After a Fashion

Stephen sits on a panel and judges others … twice, and Club DeVille's spring you-know-what

A dreamy evening gown entry for the UT fashion show captured by the fabulous Steven Noreyko
A dreamy evening gown entry for the UT fashion show captured by the fabulous Steven Noreyko (Photo By Steven Noreyko)

THE BIG SHOW Year after year, the UT Spring Fashion Spectacular is a fabulous event. Its production value ranks it at the very top of fashion events in Austin, and it is a rare glimpse of a "real" runway show. Its producers have a great deal to be proud of. So do some of the graduates who showed their work that night. We saw a major wave of voluptuous shapes inspired by 1950s couture, as well as numerous references to the 1920s. There were some absolutely wonderful creations – fun playwear, chic dresses, gorgeous gowns – that all looked marvelous on the runway, and the range of approaches to styling was impressive.

GARDEN OF DELIGHTS I have just spent a fascinating two days participating in an open call for local designers to present their wares at the Garden Room. The event was put together by the store's owner, Patty Hoffpauir, who assembled a panel including herself; her store manager, Julie Copp; J. Gavin Smith of Dallas' Fashion Industry Gallery; Eddaicsa Dean of Tribeza; and myself. Besides scouting for design potential, the point was to provide advice and feedback to prospective merchandisers. We must have seen more than a hundred presentations over the two-day period, and what an eye-opening experience it was. So many presenters were nervous facing the panel; at times it was very moving to see designers and artists who were showing their work for the first time – some of it very good, a lot of it very mediocre, and some of it excruciatingly bad. It would be fair to say that purse- and jewelry-making are epidemics in Austin. Smith, our out-of-town panelist, said he'd never seen anything like it in any city he's shopped. Everyone makes purses or jewelry. The majority of purses were one-of-a-kind slouchy vintage-fabric shoulder bags, though we saw bags of every description and every material. We're going to talk more at length about purse designers soon ... pencil it in, maybe for next Thursday? As far as jewelry was concerned, we saw incredible creations, but the bulk of it all was very pretty, very ordinary jewelry: semiprecious stones strung this way and that, with a sameness due to most of the designers finding their materials at the same outlets. And hats and scarves – we saw some faaabulous ones, from hand-painted to hand-felted, from to-die-for vintage reproductions to pieces of modern art. We saw yoga clothing and accessories, clothes for nursing mothers, goth wear, pajamas, clothes with hidden pockets for drugs(!), T-shirts, and evening gowns. Being on the panel was not easy. So many had come pouring their hearts and souls out on the table in front of us. We tried to be gentle, but at the same time, we also did not want to give false hope if the work didn't warrant it. Some were delightful exchanges with eager participants wanting any advice, recommendations, and criticism we had for them. Others could get very defensive, telling us that back home in Minnesota or L.A. or San Antonio, their goods were selling like wildfire. In many cases, we simply referred the designers to other stores we thought might be interested in their work. We had frank discussions about pricing and quality. I'm sure several were not thrilled with what we had to say, but I can't help but think that many others walked away with a little bit more knowledge about retail and marketing than they knew before. I also think that we provided a valuable service and may consider doing it again. Feedback and suggestions welcome: style@austinchronicle.com or gardrm@prismnet.com.

IT'S THAT TIME AGAIN Yes, it's time once again for Club DeVille's Spring Fashion Extravaganza, Wednesday, May 12, 8pm (900 Red River). The riotous biannual event includes fashions from Blackmail, Blue Velvet, Flipnotics, Legs Diamond, Shiki, Therapy, and Upstairs. Entertainment features DJ Fuckin' A and hosts Emily Fawcett and Joel Mozersky, as well as complimentary snacks and drink specials. Tickets ($10 general admission, $30 VIP) are available at participating boutiques and Club DeVille... On Friday, April 30, 6-9:30pm, F8 Fine Art Gallery presents its Art for AIDS benefit, with proceeds going to the David Powell Health Center. Featuring art, floral creations, and door prizes, admission is a minimum $25 donation... The Patty Mora Photography Studio (4501 Red River) presents Glamour Puss Fine Art Sale, featuring luxuries for people and pets in an open studio/artists' showcase, Saturday, May 1, 11am-7pm, exhibiting and selling the photography, jewelry, paintings, and accessories from 20 of Austin's finest artists and designers. Call 420-0035 for further info... Also reminding you about the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center's annual Hill Country Celebration, Friday, May 7, 6:30pm. For more information and to see the wonderful art for the silent auction, go to www.wildflower.org/?nd=gala.

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