Frock Out: Independent Designers Challenge Runway Show a Smashing Sartorial Success

FrockOut.jpgView all the fabulous fashions in this comprehensive slide show by Jim Narcy.
The Cat’s Pajamas and friends were out in force at last night’s Frock Out: Independent Designers Challenge at the Central Library. All things considered, the event was a smashing success with nary a runway tumble or wardrobe malfunction in sight.

The event was presented by Fresh City Friends (a young, hip offshoot of the Denver Public Library’s Friends Foundation) and the overflow crowds were so large that people were crammed in every available nook and cranny just to get a glimpse of what Denver’s best had to offer.

The night’s first challenge was “Flirting with Spring” and the designers were asked to present romantic, sensual looks made primarily from linen. Jose Clark was the first designer to send a look on the runway, and his ruffled, peach-colored, striped dress — though somewhat unflattering — was unique and well-constructed and set a great tone for the looks to come.

Standout looks from the Spring challenge included James Silvrantes’ cute, short and flowered shirt combo with a nice light jacket. Stephanie Ohnmacht’s airy cream and sage green dress was the embodiment of spring.

Challenge number two was “Resorting to Summer” and the stipulation was that the designer’s make “travel, cruise or resort wear” out of cotton. Melissa May sent a super-cute dress down the runway that had friends nearby oohing and ahhing since the look was simple and easy to wear, but the bright green skirt and comic book fabric used in the bodice set it apart. This challenge was interpreted in so many different ways — Adam Van Eeckhout sent a mint green bikini down the runway, and the coverup made his model look like a mermaid caught in a net (not necessarily a bad thing), while others had neon pink short shorts (Lourdes Rios), a tie-dyed hooded dress (Asha Monique) and even a surprising, ever-changing look that was strung on a large gold hoop (Tricia Hoke).

The “Autumn Layers/Day-to-Evening” challenge were made of woolo, and several designers constructed gorgeous fall suits and dresses. Jose Clark set the bar high with his beige suit with a tall, structural collar — the look was both polished and unique, and one of the most high-fashion looks of the evening. Lourdes Rios had a lovely little burgundy dress with a beautifully constructed brown coat. The entire look worked really well together and the color scheme and fabric usage exemplified fall fashion at its best.

The forth look down the runway was the “Winter Party Dress,” constructed from silk. These dresses have been on display for weeks in the library’s Schlessman Hall (also the site of the runway show) so many members of the audience were familiar with the looks. There were some surprises, though, such as the sexy black lace lining that peaked out of James Silvrants’ long, red, flowing gown (it wasn’t distinguishable on the mannequin), and the gorgeous gold and black coat that Crystal Sharp paired with a black lace dress that really helped to set it apart.

The red and white floor-length princess gown with a white faux fur shrug that Stephanie Ohnmacht sent down with runway felt a little costumey to me, but it still ended up winning Ohnmacht the People’s Choice award from online voting. Ohnmacht created a short, modern take on this dress that she wore to the event, and I thought this look was even cuter than the dress that won her the award.

The final challenge was aptly preceded by a clip from the documentary Grey Gardens in which Edie Beale describes her own fashion philosophy. If you’ve ever seen the movie you’d know that she certainly does have a signature look, as did many of the designers in this final challenge.

Melissa May, who sent a dress down the runway for every single challenge, chose a stunning white dress covered with tiny, unique silver rosettes — it was probably my favorite look from the entire evening. Stephanie Ohnmacht also had a nice, wearable look with a black and silver, full-skirted dress with pockets.

By the time the designer’s had shown all that they had, it was clear that each of them has their own unique style. Lourdes Rios signature seemed to be the sequined cross design that appeared on the backs of many of her coats. Jose Clark had well-constructed, structural looks in a single color family that made his work part of a very cohesive collection. Asha Monique designs for a clubbing crowd and most of her young, flirty looks showed a lot of skin.

By the night’s end, it seemed that everyone sitting in my vicinity had a different favorite. Many loved the cute, wearable looks of Melissa May, while others favored the great detail and beautiful tailoring in Jose Clark’s work.

In the end, Stephanie Ohnmacht was the overall winner and, in addition to a generous prize package, she will have her work featured in an upcoming issue of Fabricate magazine.

The prize presentation seemed to be over all too quickly, and I found myself wishing that there had been a bit more drama (maybe some dramatic music like what they play during the final judging on Project Runway?), and a second and third place prize would have been nice. All of the designers did a wonderful job, and it really was amazing to see the caliber of talent this town has to offer. A good time was had by all, and I’m already counting the days until I can see what next year’s crop of designers will send down the runway.

-- Aubrey Shoe




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