The Alternative Fashion Society Debuts with Animal Royale at Crescent Ballroom

It wasn't A Chorus Line, but it sure was a production. The Alternative Fashion Society made its debut at Crescent Ballroom on Saturday with the showcase Animal Royale, featuring a flock of models ranging from curvy to stick thin boasting a kind of T&A not typical of runway shows.

Not that anything at Animal Royale could've been classified as "normal." (For full visuals, hit up our slideshow.)

The nine designers in the Alternative Fashion Society specialize in kinky, quirky creations including lingerie (a lot of lingerie -- with enough pasties to cover the nips of every local burlesque troupe), swimwear, costumery, and party duds.

In order of appearance, Saturday's roster included Haus of Stardust, Ordi & Eli, Sticker Club Girl, Vaulted Clothing Label, Missconstrued, Catrina LaDell, Hell on Heels Couture, Setamitni by Kelly Calabrese, and Pierced Heart.

A few designers stood out in the parade of boobs, butts, and bared bellies, bucking the night's trends including samey onesies, overused glittery tulle, lamé, and the seemingly endless pairs of pasties.

Here's the thing: We're all for experimental fashion, but, to be perfectly honest, some of the designs -- in spite of their bold, balls-out sexiness -- lacked imagination.

Where we looked for pushed boundaries we found designers limiting themselves conceptually. Where shocking cuts, colors, and concepts could've left our jaws dropping, we became borderline desensitized to repetitive ideas.

For starters, the entertaining and interesting touches that event organizer Jen Deveroux brought to the stage set the creative, cutting-edge vibe nicely. 

Performances from dance troupe Ghazaal Beledi and Nyla The High Pimpstress were nothing short of mesmerizing, from the opening act's fire dancing to Nyla opening act two by charming and dancing with a live snake. The live, onstage art was also a welcome addition.

When it came to the fashion portion of the evening, Vaulted Clothing Label and Kelly Calabrese's Setamitni were the two designers who grabbed and, maybe more importantly, held our attention.

Vaulted was one of the few designers focused on non-bedroom streetwear, with a line that told a story. Its militaristic avian theme drew on a 1930s and 40s Amelia Earhart look, with midi-skirts, tailored jackets, leather pilot caps, and feather trim. The batwing hooded cape look that closed Vaulted's show left us intrigued and wanting to see more from this imaginative designer.

Calabrese's all-black line of titillating negligees pushed at boundaries others weren't willing to shove, experimenting with sleek lines and sheer materials that made for a lingerie line that was chic, elegant, and wearable. 

Where others went for garish glam, Calabrese exercised restraint and emerged with a clear vision and point of view. The understated, mod caftan was our favorite look of hers.

Animal Royale was fun, and, for a burgeoning design community, a stellar debut. We can't wait until the next show (which we hear will take place in April), where we hope to see this growing group of alternative designers refining their vision, fine tuning daring pieces, and intensely focusing on what they craft.

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