As you may know, Philly Fashion Week took place recently. As you also may know, I love fashion.
I’m passionate about it as a unique representation of a cultural or personal mindset. I am intrigued by a choice of clothing’s power as a means to provide visual cues, however intentional or unintentional. I could discuss the nuances of Nanette Lepore’s fall 2010 collection for decades, write pages upon pages of the Mary Quant phenomenon of the sixties, and match Edna Mode word for word on the utility of fashion, whether in relation to super heroes or people with real super powers like kindness, creativity, joy, compassion, intelligence, etc.
So, all this to say, when I was given the opportunity to cover an Arcadian’s involvement in the Ready to Wear show at Philly Fashion Week for The Bulletin, I jumped at the chance to go. I’m also a suburban girl through-and-through, so fashion provided the necessary motivation for a trek into the intimidating city, which I would have otherwise been perfectly content to leave quite alone.
But excited for the show and ready for my journey, I grabbed a friend and we drove to the Crane Arts Center, taking Broad Street—a scary road we made a mental note avoid on the return route—and landing somewhere past the Crane Arts Center in search of dinner. The only fitting way to describe the particular section of north Philadelphia in which we found ourselves is “utterly confused.” After passing an expensive, hipster-y trinket shop, we came upon a rundown grocery store, followed by a swanky, old-money-flavored ballroom with gentleman entering in tuxes and ladies in stilettos. After briefly deliberating over the practicality of eating in the ballroom or if we would even be admitted in our funky-fashion-y-not-quite-dressed-up-wear, we settled in a booth at a literally and figuratively colorful, Mexican restaurant, vibrating with loud music (imitating the pulse of life) and populated with characters sporting multicolored hair and sunflower necklaces. It felt like a den for free spirits—or, at least, free spirits who enjoy shouting over the syncopated rhythms to ask, as politely as possible while shouting: “Hot sauce, please?” “WHAT?” “GIVE ME THE HOT SAUCE!”
The food was simultaneously amazing and as cheap as could be, making my wallet a happy camper. So, full of nachos and flan, we left ready for the show, but not before two nice women told us to watch our purses as this was not the nicest part of town. We heeded their warnings and inquired about the area to which they responded: “It used to be even worse. Now they’re pushing in really nice restaurants and businesses, so they’re interspersed with the horrible housing.” That explained the “utterly confused” nature of the place. When asked if they were from the area, the ladies responded, “Oh, no! We’re just here for the pizza!”
With a new understanding of the area, bags clutched at our sides, and a note-to-self to try the pizza there sometime (if it’s worth purse-clutching and a hike across town, it must be really good, right?), we trekked to the car, re-parked at Crane Arts and prepared for the show to begin.
Once inside, we mingled with artists, photographers, and fashion enthusiasts in the art-installation-covered, warehouse-y space, got our nails done for free, and took pictures like we were on the red carpet when no one was looking. At eight o’clock, the doors to the runway space opened and there was a frenzied push as sprightly, sparkling, high-heel clad fashionistas fought for the front row.
The show was magnificent. I’ve seen a million fashion shows on television and, while there is something to be said for TV’s ability to channel focus onto the clothes themselves, there is nothing like a room full of passionate people. There was an electricity of appreciation as attendees clapped, cheered, stood, and turned to their neighbors to exchange comments. It was a display of community more than anything else. And though I may need to reference pictures to remember the designs themselves, I will never forget the crowd, the anticipation, and the little, audible intake of breath coming from every awed person in the room when a particularly stunning piece turned the corner and walked the runway.