On varying scales, Charlottesville is home to most of the cultural institutions of a much larger city: theater, opera, art galleries and film. Now we can add fashion shows to that list.
On Saturday, Rag Trade brings fashion, music and art downtown to the IX Art Park. Three local designers will be featured amid choreographed dance performances and a burlesque performance by Borgia Falvella. Local bands Synthetic Division, The Judy Chops and Ships in the Night will play after the show. Brian Schomberg will create an art installation at the event.
“My dad is a carpenter and my mom does ceramics,” says local hat-maker Annie Temmink, whose unusual headgear will be featured. “So I grew up making all sorts of things. …I had a Watson fellowship for a year studying ancient fashion and textiles. Seeing all these ways that people adorn themselves in Indonesia and Uganda and Japan, I’ve really fallen in love with that.”
In her Water Street studio, Temmink is surrounded by a riot of colors, tools and works-in-progress. Spools of thread, scraps of cloth, scissors, books, pillows, cardboard and models of human heads on sticks create an artistic backdrop. Her out-of-the-box hats could easily be mistaken for sculptures.
One completed project looks like an African textile pattern imposed on a more angular version of the Sydney Opera House. An enormous black-and-white fan ringed with eyes could have come from the set of Beetlejuice. These hats are not everyday fashion for the masses. They are objects intended to provoke reflection and conversation among the wearers and onlookers.
The hats are “things you could rent or wear at a festival or a party,” Temmink says. “Having said that, I also wear them on the trolley with friends. There’s like a 45-minute loop. In a town that has such a consistent backdrop it’s beautiful to create this weird blip in the scenery. You always start a conversation because if someone is brave enough they’ll be like, ‘What are you doing? What is this?’ It’s fun for me because it’s kind of nerve-wracking.
“I don’t need people to wear these things to Harris Teeter on Sunday,” says Temmink. “But I think [this fashion show] gives them a little inspiration to maybe wear something they’d like to wear but don’t quite feel comfortable with. Maybe it’s shiny or whatever, it’s okay. You can do what feels right to you.”
Organizer Fielding Pierce Biggs will feature his own clothing designs as well as those by Kim Schalk, whose designs are sold at her store, Chalk, on the Downtown Mall. Biggs hopes the show will help create an atmosphere of public support for local designers that will lead to the growth of a fashion industry in Charlottesville.
“When I moved to Charlottesville there was absolutely no idea of fashion or beauty here,” says Biggs. “In the past couple of years, I’ve begun to find many…Is there a huge community of designers? No, but just like Charlottesville, we are in transition. So though you can count on two hands the designers here now, we are growing. My hope is that we are at the beginning of creating fashion and design here and that one day many designers will call this place home.”
“It’s the statement that other alternatives are viable and possible and worth celebrating,” says Temmink. “I choose to use models who are not typically models but are dancers and exude a certain confidence. …In a way it’s more of a performance. I think people will be delighted by the oddity of these big sculptures that people are wearing.”
This is the second year that Biggs has produced a local fashion show and he hopes that Rag Trade will continue to be an annual event. “During the show [last year] something amazing happened,” Biggs says. “People of every demographic…felt inspired, loved and as if we could take on the world. The energy was actually palpable.
“Exposure is the first step to building any empire. If the people can see you, they will come. I want to be the one to help birth a new industry in Charlottesville.”
“I think it’s going to be really fun,” says Temmink. “We’re not in New York but we’re making it happen here. It’s going to be a visual spectacle.”
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