That’s haute!

Sheer blouses, up-to-there minis and safari prints with a soft side—they were all part of Sacramento’s inaugural Fashion Weekend

From left to right: On the runway, models sported one-of-a-kind creations by designers Casey Sue Douglass, Richard Hallmarq, Amy Hemmens and Katie Corcoran.

From left to right: On the runway, models sported one-of-a-kind creations by designers Casey Sue Douglass, Richard Hallmarq, Amy Hemmens and Katie Corcoran.

Photo By Angela Wyant

An hour-and-a-half before Fashion Weekend’s Saturday-night fashion show, local designers and their models were gathered in a warehouse one block from Isabela’s Mexican and Italian Fonda, where the members of the Sacramento Apparel Coalition (SAC) were about to debut their spring/summer 2005 collections. All around the vacant warehouse, models searched rolling racks for their garments while designers scurried to make sure their creative visions were realized.

Designer Katie Corcoran was sewing model Kenna Johnson into her denim clam diggers and applying double-sided tape to her fitted bodice. Designer Monte Christo, who had brought along an iron and his sewing machine, was ironing his clothes into a state of crease-free perfection. Shasta Vanderwelle, a hairdresser from Mosaic Salon, did her best to ensure that designer Casey Sue Douglass’ models had runway-perfect faux hawks. Christo’s boombox was pumping out the tunes; “Ms. Hilton, you must be worth a trillion bucks,” rang throughout the warehouse.

SAC was conceived when local designer Richard Hallmarq was invited to show his collection at San Francisco’s fashion week. At first, it sounded like a great idea, but Hallmarq is from Sacramento, not San Francisco. He began approaching other local designers about organizing Sacramento’s own fashion weekend.

“I just started asking friends of mine that were designers,” Hallmarq recalled. “I was like, ‘Hey, I’m doing this project. Do you want to get on board? Blah, blah, blah, blah.’ You know? And then, all of the sudden, this totally large team just formed—kind of like Super Friends in fashion.”

The group adopted the SAC moniker because it was easier than listing all of the designers participating in the show. Plus, the whole idea was to start a fashion movement in Sacramento, not to promote individuals. In no time at all, Hallmarq had assembled his super group: Tyrus Wilson; Katie Corcoran; Lindsay Rickman; Erica Setness and Trisha Rhomberg, collectively known as Pretty Trashy Clothing; Rachel Fowler; Casey Sue Douglass; Cleo Cartel; Monte Christo; Amy Hemmens; and, of course, himself.

Freelance makeup artist Vanessa Swift gives model Veronica Keleske a geisha-inspired look.

Photo By Angela Wyant

After months of preparation, Sacramento’s inaugural Fashion Weekend had arrived. It started Friday, March 4, with a VIP party at Phoenix Framing & Gallery and continued through Sunday, March 6, with sample sales at Midtown boutiques. However, Saturday night’s fashion show was definitely the main event. While the models were getting dressed in the warehouse, DJ Shaun Slaughter was preparing the music for the evening as the crowd filed into the standing-room-only venue. A woman taking tickets at Isabela’s door called out, “If you don’t have tickets already, we’re sorry, but the event is sold out.”

Inside, the crowd gathered around a makeshift runway in the center of what normally would serve as the dance floor of Club 21. Attendees, many with cameras in hand, waited eagerly to see what the members of SAC had up their fashionable sleeves.

The crowd grew silent as emcee Jay King, a founding member of the popular 1980s R&B group Club Nouveau, took the stage. After a brief introduction by King, the tunes started, and the models hit the runway.

Kicking off the show was Wilson’s collection, “Sculptural Designs.” The most interesting pieces in the line were pod-like shawls that lent futuristic silhouettes to the models. Wilson paired the shawls with billowy, pastel-colored skirts emblazoned with a symbol similar to the anarchy sign. The clothing was accessorized with chunky wooden bangles in an assortment of neon colors and Wilson’s own variation of the fanny pack—an accessory some may feel is better left in the annals of fashion history.

The Black Eyed Peas’ booty-shaking tune “Smells Like Funk” accompanied Corcoran’s models on the runway. The palette of citrus-bright hues teamed with a black-and-white plaid created a funky, wearable collection. Obi-style belts were paired with Marilyn Monroe-inspired halter dresses. Denim clam diggers were dressed up with embroidered flowers, painted graphics and colorful buttons. The folks at Suede Salon were able to give Corcoran’s models the high-volume hair that she’d envisioned, while freelance makeup artist Vanessa Swift was responsible for the girls’ geisha-inspired makeup. Churning out the charm, Corcoran finished off her show by exclaiming, “They’re hot, and we know it.”

While not the most practical of the exhibited fashions, Rickman’s line managed to be whimsical despite its gently muted palette. It was instantly clear that Rickman isn’t one to follow fashion trends or fads. Many of her designs looked as though they were torn from the pages of Maurice Sendak’s beloved children’s story Where the Wild Things Are. Other creations were strongly reminiscent of Edward Gorey’s dark illustrations. One model even donned a priest-like vestment complete with a tab collar and cardboard wings.

