After a Fashion

Reports from a rare week of fashion activity in Austin.

MUSINGS I hate nightclubs, and I hate fashion shows in nightclubs. Especially during Austin's annual drunkfest, Mardi Gras on Sixth Street. Aside from that, I had a very nice time at Mark Guerra's Muse fashion photography exhibition and accompanying fashion show at the Caucus Club on March 3. The owners of the club were gracious and pleasant, and the place was hopping, but there was, in fact, little space to see Mr. Guerra's exceptional work, and two-thirds of it never got shown. But what was shown was stunning and stylish, and always beautiful. Very nice work from a fine photographer. But if the club didn't have the best layout for a photo exhibition, it also made for awkward staging of the fashion show. But, lest I sound like I'm ragging on the club, I'm not. I am grateful that they provided the space for this fashion exhibition, and it was well-attended by a very mixed crowd, with everyone from our local fashionistas to the requisite contingent of drunk frat boys. With fun lighting and an effective soundtrack (although also with a deadly music-less break between the segments), at least it was fashion, and there's precious little opportunity to see it happen here. So, thank you, Caucus Club for staging this at all. But back to the show: Presented with clothing from Emeralds, and the UT Fashion Group, there was a variety of looks presented. From the Fashion Group, there were some strikingly original pieces that were glamorous and exotic and a pleasure to see. Emeralds showed a sizable group of, how can we say, youthful clothes, mainly separates in a plethora of splashy colors and wild prints. And while it was cute and bright, it's not my idea of fashion. On the other hand, these are clothes made for very young girls, and fashion means something different when you're that age. Besides, it isn't necessary that I like the clothes. It's important that Emerald's customers like the clothes. And judging from the audience reaction, they liked them too. So it would have to be considered a success. Part of the success can also be attributed to the models, and in no small part to the styling as well. The girls were luscious beauties, and a few of them were truly magnificent creatures, with spectacular style and dazzling stage presence. Especially the redhead with the Annie Lennox eyes. But they were all also made to be so impossibly beautiful by our friends at Wet, who did the make-up and hair. Employing a neo-geisha effect in the styling, Wet's Brandi, Eric, and Jimmy created wonderful make-up and elaborate dos wrapped around chopsticks that were then wrapped, spider-web-like, with colored cording. Very cool hair. For the Emeralds segment, the elaborate hair came apart, and we were treated to great big bad-girl redux hairdos that were reminiscent of the Ronettes and the Shangri-Las. Very fun, and perfect with the clothes. All in all, a very worthy effort and good work all around.

A WOMAN OF STEELE On the other end of the fashion spectrum, the Texas Exes Lecture Series, in association with the UT Fashion Group, presented Dr. Valerie Steele, who gave a talk based on her book Women in Fashion. While the material was distinctly geared toward the fashion students, and therefore somewhat elementary, Dr. Steele is an engaging speaker with a wealth of knowledge about fashion that few could ever dream of possessing. Her position as head curator at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology Museum puts her in close contact with a collection of historic clothing that is virtually unparalleled in its scope. Her retrospectives on fashion (or rather the retrospectives she oversees for FIT) are always breathtaking, and Dr. Steele's personal association with almost every major design house allows her to draw upon that for any resources needed to mount a show of the caliber of these shows. Having seen FIT's shows on Versace, Charles James, Geoffrey Beene, and Halston, I can assure you that Dr. Steele's knowledge, understanding, and deftness at producing these shows makes her a national treasure. Watch these pages for an upcoming interview with her. (Note to The Daily Texan: It's Madeleine Vionnet, not "Madeline Vionay," and it would be very difficult for Christian Dior himself to be a leading designer, since he's been dead since 1957. Let's do our homework next time.)

THE BIG MONEY Think there's no money to be made in the fashion business? Think again. Forbes magazine released the estimated wealth of several top designers. Three Americans take second, third, and fourth places: Tommy Hilfiger with personal income of $22 million, Calvin Klein with $21.5 million, and Donna Karan with $20 million. First place? Giorgio Armani, who took home a staggering $135 million.

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