Photography by Vanessa Valdovinos
At first glance, the majestic and ethereal motif of the high tea room at the Drake is more breathtaking than words can inspire to explain. It’s an atmosphere so elegant you’ll always feel underdressed. However rich people have the worst taste- especially when traveling. In fact, Vanessa, my photog, and I witnessed some wealthy boob in a robe and flannel pajama pants moseying about the front lobby. This unfortunate display of the sardonic was a foreshadowing in many instances of what was to come. Borris Powell showed his 2011 Spring/Summer collection at an opulent ceremony soon after. There were big differences between Alma Wieser’s show and Powell’s that struck such a strange chord with me. One was the issue of the drinks. At the Borris Powell show, it was the cash bar that seemed a bit excessive to me. Instead of holding it at The Drake and having people pay for ridiculously overpriced drinks, why not have it somewhere a bit cheaper and have an open bar? Wieser’s show was thrown at Heaven Gallery which, albeit smaller than the Drake, is much more relevant.
The Drake, in all of it’s extravagant glory, seemed a bit excessive to me. The clothes that were shown were inspired by fairies which lends itself to fantastical elements that should have been exploited in a more mature way. Few distinguishable risks were involved, I’m afraid. It was all a bit safe, but certain pieces did strike my fancy. The black and white floral dresses with ruffles placed in strategic areas were more my scene. Also, I fell in love with a raincoat that was worn as a skirt- white with exaggerated collar and yellow stripe down the front gave it the aura of a retro futurism. In fact, the collection as a whole seemed a bit futuristic and a good juxtaposition of terrestrial vs. extra. The hair and makeup was a bit of a stretch for Borris Powell as explained by Nevena of Custom Hair Lounge. He tends to go for a “sleek and sophisticated look,” recounted Nevena who has been working with Powell for six years. “We basically decided to do a very futuristic [feel] to a fairy tale story. [The] hair and makeup had to be [slightly] disheveled, [like] something you would see in the forest.” Nevena urged Powell to “come out of the box this time” and they definitely did- complete with what looked like elf ears, smoky eyes, softer curls and his trademark red lip.
Even though it wasn’t really all that revolutionary (really, unremarkable is quite the understatement) and didn’t really inspire me to think of any future trends, all in all it worked for the type of people who were fans of his already. Aziza and Sada really admired the collection’s whimsical factor (“I love the earrings, too”, “Yeah, they were amazing!”). The show itself garnered a lot of new costumers for him, I’m sure, but I can’t help but remember how distracting the setting was. It seemed to call out from all directions in an over indulgent way. However, one cannot resist to gush about how beautiful it really was and I hope one day to be able to afford to return.
At the Alma Wieser IRREGULAR show, it was a much different story. Held at Heaven Gallery along one of the veins to the heart of Wicker Park, this show was completely agreeable. As I walked down Milwaukee Avenue, I almost missed it. It was on the second floor above a furniture store and so after doing a double take I walked back and went up the stairs. I arrived a bit early and decided to scope out the room. There I met Melissa, whose pieces can be found at Vintage Heaven. It was a much more comfortable vibe as all the internet journalists stuck together like Amy Creyer of Chicago Street Style and Isa of Chicago Looks.
It was held in both spaces the gallery had to offer, with the models strutting amongst the walls covered with tremendous art pieces. What was also tremendous was the collection. It was inspired by the Japanese tradition of anti-fashion, begun in the early 80s. The clothes were astonishing and cannot be described merely by words. The fact that drinks were free made it all the more gracious and the suggested donation of $10 called out to you in a way where you knew you should and you wanted to donate. Props to the David Dobie and others of the gallery for making a better, more inviting show than the stuffy Drake could even have dreamt of doing.
The thing I learned last week was that money changes everything. There is the aesthetic and then there is the message and sometimes they go a little too well together. Although I disliked many of the pieces in Borris Powell’s collection and the whole infantile theme, I have to recognize that certain pieces were very nice and the setting for it perfectly correlated with everything, though a bit hedonistic for my taste. Alma Wieser’s collection and choice of venue were inspired and inspired me to work with her throughout. Her ability to find a working balance between the iconoclasty of the theme at hand and the bearing of the present time was no easy task, yet executed with a plentiful grace.
Moral of the story here is: Don’t be a stranger, but do be stranger.