After a Fashion

Glossing the heights and depths of fashion, as reflected by last Saturday's big show at the Austin Music Hall.

THE DECLINE & FALL The critic's pronouncements of success or failure of New York's recent fashion week are critical to the designers who are presenting; the show itself becomes a 20-minute, live-or-die drama. But, ultimately, the show is about the clothes, and everything else is geared toward making the clothes look great. End of story. Then we have what can be called the VH1-ization of fashion, a movement that began in the heyday of the supermodel, when the world was entranced by the perceived glamour of the fashion business. What we were really entranced with were fashion shows, which are, of course, a by-product of the fashion business. The focus shifted from the clothes to the models, and the fashion show became an entity unto itself. Enter VH1, MTV, and E! Entertainment (among the worst offenders), who proliferate this idea that any old clothes will do; it's not about the clothes anyway -- it's about the presentation. It has to have loud music, disco lighting, lots of babes in barely there outfits, and it has to be fun to watch when you're drinking (which is probably redundant). We wind up with parodies of fashion shows, where the most important thing is that that babe bouncing down the runway needs to look like she's hot to trot. The end result is a nation of children entranced with the super-ho look of Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez, and Britney Spears. Thank you, VH1, for the many blessings you have bestowed upon us. "On the other hand," said a nonfashion professional, in what was a remarkably accurate observation, "who would have ever thought that you'd see fashion shows on television?"

ONE DOWN, THREE TO GO The Good, The Bad & The Beautiful, held last Saturday night at the Austin Music Hall, would have won raves from VH1's fashion committee. Billed on the Web site as an E! Entertainment presentation, it looked like E!'s idea of a fashion show, but, disappointingly, E! seemed unable to attend. The show was heavy on big hair and big attitudes on the runway, while the clothes being worn took a back seat to the disco lights. And sometimes the clothes should have been in the back seat -- like those of Urban Outfitters, for instance, mass-produced, cheap-quality, cookie-cutter schlock that made the runway look like a hallway in a UT dorm. Other clothes were provided by a number of sources including local retailers St. Thomas, Big Bertha's, the soon-to-open Vylette, as well as local designers Amy Renee Turnbull, Gail Chovan, and myself. Levity was provided by a well-planned invasion by designer Levi Palmer & the Tribe of Leviticus, dressed in their outré best, who threatened to take over the runway and show the world what real fashion is all about. A whirlwind named Herve (and his gloriously able-bodied assistant, Kimberly), from Claudine & Carlos Hair Design, masterminded the organization of the beauty battalion that included, of course, all our friends from Wet Salon, Kathy and Brian (among others) from Maximum FX, and the folks from Avant, Innu, and Jungle Red (what a fabulous name). As a music and fashion event, TGTB&TB was an admirable concept that did not quite get off the ground. Producers Mark Guerra and Ali Valentine approach the fashion show business from the modeling point of view, making sure to provide a major spectacle, and their intentions were honorable. But the Music Hall was too big, and begged for a larger crowd. The lovely Chrysta Bell performed, among others, but a last-minute decision to move the starpower of the evening, Bob Schneider, to an earlier spot in the show was the kiss of death.

IT'S HEEEERE Tonight, Thursday, Sept. 28, 7-10pm, IDoL Gallery/Boutique, 2026 S. Lamar, 445-5678, celebrates its grand opening. The gallery features clothing, jewelry, and accessories from local designers as well as an exhibition of fashion images from some of Austin's finest photographers.

MOST ASKED QUESTION "Did you give Brooks Coleman the BOA Critics Pick for 'Best Avant-Garde Fashion Designer?'" The answer is no, I did not. The engaging Mr. Coleman, whom we've profiled here before, makes fascinating products, such as metal bras for exotic dancers. This falls into the category of wearable art. A fashion designer is one whose course of training culminates in the experience and knowledge to use dozens of techniques to combine different materials into garments designed for a multitude of uses. That's my definition of a fashion designer. Maybe next year we'll submit our Critics Picks early.

Write to our Style Avatar with your related events, news, and hautey bits: style@auschron.com or PO Box 49066, Austin, 78765 or 458-6910 (fax).

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