Ange Grmolyes, a hairdresser at Suede Salon, puts the finishing touches on one of Katie Corcoran’s models.

Photo By Angela Wyant

Pretty Trashy Clothing produced a collection of streetwise hipster gear. The design duo added its own in-your-face flare to prep-school polos and soccer shirts. Silk-screened images of guns, tigers and other pop-culture graphics were added to almost every item. The Pretty Trashy models of the female persuasion sported wife beaters under corset tops and tanks with giant bows sew across the bust. The models had attitude, and one even grabbed his “package” while simultaneously flipping off the crowd—to the audience’s delight, of course.

However, it was Fowler’s line that raised the most eyebrows. The collection was a better fit for the boudoir than for a trip to your grandmother’s house. Fowler’s miniskirts were so short that a little boy at the end of the runway caught more of a show than he was expecting—he covered his eyes for the remainder of her collection.

Cartel chose lemon yellows, corals and grays for her feminine yet edgy collection. The models donned sheer blouses—sans brassieres—that invited audience members to look, but not to touch.

Douglass’ rail-thin models hit the stage to the sultry sounds of Portishead. The collection paired cropped velour hoodies with classically tailored pants and crotch-high minis. The highlight of Douglass’ collection was the skirt she fashioned for herself out of vintage scarves. The one-of-a-kind skirt gave the illusion that her legs went on forever. (At least, we think it was an illusion.)

Monte Christo kicked off his collection with a dance party. Two ladies donning unzipped jeans and baseball caps brought a boombox and turned the runway into a dance floor. Christo offered up a sexy collection with plunging-neckline dresses and fluorescent swimsuits with cutaway sides. One elegant model in a tie-dyed dress proved that a Chihuahua can be an accessory, although the poor dog seemed traumatized by the experience.

Second to last was Hemmens. Equal parts theater and fashion, Hemmens’ collection was Cirque du Soleil meets William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The first model to walk the runway was a young girl who sprinkled the stage with pastel-colored feathers—a sign that something magical was about to unfold. Next up was a svelte man with a loosely crocheted top, colorful leggings and a strand of artificial flowers winding around his torso. What followed was a series of models with painted faces and colorful hair, all clad in Hemmens’ avant-garde pieces.

Designers Richard Hallmarq and Katie Corcoran take a break from the pre-fashion-show chaos to pose for a photo.

Photo By Angela Wyant

Hemmens, who has been designing for friends for years, describes her work as fantasy-like. “Most people wear it as costume, and they wear it to nightclubs, but I wear a lot of it in the daytime,” she explained in an interview a few days before the show.

Most of the textiles that Hemmens used in her collection were from recycled pieces. “For the most part, I get handed things,” she explained. “So, I’m working with whatever I’m given, and I really like that because I feel that I’m not stuck on something,” she continued.

Hemmens topped off her runway show with some improvisational modern dance. Hemmens and her dance partner—a rather large, hairy man wearing a loosely crocheted gold top and neon pink ruffled bloomers—twisted and turned in an impressive display of theater.

Finishing off the show was SAC founder Hallmarq. Hallmarq, who originally planned on adorning his models with jewels and brightly colored eye shadow, opted for a more natural, healthy look.

“I decided to go sleek and simple because everything was so wild onstage in my line,” he explained. Hallmarq’s sun-kissed models strutted down the runway in his simple, sophisticated designs. Crisp white pants, python-printed bathing suits and flowing scarf dresses in floral and animal prints all were highlights of the collection. One flowy dress was reminiscent of something J.Lo would wear. Not surprising, considering Hallmarq’s Panamanian heritage. “I love the way Latin women look,” he explained. “It’s very voluptuous and glamorous, and I love that.”

After the show, the crowd spilled out into the streets. Designers mingled with proud parents, supportive friends and local fashionistas. Olivia Coelho, owner of Midtown boutique Olipom, was impressed by what she had observed. “All the designers brought something totally different,” she said. “I loved Tyrus Wilson’s stuff—it was total summer lovemaking fun. I really liked how funky and silly and wonderful the Pretty Trashy line was, and everyone else just did a fantastic job. It was beautiful. Richard just polished off the night. It was fantastic.”

Coelho was also quick to praise Hemmens. “Watching Amy Hemmens was like watching theater—like excellent fashion theater.” Local artist Jay Howell was in agreement, calling Hemmens “one of Sacramento’s best artists, hands down.”

For King, the emcee, Hallmarq’s collection was the highlight of the event, but he also took a moment to praise all the designers. “I thought each designer had their own unique style, and I think creativity is king,” he explained. Judging from the audience’s applause during the show, each of the designers had a fair share of fashionable fans.