Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Christian Fashion Week 2015

“Is modesty really the deepest we can go? Is policing hemlines the best we can do?” 

These words, spoken by Christian Fashion Week co-founder Jose Gomez, solidified the evolution of CFW over the last three years. Having attended since their debut, I have witnessed this maturity first-hand and it has been inspiring to see how CFW has developed and grown.

Christian Fashion Week Co-Founder Jose Gomez.
“We’ve found our note – what God wanted us to do with fashion week,” Jose said as he opened the runway show last Friday evening. CFW wants to be “a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves.”

The fashion show encapsulated a week of events ranging from a national day of prayer for the fashion industry to workshops and panel discussions regarding the state of fashion today – all from a Christian perspective.

As I’ve stated in the past, CFW takes the position that there is no such thing as “Christian fashion.” In fact, most of the designers presenting this year are not Christian. There was diversity in the clothing – from athleticwear to bridal to formal to plus size to casual to menswear – and in the models themselves. CFW promotes a view of beauty that comes in all shapes and sizes, not the teeny-tiny definition of beauty that most of our society promotes.

The show opened with Bosnian-born designer Tatjana Sladojevic’s dancewear line, Noka Posh. From bolder colors to pastels, this line presented dresses, coats and dancewear in velvet and tulle. It was a fun and different way to start the show.

Next came designs from ckfcreate by Constance Franklin. This Georgia-based designer opened with a bridal look, included men’s looks, and showed real versatility in her bright, perfect-for-the-Florida-sun outfits. I loved her high-waisted red wide-legged pants and rainbow overcoat with aqua pants underneath. The skirt Constance herself was wearing was a Mondrian-inspired beauty I wish I could have stolen for myself.

Loved this look from Constance Franklin. Wouldn't these pants look great on me?
CFW alum Angel Myers presented her line of plus designs from swimwear to resort-inspired dresses, accessorized with statement jewelry and sun hats. The Miami-based designer’s motto is, “True style has no size,” and she proved it ten times on the runway.

Hailing from Utah, Russian-born designer Aleksandra Salo of Aleksandra Classic Design sent the most beautifully-tailored dresses and suits down the catwalk. Classy and elegant for the modern woman – and I can’t overemphasize how perfect her seams were!
Elegant skirt from Aleksandra Salo.
Although CFW alum Katie Myers of Elegantees (New York) couldn’t be with us the night of the show, she presented a classic collection of casual, wearable clothes in muted colors, from tops and maxi skirts to cotton dresses, for women of all sizes. What’s so special about Elegantees is their desire to help victims of human sex trafficking. The company has teamed up with the Nepali Rescue Project which rescues 20,000 lives each year, and their sewing operations are now exclusively in Nepal. Their long-term goal is “to see every sex trafficking victim in New York City and in Nepal receive a safe housing option and an employment opportunity.”

A casual, wearable look from Elegantees.
Closing out the first half of the show was CFW alum Sumita Bhojwani of KalaXpress. Sumita is a burst of energy, with her two beautiful young daughters in tow. Her Indian-inspired designs were more contemporary than traditional this year, with metallic shimmer and modern silhouettes. One of my favorite looks of the entire night was her sheath dress in green lace with touches of purple. Stunning!

Sumita, I'm a size 2 (hint, hint).
After a brief intermission, the audience was treated to a surprise. CFW star Julia Chew of Xiaolin Design presented a one-of-a-kind creation just for guests of the show. Named after the Russian ballet Firebird, and inspired by the mythical phoenix, the red gown was a sight to behold. With a strapless corset covered in feathers and a floor-length gown that was open in the front, covered in layers and layers of tulle, the model glided down the runway at once powerful and light. Julia also created a gold headpiece and gold-embellished platform shoes to complete the look. I visited Julia’s studio the day before and got a sneak peek of the gown on a form, but seeing it come to life at the show was truly an experience. This unique showstopper is available from her etsy shop.

Designer Julia Chew describing her inspiration for the Firebird.
Those feathers, though.
Ohio-based designer Kirsten Warner of OnePrize Performance opened the second half of the show with athleticwear. I happily watched yoga pants come down the runway, as these have been the subject of much debate in Christian and non-Christian circles recently! I especially loved her purple puffer vest and white coat.

