"I went to Orange Peel for Cirque de Murale in 2007. I'll never forget it. It was awesome because it was a very controlled circus," says Sonia Hendrix. "I want the fashion expo to have that element. Not overbearing, but not all black and white. Very colorful." She's talking about PUSH Asheville Fashion, the part-runway, part-boutique showcase, part-performance art, part-networking event slated for the Orange Peel this week.
In a way, a circus is an apt metaphor for PUSH, which began last year as a small-scale runway show and local-music event, held at the Garage at Biltmore. Hendrix, then a student at AB Tech, conceptualized PUSH Asheville Fashion as a project for Phi Beta Lambda. The March 2009 show was about encouraging students to shop locally.
This year's PUSH — now a three-ring (at least!) extravaganza — reaches farther, but is rooted in the same idea. Hendrix, who is from Franklin, says she's "been in Asheville since I was 18. I consider myself a daughter of this city … the goal is to introduce the fashion industry to Asheville, just as music and art are introduced."
That initial impetus evolved over the planning process of this year's PUSH into a multifaceted evening featuring dozens of local boutiques and designers from the usual suspects — women's wear shops like Custom, Minx and Frock — to high-end boutique Constance and repurposed wearables from Royal Peasantry. Ox and Rabbit and New York Styles will represent urban wear, Feathers Gallery shows off festival-inspired style, Anne Mettee is doing clothing for children and pregnant women, and Ad Lib and Spiritex bring natural fibers to the mix.
Local designers will send their creations down the runway, too, with designs ranging from the ‘70s-inspired upcycled fashions of Vintage Moon, to the organic, classic pieces of Unabashed Apparel. Peace Weaver makes woven and crocheted scarves, shawls and bags; Hazel Anne Designs makes self-described "lovely, lively threads" and House of Devochka fabricates accessories (cuffs, bags, pendants) from found and discarded materials.
The local connection doesn't end with the clothing — Hendrix and her team booked 20 models ("I was definitely looking for local people") at a single casting held at Hotel Indigo. Other models — a total of 55 are planned for the show — were pre-selected and found through word-of-mouth. West One Salon and Ananda Hair Studio are both slated to lend their services to the production. Project Runway alum/2009 HATCH Asheville mentor Elisa Jimenez returns to Asheville for the show, and will create dresses on stage during a performance art segment with local designer R. Brooke Priddy (for more on that, see the sidebar). Electronic DJ collective In Plain Sight performs.
It's a lot of entertainment, but the focus remains on apparel. "I don't want to take away from fashion," says Hendrix. "Last year I was like, 'I'm going to have Jen and the Juice, Plaza Real, Ras Berhane and Mindelixir. Everyone was like, 'When's the fashion show going to start?'"
There's a raffle planned and a fundraiser for Asheville Homegrown, as well as select vending. "I want this to be the ultimate fashion expo," says Hendrix. She also wants to see her efforts do good for the local community by benefiting other projects, as well as continuing to promote Asheville-based fashion.
"I'm really thankful to have set the stage for our first vision," Hendrix says of last year's event. "Because of that, everyone is looking for more and they're looking for it to step up. With everyone's help, it can."
Alli Marshall can be reached at email@example.com.
who: PUSH Asheville Fashion
where: The Orange Peel
when: Friday, July 16 (8 p.m., $15 advance, $20 doors. pushashevillefashion.org.)
Elisa Jimenez, Brooke Priddy and the three graces
Before moving to Asheville, local designer Brooke Priddy apprenticed with interdisciplinary artist Elisa Jimenez. Before participating in 2009's HATCH Asheville as a mentor, Jimenez (whose main line is The Hunger World) appeared on the fourth season of Project Runway as a contestant.
Now returning to Asheville as part of PUSH Asheville Fashion, Jimenez will team up with Priddy for a performance/folklore/spontaneous couture addition to the runway show. "I was so taken by the breadth of people and the sheer energy of Asheville when I was invited to be a HATCH mentor," Jimenez reveals via email. "My experiences in Asheville revealed to me a vibrant gem city of intellect [and] arts. Something is happening in Asheville … there is a genesis."
Jimenez explains that "spontaneous couture" is a term that a client once applied to her work. "It's about how I make things directly on the body," she says. For PUSH, "I had desired some sort of triad of women to connote the three fates or three graces as a blessing to everyone, incorporating 'spontaneous couture' dressings. I also knew I wanted to model Brooke Priddy's work … We decided to entwine the two into one fashion performative event."
As part of the performance, the two will incorporate Chinese mythical character "the weaving girl." "In a story, popular throughout Asia and with many differing versions, the Jade Emperor has a daughter named Zhinü," Jimenez explains. "She is most often represented as responsible for weaving colorful clouds in the heavens. In some versions she is the Goddess Weaver, daughter of the Jade Emperor and the Celestial Queen Mother, who weaves the Silver River."
Priddy describes the performance in this way: "Creating a silver river of fabric, Elisa will cut three models from the cloth as it stretches across the runway. I will be dressing Elisa and she will be dressing [the models], culminating with her creating a spontaneous couture piece on her own body, on the runway."
The dresses will later be auctioned off to benefit Asheville Homegrown, something important to Jimenez, who likes to use her designs for philanthropic efforts. Want another opportunity to own work by Jimenez? The designer will hold a pop-up show at Minx on Saturday, July 17, from noon-3 p.m. "I'll have ready-mades and one-of-a-kinds," she says. "And I can do some spontaneous couture if people want it."