Glitz and glamour at 2022’s West 18th Street Fashion Show
The West 18th Street Fashion Show started at dusk June 11, 2022.
The theme of “Summer Colosseum” welcomed onlookers to the designers’ collections, inspired by all things Greco-Roman.
Planned months in advance, the show was taking shape to go on without a hitch, but due to a last-minute thunderstorm prediction, the stage crew scrambled to move the event inside for safety.
The original runway was set to be a lifted platform on 18th Street, located outside of The Bauer—a historic warehouse in the Crossroads District. Seating consisted of individual chairs with bleachers behind them.
Amid the quick turnaround, all hands were on deck to rearrange seating and sound configuration. A spectacle of eleventh-hour scrambling, it served as a testament to the creativity and fast-thinking of a highly skilled team here to elevate fashion in the metro by any means necessary.
As patrons grabbed drinks at the pre-show VIP party, stagehands could be seen unloading microphones and speakers from the elevator and promptly transporting them into The Bauer’s interior ballroom.
In the same spell, volunteers and board members of West 18th were left to deal with new seating arrangements. The balancing act was finally stabilized just as finishing touches were given the green light.
Outside of the switch in schematics, West 18th took on more of a traditional vibe this time around. Last year, the effort included a collaboration between architects and construction companies, and 2020 yielded the film Summer in Hindsight.
By focusing on a straightforward runway and separate exhibitions of each clothing lot, the display was brought back to the nitty-gritty.
As the models walked the perimeter of the room during the show, the Summer Colosseum soon came to fruition through the garments on display. From gladiator-esque leather attire to flowing robes with handwoven embellishments, the multi-faceted touches of each designer were taking the main stage at last.
The nine metro-based alumni designers included 3 Minc, Renee’ Larouge, Craig Rohner, Birdies, NidaLu Handmade, Red Hare Leather, and 2S Design House. One of the only outside artists featured was Zaid Farouki, a Dubai-based designer. His pieces can be found on his website and Instagram.
At the time that each designer was tasked with generating their own concept on the theme, Co-owner of NidaLu Handmade Courtney Vardar found herself with a stroke of luck. A part of her collection, which aligned perfectly with the theme, was actually conceptualized and produced before the motif was released. Her luck took shape in a layered metal pendant inset with the outline of mythical Gorgon Medusa’s head.
NidaLu’s inspiration was stirred by Greco-Roman mythology and more. Vardar says, “This collection, in particular, was really inspired by mythology, religion, and fairy tales.” She decided to dedicate a Greek goddess to each of her models. From a shell used as an ode to “The Birth of Venus” painting, and a bow to arm her Artemis, the props accentuated each character.
Each of NidaLu’s garments was constructed from Suzani fabric, a tribal textile with origins in Central Asia. The material was embroidered with symmetrical, sweeping designs, and welcomed viewers with a warm color palette.
Even though most designers are wrapped up in last-minute multi-tasking, makeup matters, and costuming crises, a select few double as West 18th show directors.
Senior Artistic Director and Co-owner of Birdies, Peregrine Honig, marked her 22nd year with West 18th. Operating Birdies alongside Alexis Burgrabbe, Honig had her own products returning to the show as a veteran brand.
As designer and director, Honig knows the ins and outs of each show. Whether it be port-a-potty delivery, staging, lighting, music, or programs, she’s the automatic go-to. Since the productions vary so greatly each year, she believes the label of “fashion show” doesn’t quite fit the event, or even limits the scope of what audiences should expect.
Honig says while detailing the event’s history, “It isn’t really a show, it’s more like a spectacle. The things we bring in haven’t been seen before.”
While Medusa pendants were strung around the necks of some models, flowing unisex daywear decked the shoulders of others. Amongst the throng of cogs propelling an ever-revolving trend wheel lies the face of each designer’s statement and those who give the creations a frame to adorn—the models.
NidaLu Handmade model and acting Aphroditus, Dawson Lambert, says that the show has been a great experience overall this year.
Summer Colosseum marked Lambert’s first year walking in West 18th. He attributes the show’s lively energy and success to the board of directors, and their experience with planning previous programs. He’s appeared in Kansas City Fashion Week, the ICT Fashion Tour in Wichita, and works with smaller brands to promote their products.
West 18th wasn’t just an opportunity to recognize the fashion around the metro, Lambert says, “It’s really more about showcasing the fashion as an art form.”
Every “fashion show” evokes a slew of different genres, levels, and courses through which the costumiers air out their cleverness. Faye Woods, owner, and operator of Red Hare Leather, delivered their models with chains and whips, absolutely exciting the pack.
Red Hare focused on the versatility of each item. Their models were emphasized to have a more androgynous look through their makeup. Each subject was illustrated in the same style: three were painted with a black stripe obscuring their eyes while the other two were awarded gold.
Woods says of their brand, “It’s about people feeling good in their bodies, and in their sexuality, and in their gender, and just showing strength.”
Red Hare Leather presented harnesses in deep and light browns, a pair of black suspenders, and ecru bracelets. Even a white gladiator-inspired skirt sauntered across the floor.
After the alumni designers unveiled their respective talents, the leading man, Zaid Farouki, concluded the program, contributing a taste of the Arabian Peninsula. Farouki’s label operates its home base in Dubai and specializes in embroidered designs as well as unisex garments that embrace a mix of comfort and couture for clientele.
A representative of Farouki says, “Obviously the Middle East is a conservative place. With Zaid—he’s breaking through barriers. He was one of the first Dubai-based designers that started to do unisex collections.”
His previous work has graced the pages of Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, and he dressed American rapper and singer-songwriter Pharrell Williams for the cover of Vogue Man Arabia in April.
The finishing assemblage included mesh negligées, tan and black printed lingerie sets, a flowing ivory tunic, and the final raiment of the entire show.
As model Eva Von Schlemmer rounded the runway’s corner, a silent goodnight to the crowd whispered over the air. In a caged metal dress, her silhouette sent light cascading throughout the room. The ostrich-feathered plumes on her helmet bowed in a show of thanks to West 18th attendees.
While West 18th’s Board of Directors made one final victory lap on the runway—mantled with laurel wreaths to identify their posts—the band let their cover of “We Are The Champions” fly free.
All photos by Zach Bauman