Boston on the Catwalk

In 1991, Fred Fairbrass of Right Said Fred declared that he was “too sexy for Milan, New York, and Japan.” It doesn’t take an Applied Math concentrator to deduce that Boston is not one of the cities that Fred lists. Boston is not typically known as a fashion capital of the country or even of the Northeast (with the Big Apple taking honors in both of those categories). However, Boston’s fashion industry is as lively as any other major city in the world, minus the corporate sponsorship smacking a person over the head every time he blinks.

When one enters the website for New York’s Seven on 6th Fashion Week, it becomes immediately obvious that Mercedes Benz has invested a lot of money in the production of the event. (The fact that the event is actually called Mercedes Benz Fashion Week also isn’t exactly subtle.) It takes a two-hour Yahoo search, using a wide range of Boston and fashion related keywords, to even find the Boston Fashion Week website (http://www.geocities.com/eosthepage/). With the Boston website, there is no need to duck for fear of being maimed by large, flying graphics. The low-key appearance of the site epitomizes Boston Fashion Week and Spring Fashion Weekend. The emphasis of the production is simplicity and providing the public with a concept of what fashion in Boston is right now and not to provide the public with an elaborate and expensive chance to “see and be seen.”

Boston’s Spring Fashion Weekend kicks off on Thursday, May 3rd and runs through May 6th. Part educational tool, part business venture and part fun, Fashion Weekend brings together consumers, designers, buyers and store owners in an attempt to alert everyone involved to the hottest fashions for the fall and to help set up a network to continue the promotion of fashion in Boston.

Now in their seventh years, Boston Fashion Week and Spring Fashion Weekend have remained secrets, well-hidden from many Bostonians. While large signs and unignorably heated and fully-accessorized white tents proudly proclaim the arrival of Seven on 6th in Bryant Park and other major city’s fashion weeks, no trumpets herald the renewal of the Beantown event. While not as grandiose or elaborate as New York’s Seven on 6th, the weekend is Boston’s own, from the sponsors to the press coverage. Rather than flying in models, designers and enormous white tents from all parts of the globe, the producers in charge of the Boston event use Boston models, Boston designers and permanent Boston venues to host the weekend.

The majority of the models for the various runway shows are found through an open model call run by modelBOSTON 2001. In the spring, modelBOSTON selects 50 “faces to watch” (30 women and 20 men) who are made over and get a taste of what it means to be a professional model as they “do [their] little turns on the catwalk.” In true “Survivor” fashion, the end of the weekend brings about the whittling down of the number of models to thirty total (20 women and 10 men) who then model in the fall’s Fashion Week.

Like the models, all of the designers are home-grown as well. While in New York the “struggling” designers showcased at Seven on 6th in February 1999 had such celebrities as Kathy Lee Gifford and Donald Trump gracing their backstage areas, true newbies to the fashion world are given a chance in Boston. Fashion-design majors from the Massachusetts College of Art showcase their creations on Thursday night at the Boston Center for the Arts/Cyclorama on Tremont Street in Boston.

In fact, many of the runway events lump together a group of designers, rather than highlighting individual ones. While a few designers (such as favorites Nigel Ramsay—who donated clothing to Harvard’s Milleneganza 2000—and Rohan Thomas) have their own shows, the majority of the actual runway shows incorporate more than one designer’s fashions into the program, generally centering around a theme such as Thursday night’s club-wear collection.

Just as the inclusion of as many designers as possible on each runway helps recognize as many talented Bostonians as possible, the ease with which the public can attend the weekend’s events follows with the vision of the Boston Fashion Week founder and executive producer, Jay Calderin, of a Boston “fashion community.” At other major fashion events, a person needs to hand over a DNA sample or be dating (or be) someone with the last name Paltrow, Onassis or Roberts to be let into shows. Boston’s shows are open to the public, however, and prices to attend range from $60 to nada.