You’re sitting in the front row and you could practically reach out and touch the models walking past. The designer is following her models for the final walk and the line features strappy outfits of deep blue velvet next to Springy floral dresses. The crowd applauds the designer and the massive black pit of media at the end of the red carpet runway snap photos.
You’re not in New York. You’re not in Milan. You’re not in Paris. You’re at Fashion Week 2012…in Eugene, Oregon.
I’ll be candid here. When I decided to attend Eugene Fashion Week, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Local styles that come to mind are tie-dye, Birkenstocks, flannel shirts, and biking messenger bags. Eugene may be a mecca of art when it comes to music, visuals, and crafts (a.k.a. things you would find at downtown’s Saturday Market), but let’s be honest- it’s no fashion metropolis.
However, this year’s Fashion Week may have changed my mind. The event took place over three days with the “Lingerie and Bathing Suit show” on Wednesday at the Oak Street Speakeasy, the “Ready to Wear and Evening Wear show” on Friday at the Broadway Commerce Building, and the “All Ages, Avant Garde and Costume Show” on Saturday, also at the Commerce Building.
I chose Friday’s show and was unexpectedly very impressed. Revivall Clothing by designer and co-producer of Eugene Fashion Week Laura Lee Laroux was especially original, with detailed and sometimes fringed leather belts topping full floral skirts with multiple layers and patterns. Paired with either heels or cowboy boots and lavish feathered hair accessories, Laroux’s designs manage to ride the often difficult line between voguish invention and wearably realistic. Laroux herself is flighty and adorable, and she even stopped to talk to me for a few minutes in between shows despite her waiting models backstage. “Each year, Eugene Fashion Week gets bigger,” she said. “We realized we were doing three hour shows last year, so we decided to start splitting it up.”
Deluxe by designer and co-producer of Eugene Fashion Week, Mitra Chester was charmingly Candyman-esque with high-waisted double button shorts, vintage red striped bow tops, and white gloves. The line, entitled “Postmodern Pinups,” was refreshingly preppy, and therefore almost anti-Eugene. The designs also stood apart from much of the “repurposed clothes” to appear thoroughly well crafted. Fortunately, it’s easy to find Chester’s designs locally as she co-owns both Deluxe and Kitsch.
Amanda Prussak also presented her new line, “Orphan No More,” and her use of color was perfect for Spring 2012. With bold combinations of cobalt blue, tangerine orange, hot pink, and sage green, Prussak’s designs are sure to bring us out of our rainy Eugene slumps.
With a wide range of innovative designers and talented performers like Mood Area 52, I almost forgot I was in Eugene. Worry not, though. Our city still has, and always will have, its beatnik roots. After all, the hipster sitting in front of me at the show was sipping green yerba maté out of a mason jar. Classic.