Fashion Fights Poverty: On the Runway

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A look from Ecliptica.

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A masked style from Natalia Naftalieva got a reaction from the crowd.

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Fun, flirty style from DC’s Kimberly Kouture.

On Friday night, my friend Matt and I fought the urge to curl up on my couch in stretch pants, eat pizza & watch movies to attend Fashion Fights Poverty. The event aims to raise awareness about global poverty issues, and the proceeds from the benefit are given to one worthy group each year — this year the beneficiary was Aids to Artisans.

I have to admit up-front that I think the name is the silliest ever, and it was the subject of a lot of inappropriate and highly un-PC jokes between us all night (“poverty is soooo in need of a fashion intervention!”). Our joking aside, I attended in the hopes that the event would not disappoint as both a fashion show and worthwhile philanthropic event. I think the event succeeded as a fashion show, but when it came time for a quick poverty lesson, many guests showed their true colors. I’m sure it’s difficult to ensure that an event of this nature steers clear of disingenuousness, but it seems to me that if you’re going to shell out good money for tickets to an event that has the potential to not be taken seriously, you’d at least feign interest in the cause. I cringed somewhat when the audience, rapt during the presentations and eager to see and be seen generally, became visibly restless and chatty when a representative from Aids for Artisans addressed the crowd. Quite a few took the opportunity to go to the bathroom, refresh their cocktails, and yes, get on their cell phones.

This kind of event can be tricky. You want to involve as many people and sponsors as possible to drive awareness and sell out the event, but you also want to build a group of dedicated people to support the mission over time to ensure its growth. I work for a nonprofit full-time, and we call this “audience development.” It’s certainly not easy, and I applaud the founders for creating an event that hopes to make the fashion industry more socially responsible. Their mission may be about educating the consumer to buy products that support entrepreneurs in developing countries, promoting ethical manufacturing and the like, but to do so, their guests need to care enough about those issues to leave the cell off.

I’m not sure what the event’s efficiency ratio is (how much is spent producing the event versus how much is given to the charity), but I hope it’s high.

Aaaanyway, tangent! On with the CLOTHES!

I’m happy to say that it was probably the best fashion show of this kind that I’ve seen here in DC. It was well-produced, the designers were mostly of very good quality…and hell, the event had exciting energy. The organizers did a great job crafting an air of cool around the whole thing, and when I went backstage to talk to some of the models and designers, the feeling of accomplishment over a job well-done was infectious. We got there about halfway through, so we missed the red-carpet guest entrances and a few of the designer presentations (including achem, half-naked men in swimwear from Cha Cha Boy), and I had to fight for my place on the press riser. I guess this is what happens when you’re late (fashionably late, hello!). So forgive if you notice an elbow or something in the photographs.

We made it in time to see part of Belabumbum, Orangia, Liliana Castellanos, Ecliptica, Natalia Naftalieva, and DC’s own Kimberly Kouture.

Orangia, a Miami-based line, showed white loungewear with orange detailing, perfect for poolside. It didn’t necessarily knock my socks off, but it set the stage for what was certainly an appropriate theme: each designer bringing a certain aesthetic to the table, creating a smorgasbord of multicultural looks as varied as the causes and effects of poverty itself.

My favorite (of what I got the chance to see, anyway) looks of the night were from Puerto Rican line Ecliptica and DC designer Kimberly Kouture. The two sisters behind Ecliptica showed mainly dresses in bright colors and feminine shapes that were really wearable, and the collection looked cohesive. DC’s Kimberly Kouture turned out some fantastic party dresses: a peach Grecian gown and sparkly dresses in girly pink with ruffles and grown-up gold were particularly impressive. Tellingly, the models all looked happy (in their own model ways) to be strutting in these clothes. Liliana Castellanos showed a lot of outerwear, ruffles, and cinched waists, while Russian designer Natalia Naftalieva got the biggest reaction out of the crowd when she sent dramatic peaked shoulders, exaggerated hips, and most notably, red Spiderman-esque masks down the runway.

A TON of images, from each presentation, after the jump!

Partygoer images tomorrow…

BELABUMBUM:

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ORANGIA:

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LILIANA CASTELLANOS:

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ECLIPTICA:

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NATALIA NAFTALIEVA

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KIMBERLY KOUTURE

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