John, John. What were you thinking? It seems inconceivable that John Galliano, creative director of one of the most vaunted couture houses in history would be summarily fired. But who knew that Galliano was the Mel Gibson of haute couture? I remember how shocking it was when Galliano was appointed, and though there have been a few lapses of taste (remember the homeless couture collection?), he has created dozens and dozens of dazzling collections that took the House of Dior from the Fifties to the Nineties. But talk about unemployable ....

STYLE BY AUSTIN I've voiced my concerns recently about all this "fashion" that seems to be exploding in our faces here in Austin. We have fashion weeks, style weeks, fashion councils, fashion panels, fashion associations, fashion groups ... and it's all based on the concept that we have real fashion here. We have some fashion here, but not much. There are indeed deeply talented designers in town, but a lot of what you see are the beta tests of young people who "like" fashion. Unfortunately, just because one might want to be in the fashion business does not mean they are in the fashion business simply by saying so. This creates a culture of faux designers who may have some clever ideas but little or no professional training, technical skills, or knowledge of the business of fashion. The very minute they've imagined two ragtag garments next to each other, suddenly they must have a fashion show. This is not correct. A show should be a culmination of training, concept, and perfect samples. Then business types and promoters circle like vultures trying to figure out how to make money off all this raw energy. The promoters don't know any more about fashion than the youngsters they're dealing with, but their money is made by charging designers, models, and stylists to be involved in their show. It is a parody of the business of fashion compounded by the fact that the comparatively small amount of original design work that is being shown is diluted – being shown alongside runway presentations from local boutiques and the things they've bought in Dallas, L.A., etc. The lines are blurry enough to make a novice think that there really is a fashion industry in Austin. And blurry enough to obscure the line between the business of fashion vs. fashion as entertainment. Austin has an established propensity for misnaming events to sound like the real events that occur in the fashion business. Please don't call what we do a "fashion week."

STYLE BY SXSW All that said, I have hopes for South by Southwest's Style X (pronounced "Style By") , Fri.-Sat., March 18-19, at the Austin Convention Center. Style X appears to be catering to the SXSW attendee, and in that, they have a built-in audience of thousands. The website (www.stylexaustin.com) bills it as "an exhibition aimed at showcasing emerging talent in the fashion industry." In Austin, local Progress Coffee (500 San Marcos St., 493-0963) maven/entrepreneur Joshua Bingamon is firmly established 'round these parts. His fashion venture, Helm Boots (www.helmhandmade.com), is the elegant result of design touches from around the globe – designed in Austin, handmade in Istanbul, Turkey, with leather from Holland and Australia, and soles from Italy and France. Locally, they are available at Stag on SoCo and have caused enough of a stir to earn a "Best of Austin" from us last year. It will be interesting to see Helm in this context. Local company Criquet (www.criquetshirts.com) offers colorful twists (in the form of organic fabrics – how Austin) on polo shirts. Tikkr designs and sells (what else?) watches, of course, with eye-popping, interchangeable bands. This might be the venue for this Austin-based team to become this year's SwatchXSwatchWest. I think these locals can hold their own next to the megavendors Keds and American Apparel in this self-proclaimed "fashion trade show." Again, going back to my original points about Austin fashion: The style that typically is on display during SXSW is an indistinct blur of band T-shirts, ill-fitting jeans, hoodies, and lots of black. If SXSW had developed through the years, say, a slavish Burning Man-devotion to dressing, then a fashion trade show might not seem so radical or weird. At the end of the day, Style X will put fashion in the SXSW spotlight. An entire new world of fashion is not only being brought to us here in Austin, but Austin also gets to share its own style with the rest of the world, too. If Style X can get SXSW out of the black hoodie box, they will have certainly earned my respect. On a side note: The SX fashionistas still have a call out for volunteers for a number of available shifts, so if you are curious about all this but not a badge holder, here's a way to work your way in: www.stylexaustin.com/volunteer.

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