The Austin Chronicle

After a Fashion

By Stephen MacMillan Moser, June 23, 2000, Columns

THE VIEW FROM HERE "I am Addison DeWitt. My native habitat is the theatre. In it, I toil not, neither do I spin. I am a critic and a commentator; I am essential to the theatre," says George Sanders in All About Eve. It makes me sound, at best, like an ingrate, and at worst, like a hypocrite, to say I support the Austin fashion scene, and then turn around and criticize fashion shows. What does that really make me? Tired. And unpopular. After all, at least there are fashions shows here, and that's good, right? Isn't any fashion show better than no fashion shows? Definitely maybe. It depends on your point of view. My particular POV is from the vantage point of a person who really cares about fashion and would like to see standards of excellence adopted not only in the fashions themselves but also across the runway, in the actual production of the shows. This past Friday (June 16) offered two shows, in two locations, scheduled to start at exactly the same time.

COSMOPOLITANS AT THE CAUCUS CLUB This club has been the venue for recent shows, and it exhibits a strong show of support for the Austin fashion scene. As far as the venue is concerned, this last show, the Launch Party for the ÜberModels agency, was a vast improvement from previous outings, with the club having taken the unprecedented step of cutting away the handrail along the stairs so that the models could walk directly on to the stage instead of through the audience. This enormous step in the right direction makes the club more fashion-show-friendly. With their array of really cool music and lighting effects, the club has a great deal to offer the fashion community. But as I've said before, it is a difficult place to see a fashion show. My last experience taught me to get there early and stake out a place right next to the runway; otherwise, few clothes would be seen at all. My careful preparation achieved only marginal success. Behind us, an unknown (and perhaps vertically challenged) clubgoer was screaming, "All you tall people in front need to move to the back!" On the front lines, we were jostled around and even ordered around by photographers, clamoring to get a good shot. The company of fashion photographers can be entertaining, indeed, with one muttering, "Oh, God, here comes the fog machine ..." Another photographer (whom we'll call "Todd Wolfson") has been rumored to say that the real entertainment is the reactions on the faces of me and my fellow fashion connoisseurs (who shall remain nameless at their own request) to what comes down the runway.

PASSAGE TO INDI-A At best, the second annual Indi-Pop Fashion Show at the Flamingo Cantina show was a successful benefit for the SIMS Foundation, bringing local retailers together with the Sixth Street club crowd. At worst, it was a disorganized, sloppy affair with the same poor production values that mar most nightclub fashion shows. Even with the addition of a runway, the efforts of the retailers were lost among bad lighting and the use of the ubiquitous but hackneyed fog machine. It typifies the phenomenon of grading fashion on a rock & roll curve, and prevents the show from attaining the professional results and major attention that it deserves ... Not that this opinion was influenced by the doorman who looked at us like we were some form of tourist vermin and demanded to see ID, disbelieving that we could possibly be on the guest list (wrong on both counts!). Otherwise, the Flamingo Cantina is a very fun little club with a lot of style and spirit and has every opportunity to turn this show into an important fashion event that attracts the fashion crowd, the music crowd, and the casual observer.

There must be some median between Flamingo Cantina and the spectacle of UT's Erwin Center show. Club DeVille gets it right, and even Atomic Cafe does, by providing space for photographers and seating for the serious viewers and the press, and setting standards that every club intent on presenting on a fashion show should meet. The seating issue, far from being an elitist demand, serves to keep the standing-room crowd back from the runway, allowing the largest number of people to actually see the clothes. And isn't that the purpose of a fashion show? Maybe it's a case of not being able to please all the people all the time, but in my view, these standards have already been established in Austin, and no matter what kind of fashion show is being presented, the club, the designers, the retailers, the models, and the viewers will all benefit from a better production.

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