Choosing to launch her debut collection at CFW, London-based Jean Huni of Messiah Couture blew us away with her sophisticated and elegant gowns. The Leading Ladies Collection was inspired by ladies from the Bible: Mary, Ruth, Tamar, Elizabeth, Hannah, Miriam, Rahab, Bathsheba, Esther and Naomi. I happened to be sitting next to NY Times fashion writer and critic Alexandra Jacobs, who tweeted of Huni’s designs: “Move over Badgley Mischka!” Her designs were modern with a futuristic edge (think extended shoulders and high collars). I would easily (and gladly) wear at least half of her dresses in a heartbeat.

If you could only see the sequins on this Jean Huni gown up close - a stunner!
David President of D. PresidentAttire started his menswear presentation with an all-white look, followed by futuristic and military-inspired sportswear. There was one pair of black pants that I especially loved, and lots of scarves for a different touch. This was more than a jeans and t-shirt collection. David’s philosophy is “Stay true to yourself and God, never give up, step out in faith and you just might be surprised what you find.”

Viji Reddy of Alamwar - Walk the Earth is a multi-media artist and textile designer. Her collection was extensive – 18 looks – including menswear. Inspired by her international travels, it was a breezy collection of wearable separates and resortwear with an Asian influence. My favorite look was brown wide-legged pants paired with a cape top.

Chic, cool clothes from Viji Reddy.
The show ended with a bang with Florida native Essence Flowers of Essence Flowers Design. She sent an edgy, all-black collection of eight looks down the runway. Leather, lace, and a variety of silhouettes caught everyone’s attention – especially Look 3, which was a lace capelet over a bra. Yup – a bra. I leaned over to Alexandra Jacobs and whispered, “How’s THAT for Christian fashion?” It was a defining – and divisive – moment for CFW this year, but one that will certainly lead to much discussion about artistic freedom, interpretation, and how we can apply a Christian perspective to creativity in every form.

The final walk from Essence Flowers Design.

Saturday morning I hosted the CFW Inner Circle Brunch, comprised of the founders, designers, models, and bloggers. After prayer and introductions, we discussed the runway show – the good, the bad, and the ugly. There was a lively discussion of our likes and dislikes, with excellent constructive criticism on how we can improve for next year. Although this year was dubbed the FINAL Christian Fashion Week, we’re hopeful that funding will come through to continue this ministry for years to come.

Moderating a lively discussion at the Inner Circle Brunch.
Co-founder Jose Gomez then shared CFW’s mission and future. As he stated on the runway, CFW’s mission has evolved to include a wider scope of important topics concerning the fashion industry. CFW CAREs:

C – Contextual modesty
A – Affordable, sustainable fashion
R – Responsible use of natural resources
E – Ethical hiring, casting and labor practices

These are the areas on which CFW wants to focus. Model Angie chimed in on the “E,” sharing with everyone that CFW took good care of its models: “We were fed!” she said, enthusiastically.

To keep CFW going, there are three things we can all do:

  1. Funding. Producing a runway show costs money. The venue, seating, risers, lighting, sound, publicity – it all costs money. CFW is seeking one or multiple sponsors for each aspect of CARE.
  2. Education. We need to convey the mission and message of CFW and promote multicultural fashion.
  3. Activism. CFW wants to impact and affect policies and practices in the fashion industry worldwide. There needs to be collective poking and provoking to keep the discussion going. People have to be educated and interested.

Christian Fashion Week has become something more to me than just another fashion show. I have profound respect for founders Jose, Mayra, Will and Tamy – I’m proud to call them my friends. They are doing a good thing, an important thing, for the fashion community and the faith community. They are showing that there is another way (a better way) to do fashion.

Christian Fashion Week founders Will, Tamy, Mayra and Jose.
I’ve met designers, models, and bloggers who have shown me many perspectives on creativity and expression that have further pushed the borders of my own thoughts. I’ve seen doubters and haters come around and be won over by open hearts and caring dialogue. It’s been an inspiring experience.

If you’d like to support or sponsor CFW, please let me know. I’m already looking forward to CFW 2016.

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, looks like a wonderful event! I loved the pictures. I hope they are able to continue.