Everyone knows those few fateful moments before an auspicious occasion that there’s always one question looming over the minds of the fashionably inclined: what do I wear???
I’ve always felt like I was kind of on the outside looking in. And this was the ultimate, nay, the Olympics of that exact feeling, because, well, I was attending my very first fashion show. Hold for reaction….
This was literally all of my colleague’s dream come true. Granted, it wasn’t Paris, or New York even, but it was my city. A city that holds a lot of history, and culture and art to rival any of it’s counterparts. That’s what Fashion on the Square was all about: bringing the best of the Bay area (designers, models, hair stylists, makeup artists, etc.) to one place to celebrate fashion and what our little sliver of the world has to offer; so I was expected to look my best. It may have taken me about 9 tries, but I finally settled on the perfect all black ensemble and was off.
If my fears of inadequacy weren’t apparent at this point, they certainly were the second I set eyes on the venue: just the lobby to The Intercontinental San Francisco Hotel was enough to make any chic disciple think they’d died and gone to a heaven with sleeker lines and more modern silhouettes. As the team and I approached the entrance, we were met by photographers, and security and a polite gentleman who had informed us we were just a touch early (oops).
But this was really no problem at all. Seeing the droves of people coming in and out, waiting outside; models in the show, their makeup ready and hair teased to the ceiling, photographers, trying to get any shot of anyone who was anyone. And of course, there were the chic elite. Those who had come to not only show their support for the designers (models and hairstylists alike) but also to show off their most stylish spring ensembles. I saw tulle, chiffon, silk, leather, gowns, full skirts, fitted blazers, dapper gentleman and some of the cutest little kids you’d ever seen, all dressed to impress.
Once the doors to the grand room were opened, the entire feeling started to set in. The press was there in full force, the first two rows had already been filled by VIP, and the runway was gleaming under the house lights, just waiting. Ten years of preparation had all come to this. The amount of time, effort and skill it required to put on an event like this was all the loving work of one Y’Anad Burrell, a good friend of the WYV team and incredible woman.
The 1st Annual Fashion on the Square (FOTS) definitely hadn’t started this way. Burrell described them as “humble beginnings”: a few t-shirts and some jeans from local brands/designers and a bunch of vendors splayed across Union Square (how else are you supposed to pay for a fashion show?) Flash forward to today, and what was once a single show, is now a week long event. Burrell has tried to maintain the integrity of the show’s core values of innovative designs and nurturing local talent, while elaborating on her own idea by including menswear, children’s clothing, and even inviting artists of different mediums to venture onto the runway with FOTS+Arts (collaborating with LINES Ballet company and fine artists like Kristine Mays), and offering grants and scholarships to these artists and of course the slew of up-and-coming designers that make up the show. FOTS has since become the leading runway show on the West Coast, and the event of the season for the Bay Area’s society.
Oggling the attendees was definitely something of a fantasy, I didn’t even really need the show to start to feel apart of the event… but then, it started. The show began with a stirring reading of the late Dr. Maya Angelou’s famous poem, “Phenomenal Woman”, orrated by a few of the teen models that had walked in the weeks previous shows. And then, the fashion happened.
Y’Anad has held really strong to the idea of nurturing the younger generation, so naturally, the first designer (Jordan Epstein) showed all kidswear with bold contrasting prints and neon colors. It was the perfect way to start the show! Smiling kids and crazy colors to get the audience ready for what was to come.
Some FOTS alumni were there to show their support for the cause and show their spring/summer collections. Veterans like menswear designer Rickie Lee (for Roc Rio) and womenswear designer Rachel Riot (for Manic Designs) were some crowd favorites for sure. Lee brought the eye candy to the show of predominantly female designers and female models. The testerone was much appreciated, but so were the garments. Crisp whites with gold accents, mesh detailing and enough rippling pectorals and barely there tops to warrant a trip to Miami and an ice cold beverage. Riot’s Manic Designs were quite the contrary to their namesake. Muted were the tones, simple were the lines and chic as f*** was the entire collection. (This designer is definitely WYV team approved.)
Another standout in the shows lineup, was surprisingly not just one designer, but a grouping of them. Students no less! Their assignments: classic black and white with a modern edge. Most of the young designers only had one to three looks, but those were enough to get the audience on the edge of their seats. From the elegant and sleek, to the overtly punk and glam, all of the looks shown were breath taking, but these designers in particularly seemed to stand out to myself and the team. They not only showed expertise and vision beyond their years but it got us all thinking of why were there: to promote potential talent. These are the designers Y’Anad had originally created this kind of show for. An experience produced both for the benefit of it’s partakers and producers. A way for these budding designers to learn, and experience and grow and feel like they were apart of something.
The show was coming to a close and everyone (myself included) was patiently awaiting the last designer and show’s finale. But before the final designer was to show, there was a bit of a surprise for us in attendance and also the creator and founder of FOTS herself. The show was not without its faults and mishaps and timing issues, but it was in this moment when Burrell’s mother came on stage to honor her daughter and all of the painstakingly dedicated work that the event all came together for me.
Often times, people consider the fashion forward crowd to be exclusionary; a group of stuck up nobodies, all vying to be somebodies and doing whatever it takes to become something. Shallowness, vapidity and self-centeredness abound, according to popular belief. But FOTS, to me anyway, all sort of seemed to counter these notions. What I saw that night, wasn’t a room full of people competing with each other, or trying to be better than each other. What I saw was a room full of creative, aspirant individuals who knew that they could not have done what they were doing that night without the loving support and fostering of this amazing fashion community that we don’t often see. It’s the same attitude we have here at WYV. It’s about understanding that being yourself within a community is the best way to contribute to the community as a whole.
After a few tears and words from FOTS illustrious founder, (and a bit of a wait) the final designer, a returning FOTS designer and honoree of the night, Cindy Quach’s first look went down the runway. Her entire collection was a stunning testament to true craftsmanship. A simplistic color palette of pure white and deep brown, Quach brought an air of sophistication to the runway with lush silks and delicate rose appliques fully covering most of her gowns. Structural in shape, but undeniably feminine silhouettes played off the unconventional slitted hemlines and drastically high asymmetrical necklines perfectly. Audible gasps filled the room. It was pure magic.
The show ended, the house lights came back on, and as much of a production as it was entering, it was just as easily over. Models and attendees alike crowded the lobby (especially the step-and-repeat that was no longer being guarded by security that the WYV team totally took advantage of) and there was a surge of relief and pure joy. The show was over, everyone had an amazing time, and for most, they could finally take off the heels, the makeup and the clothes and just relax. But not this writer. This writer is still sitting in that seat, glasses on, heels laced, looking down the runway, pretending to be Anna Wintour. And for that, I’d like to say thank you to Y’Anad and the entire FOTS team. Here’s to you, the amazing community you’ve created, and to the next ten years of nurturing young aspiring members of the fashion community at large and making them feel like they belong.