Art of the Fashion Show


A fashion show generally begins with dead time as people file in, chit-chat, and have their picture taken. A publicist screams or a light is dimmed; men and women assume their hierarchical place in the rows, culminating in an approximately ten-minute organized procession of models up and down a runway (the announced occasion for the gathering); then the audience makes a mass exodus. Order builds, and then explodes as the audience becomes suddenly intent upon congregating elsewhere, another fashion show.



The premise of Design Within Riche stylist Avena Gallagher and artist Carissa Rodriguez’s fashion-into-art performance at Guyton-Walker’s temporary exhibition space Burning Bridges, entailed the communal aspects of such an event.  A nonedescript, evidently Asian-in-descent model appeared and Guyton-Walker’s one-off lamps of constallations of coconuts, accompanied by a pulsing soundtrack that one might automatically associate with a runway show. The model was dressed in a silver shift dress from Prada’s spring collection, with a silhouette of a palm tree as a small tropical detail. The presentation organizers and the model are all from the same island in the Philippines, which as a nation is presumably a general stand-in for the rote labor that goes into making ready-to-wear clothing. The country’s best known consumer in a Western context, Imelda Marcos, was invoked on the invitation by a memorable quotation, “Nouveau riche is better than no riche at all.” She is the unparalleled example of rapid, unsophisticated consumption.

But all of the details about clothing and the lamp were really just that, details. The invitation, after all, had only listed the space and the artists, and they were the product being consumed in the event. She didn’t convey product, as the dress was from Spring, and so had already been on racks for weeks (which probably would not have been identified by the audience assembled anyway, who were by and large not trade fashion professionals).The model’s activity was dictated not by the demands of showing movement in clothing, but by effecting the attitude of an audience member channeling the affectation of a model—someone self-aware about being looked, and not appearing as such. The audience watched her until her novelty faded and she became boring, and then was integrated into the audience, which kept going and consuming until late into the night. It was an exercise in procession without direction, and the welcome disruption of novelty.