Designer Bri Seeley stole the show Friday night at Phoenix Fashion Week 2013 at Talking Stick Resort.
Seeley, who was named emerging designer of the year in 2012, presented a refined, thoughtful collection that stood out among the evening's established and emerging designers.
Since earning the title last year, Seeley has moved to L.A. to further her brand of vintage-inspired womenswear.
The designer closed out the established designer portion of Friday night's shows with dresses, shells, and skirts in a delicate color palate of mint, jade, peach, and gray. Seeley's focused point of view and thoughtful attention to details, like open backs in her dresses and scalloping at the high waists of her A-line skirts, highlighted what other designers were obviously lacking, namely wearability. Her gray dress with a tie waist was a lovely stand-out within a well-done collection.
Gents opened the evening with its line of hats and shirts. With male and female models, he brand displayed its beanies and baseball caps in a variety of materials like leather, jersey, and wool.
The show's pacing made for a tedious display, as models were seemingly instructed to walk extra-slow. The redundancy of the line didn't help matters, as Gents showed more than 20 looks with little variation -- apart from the women who took to the runway not wearing pants (which, why?). That combined with the brand's intro video, which was surprisingly aggressively sexual for a hat company, brought a gross sense of macho to the night that no amount Google Glass (which one male model wore) could compensate for.
The other established designers, JHaus and Paulie Gibson, were from last year's batch of emerging ones.
JHaus showed a collection of wearable denim in both classic and on-trend cuts and washes -- much more focused than the brand's showing last year. This brand could easily push into a mainstream market, and it's great to see it obviously succeeding. I particularly (and unexpectedly) liked the light-weight denim maxi skirt. It looks like something I'd find at Madewell. The burlap shorts? Not so much.
Paulie Gibson, on the other hand, didn't seem to make leaps or bounds in his designs since last year's show. His pieces are still overworked and have an air of trying a little too hard. Gibson's love of patterns makes for an entertaining show, but I'd like to see the designer zoom in and focus on a few strong ideas, rather than throwing so much onto the runway.
Especially curious were his onesies for men, which alternately looked like painters' jumpsuits, when presented with long sleeves and full pants, and costumes designed to make adult men look like toddlers, when they had short sleeves and pant legs. More confusing than either was why the designer gave the jumpsuits belt loops.
Friday's group of emerging designers DPC by Dora Yim, Herbert Victoria, Proverbs by Efua, and Stephanie Gentry didn't bring much wow either.
Victoria presented a line that melded city smart with vacation-ready prints in browns, blues, and yellows. While structurally lovely, the color combinations Victoria chooses don't always gel. For exmaple, a pattern full of electric yellow and lime green mixed with chocolate brown and pale blue is daring, sure, but that doesn't mean it works. A little brown shift dress with patchworking stood out as an interesting departure from the rest of the resort-style collection, while Victoria embellished a few looks with what resembled pointy white teeth. The toothy elements could've worked if the designs were a bit simpler, but they felt like overkill and were reminiscent of Where The Wild Things Are instead.
Where Victoria overly complicated his looks, Dora Yim seemed to over simplify hers. While minimalism can be lovely, it needs to be impeccable to work. Unfortunately not all of Yim's work was exceptionally constructed, and being simple in shape and cut made imperfections and unflattering shapes stand out. Her pieces fell awkwardly on the models, causing material to bulge and crease where it (I'm assuming) shouldn't have.
Proverbs by Efua showed a collection of 1950s diner-inspired mini-dresses in blues and yellows. The brand's aim is to end human trafficking (I'm unclear on how exactly it's working to do that), but I couldn't help but wonder why its designer would need to create a fashion line to support that cause. Regardless, the color choices were baffling, as the line included bright white, black lace appliques, electric blues, deep pinks, and buttery yellow.
Gentry closed the night with a bizarre collection of airy pinks and greens, lots of satin, and wacky embellishments -- like white shorts with beaded fringe. It wasn't a great note to end on, and it's clear the designer's ideas need some refining.