The Rapidian

Art Couture: creativity blooms in local fashion scene

Rooftop Cocktails allows local fashionistas and creatives to mingle, while savoring food, cocktails, art and retail items this past Friday.

/Emilie Pichot

A staircase on the fourth floor of the UICA building never looked so good as it did on Friday, June 14. Every few minutes well-dressed Grand Rapidians, often with cocktail in hand and the look of summery contentedness on their faces, would gracefully walk up or down the staircase to prolong the fashion show that was not located on the catwalk but among the guests themselves.

Rooftop Cocktails, an event organized by To The Top Media, aspired to promote and support local fashion retailers and designers and to encourage collaboration and discussion between diverse creative efforts in the city. A portion of the proceeds went to the Creative Youth Center, a non-profit creative writing center for kids. The event is a part of a series called Rooftop Culture that includes Rooftop Couture.

Several boutiques were present, including Sydney’s, Head Over Heels, Gina’s, Sight Optical, Humanity, ACK, Rosa’s Closet (a re-sale boutique) and Cheeky Strut. Local designers were also present such as Royal Flyte, a clothing line inspired by music and underground sports; Brockfolio, a compact, “swiss army knife” wallet design company; The Mitten State, a casual t-shirt company inspired by local traditions, nostalgia, and the look of the 70’s and 80’s; and Iconoclasp, the re-styled vintage and handmade designs of Ashley Triệu.

Local bars Bar Divani, Pyramid Scheme, Louie’s Bar, Crush and Reserve designed the cocktails. Guests were encouraged to vote online through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for their favorite drink.

City Sen Lounge, Rockwell Republic and McKay’s provided the light fare for the evening and Gordon Water offered choices of orange or raspberry water.

Throughout the evening, models would walk the catwalk to display the items of clothing they were wearing but most of the time they were socializing with the guests. Anyone could be a model, then, just waiting to walk. This emphasized the event’s goal of making connections and promoting local ingenuity.

While fashionistas conversed in front of art in the UICA one question surfaced repeatedly: how is fashion a visual art form?

“As a designer I have the end result in mind,” says Triệu. “But if you give two different people the same piece of fabric they will come up with two very different results.”

Fashion is a form of expression like any other art form. In fact it goes two ways: the designers express their idea and the wearers can take it in another direction.

“Fashion is an art,” says Rosa Piccione from Rosa’s Closet. “It’s like Christmas everyday at work when I see all the new items and I see how people put the outfit together.”

This local art form is growing. By the end of this month, à la mode, a local fashion magazine, will have its summer 2013 issue available for purchase. It will use the growing fashion spirit by dressing up models from the area in affordable clothing from local designers and retailers to make this developing industry available to the average Grand Rapidian.

At the end of the night, high heels clicked down the hallways to catch the elevators threatening to descend without them; small remnants of recently relished food and drinks decorated suits and dresses, proof of passionate discussions and the expressive yet non-restrictive nature of clothing. Even with the small amount of designers present and the variety of styles worn, the night achieved its goal of mingling, though with large doses of people watching.

Not many nights in Grand Rapids include dancing underneath an installation piece at an art institute, looking fashionably savvy or such a diverse group of people. Though the fashion statements were rather subtle, the scene was new and exciting. 

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