Out-of-Fashion Week in Washington

If D.C. Fashion Week had any sway in the style realm, next season’s attire for men and women would be brimming with sequins, velour, pleather, mesh, iridescent fabric, feathers, shells, sparkles and rhinestones. Bare midriffs would be back, and gaucho pants would have never left. Natural fabrics would be a major faux pas, and poly-rayon blend – the shinier the better – would be a status symbol. Thank goodness D.C. is about as relevant to the fashion industry as DeMoines, Iowa, or else we would all be dressed like drag queens.

In a city known for men in stodgy and conservative suits, and women who wear white tennis shoes with skirts and never go without pantyhose, it was quite a surprise to arrive at Fashion Week’s shows and see models who may or may not have just stepped out of Liberace’s closet. Perhaps the use of sequins and glitz was a knee-jerk reaction to the excessive amount of Brooks Brothers suits – an attempt to liven up a city that many in the fashion world deem dreadfully dreary.

Rather than the tents of Bryant Park, D.C. Fashion Week’s models walked the runways of the nightclub Love on Saturday night and the French Embassy on Sunday evening. Saturday’s show was entirely swimwear by the brand Corjor International, a local line by Ean Williams, who also was one of the founding organizers of Fashion Week.

Williams, who could be Blair Underwood’s twin, sent dozens of models down the runway in variations of the same suit – a strapless one-piece with cutouts in the sides and back. A few bikinis and thongs were in the collection, as well as some teeny briefs for men, which came in laughably shiny fabrics and outlandish colors. The hot-pink boxer-brief shorts on a beefy male model were a hit with the mostly-female crowd.

The following day’s shows were held at the Embassy of France, which seemed like an attempt to lend an air of authority to the event. One can’t help but wonder what the surely-stylish French employees of the embassy might have thought as they saw models in black bras under crocheted mesh, sequined butterflies tied around models’ breasts with string and a pair of shorts made out of evergreen-colored faux fur. The lines of taste were stretched about as thin as a black pleather, rhinestone-accented dress, which made the skinny model wearing it look plus-sized.

Most of the designs paraded down the runway looked more like costumes, or a parody of fashion, than fashion itself. Virtually no piece of fabric was left unadorned or un-sparkling – a sensory overload that any Project Runway judge would deem his or her worst nightmare. Not helping the situation was the master of ceremonies, WKYS radio’s Jeannie Jones. Jones enhanced the amateur vibe by loudly encouraging each model to “work it, girl,” as she strutted down the runway, and added in the occasional “meow!” Designers also seemed to be confused about which season the show was for. Some showed outfits that included winter eveningwear and real fur shawls in the same line as flirty spring dresses and summer crochet. The rest of the world’s fashion weeks are presently for spring collections, but even the designer who organized D.C. Fashion Week showed a fur coat and swimwear one after the other.

Designer Zula Khramov proved to be the saving grace in the show. She sent her models out in simple cocktail dresses with clean lines and, thankfully, not a hint of glitter in sight, reminding the crowd the value of the adage, “less is more.” Another refreshing aspect of D.C. Fashion Week was the strong presence of African American designers, which do not get as much attention in fashion weeks at other cities.

It’s great to think that local designers have the chance to give the city’s image a complete overhaul. But what D.C. Fashion Week tells us about our city is that we should ditch our lawyer-like gray suits and plain-Jane Ann Taylor Loft duds for some feathers, rhinestones and lace. Which D.C. designer will step up to create the happy medium? The city needs a blend of sensibility and sass, of pinstripes and python print, of seersucker and sequins. And for heaven’s sake, ditch the velour.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.