When I was in college, a teacher prepared my class for an overnight field trip with some do’s and don’ts, including the obligatory “no firearms” policy.
“No fire arms…but what about fire arts?” asked a student.
It’s a question that tells you a lot (maybe too much) about the Evergreen State College- and a lot about Hot Couture.
The annual Oakland Hot Couture fashion show explores the fusion among fashion, fire and industrial materials at The Crucible, a non-profit educational facility (and giant warehouse) offering training in fine and industrial arts to the community- they even partner with schools and offer a girl’s welding class, which is awesome.
At the show, metal-smithed wares sat next to flaming torch lamps, and the smell of sage perfumed the air as guests crowded around the raised, twisty runway. For 2015, the four elements- air, earth, fire and water inspired the designs.
The night was a showcase techno-meets-primitive Burning Man aesthetic, with a huge dash of fiery showmanship, and many people in the crowd, based on their comments, seemed to be shopping around.
Ragged animal skins, copper detailing, and a purse(?) made from a wildcat skull made for a dramatic opening from Sophia Constance of Constance Creations opened the show. Walking to dirge-like music, the model looked fit to trek across a frozen tundra, adding charms, bones and skins from their travels. Eye gloves completed the look (what look wouldn’t eye gloves complete?)
“I like it, but I refuse to wear masks, I have a pretty face and I want people to see it” said a woman in the crowd as she studied the outfits.
Constance’s second look evoked sea monsters, with it’s ocean-y blue scaling and Cthulhu-like belt. Vertebrae and exoskeletons abounded in less-than-vulnerable creations.
LSUIT by Heather Wakefield’s looks featured sheer bodysuits and a dash of Tank Girl. Here, a red one is topped with a crushed velvet shrug, black helmet, and flaming metal apparatuses. (In case you were wondering, we did have to stay several feet from the stage, and there were a lot of fire extinguishers around, and no one was singed.)
Alexandra Candia’s designs were light and fit for dancing, with lots of feathered details. A Carnaval-inspired outfit drew upon the colorful and lusher parts of the earthly theme.
“I like sexy!” the woman said as she checked out the festive look, and her partner agreed and they almost made out, which was also a theme of the evening.
Briana Schweizer and Laura Sheedy’s “witch palette” looks fused a grungy, apocalyptic vibe with brilliant, flashing LED lights. A heart-shaped light affixed atop a cut-out cotton and leather maxi dress looked like an endless walkway- or the entrance to Space Mountain in Disneyland- and wowed the crowd.
miss velvet creme’s Neo Couture offered more structure with beautifully-made, thick and wildly strappy leather corsets over kimono-inspired silhouettes.
With it’s Venetian-masquerade like drama and genderfluid aesthetic, Domonique Echeverria’s show was a hit (“So good!” said the woman.)
A model swathed in green and copper lace from head to toe, fringed faces and silvery liquid space were the height of drama. A look comprised of pasties and shimmery gold beads was a hit with the crowd– who like many crowds, enjoyed boobs.
Feathers along with a range of fabrics- prints, tie-dyed chiffon, leather and lace- provided variety amongst the corsets, cotton and tulle.
Rounding out the show was the circus-y, theatrical N/A Dynamics. Their buoyant models bounced on trampolines in looks that were an homage to campy, off-kilter retro glamour.
Hot Couture isn’t everyday fashion, and it may not be for everybody. So many high fashion runway shows feature expensive baggy t-shirts and tan coats, in looks that are too classy or tasteful to be fun to look at. So if you’re going to watch designers put their clothes in action, it might as well involve drama, spectacle, and lots of fire.