Ok, so the Washington Craft Fashion Show didn’t take place under dramatic lighting on a catwalk in front of a sharply dressed fashion press. It rolled out on the geometric carpet of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center with no lights for one poorly attired reporter, and it was awesome.
Thirty-six designers sent pieces through room 154B at the convention center on Friday. The modestly sized audience, which skewed north of 60 and favored comfort shoes, murmured appreciatively at the handmade looks on display, including Amy Nguyen’s silk shirts dyed using shibori, an ancient art of resist dyeing, and a bag made of found leather watches and worked with hot stamp oil. Every cape, coat, and cashmere shawl in the show was designed and created by the artist, and many of the pieces will never be reproduced.
A handpainted blue raincoat from Jeffrey Weiss got a big reaction from the crowd, as did Cynthia Lamaide’s long, flowing knit dresses. The show’s host declared a blue fur-trimmed cape with hood to be “a piece you could wear to the tundra or right here in Washington D.C.”
A few pieces veered into Renaissance-festival territory, but the looks were artistic and accessible—not to be confused with “ready-to-wear.”
“Don’t use that word,” cautioned Bill Underwood, the show’s publicist. “They’ll shoot me. That’s like JCPenney.” These clothes and accessories, he explained, are art. Also, not cheap. Weiss raincoats can run from $800 to more than $2,000. One necklace that walked the geometric carpet cost $8,000.
At least two audience members declared the fashion show, a first in the Washington Fine Craft Show’s 24-year history, a success.
“I thought it was marvelous,” said Elizabeth Naramore, 73, dressed in black pants and a black turtleneck. “I loved everything I saw.” She was particularly struck by the raincoats.
Jane Arundel, 82, says she has been to fashion shows before but never a craft fashion show. She made the trip with Naramore from Rochester and donned a floral jacket and applique top for the occasion. How did a craft fashion show differ from couture? “There’s no comparison,” she declared. “These women and clothes are elegant.”