By Madeline Nusser
There is something about performance, the wait for it to begin, the anticipation of the climactic event, and the audience interaction, all of which cannot be replicated in the environment of the still visual art exhibit. The same thing is true of fashion shows. When the music started at Fusion Project’s fashion show, Modification, the audience huddled around the catwalk, feeling the excitement from behind the curtain before it exploded on to the stage.
Taking place at Acme artworks, this was the first show produced by the newly formed Fusion Project trio Jen Nordhem, Sandra Yau, and Megan LaBahn, who plan to treat their fashion shows like art exhibits, putting them on every few months. The founders have had a range of experience in Chacago’s fashion scene and have worked with several of the artists featured in their current show, which included designers Davidjonesthinks, audrey l., Slimelight, and others.
Separate to the stage area, a large room featured an exhibition of photography, paintings, and sculptures. The addition of art fabricated the atmosphere surrounding the main event of the fashion show into, what Fusion Project’s co-founder Jen Nordham called “culture shooting at you from all directions.” Unfortunately the art did not approach the intensity, or aesthetic quality of the fashion offerings.
The designers and their creations centered on the theme of modification. The designers applied their takes on modification, which ranged from Davidjonesthinks’ T-shirt line customized by artists in a DIY sentiment, to Vanessa Buccella’s adaptations of used clothing. Fusion Project created this theme to give a coherent concept to the show without relinquishing the individuality of the designers.
Vanessa Buccella, creator of Nessa Bree and Nessa He, respective men’s and women’s lines, had the current state of politics on her mind. Taking thrift store clothes, originally produced for the late 20th century plus sized rural Miss, she alters their content to transform them into the chic urban clothing. This idea is current in fashion, several urbanites are garbed in the 1980s generic pump or cowboy boot, Buccella merely pushes the prevalence of this concept to the fore, dressing her emaciated male models in enormous mu-mu prints adapted into men’s suit jackets. Another design transformed a XXL shirt with glittery letters proclaiming, “I’m not fat, I’m pregnant,” into a mini-dress wearable only by its model and a few others who are under ninety pounds. Buccella’s clothes doubly exaggerate the difference between the urban and rural stereotypes intensified by the pre- and post-election culture wars. Yau, who is also a designer, exhibited fashion dependant on cultural differences. In this case her designs showed differences between her home in Chicago and her ethnic background of Thailand. She used sheets of silk that her parents brought back from Thailand and transformed them into clothes ranging from casual-night-out to elegant evening wear styles. Her “modification” of fabric often used for home accessories, silk shoes, silk hand bags, put delicious blues and pinks onto the figure in simple, eminently wearable, styles. “The silks just feel so nice,” Yau said, “but the silk doesn’t give.” Her solution to this dilemma were decorative pins that reformed the “one-size fits all” garments to any body.
The highlight of the show was SAIC graduate Yoohyun Lim’s men’s wraps and women’s dresses that shrouded the body like a form-fitting envelope. Some of the skirts were gathered and pleated and one had pink gauze peeping out from underneath. Complex folded patterns fitted into coherent shapes that looked simple and quiet on the body. At the other end of the spectrum, the catwalk neared a noisy epiphany when Lolita Stiletto and Holly Homewrecker of Slimelight showed costumes reminiscent of a pornographic version of Peter Pan, complete with topless Indians and slashed stripe skirt wielding pirates.
In the middle of the fashion show, breaker daze 1 performed putting the audience in awe of his moves and interacting viscerally with the crowd. This was the crown of an art mecca that combined dance, fashion, art, and music. When probing creator Jen Nordham for her reasons for starting the new venture, she replied, “I have friends with art galleries, and I thought, I want to do that, but with fashion.” The next show is due out in late spring. “We really don’t care about fashion week,” Nordham said. “This show provides business and creative opportunities for artists and designers.”
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