‘Fashion Lab’ strives to blur the line between fashion and art

Weiland addresses the audience at Craft Alliance assembled for his show and presentation.

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

more than 50 people spent in excess of $15,000 on Weiland’s youthful designs.

“I remember looking at Timo’s clothes and thinking, ‘We better round up the twenty-and thirty-somethings because his designs are young,” said Sherman. “But there were many people in their forties and fifties who came and bought. He modified some of his designs to fit his audience and he was really thrilled at the enthusiasm the St. Louis crowd showed.”

Beth Shalom Cemetery ad

So enthusiastic was Weiland that he is returning next week to give a lecture at Washington University and to attend a private cocktail party with Fashion Lab members. Yes, that’s right, Fashion Lab is comprised of members who pay $250, $500 or $1,000 for the chance to attend cocktail parties, private dinners and trunk shows with up-and-coming and established designers as well as exhibits and lectures. The more expensive the membership, the more exclusive the events a member is able to attend. Student and under-30 memberships also are available at $50 and $100, respectively.

So far, about 50 people have joined and the hope is that the number will increase as word gets out. Some of the lectures sponsored by Fashion Lab are free, such as the one Weiland is giving from 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday, March 10 at Wash U’s Kemp Auditorium.

“What I love so much about Fashion Lab is that it brings to the forefront the intellectual side of fashion,” said Sherman. “We hear firsthand from designers about their lines, their inspirations, the statements they want to make through their art. You get to know the personalities behind the designs.”

When we think of fashion capitals, St. Louis doesn’t necessarily leap to mind. True, the city has an evolving Fall Fashion Week as well as a burgeoning fashion design program at Washington University. Also true that a couple of designers from the recent season of TV’s “Project Runway” hail from the area. But if we’re being totally truthful, no one is mistaking St. Louis for New York, Paris, Milan, or even Chicago as a city that exudes fashion-forward prowess.

By the same token, says the ever-fashionable Susan Sherman of Clayton, St. Louis is nowhere near fashion bankrupt, and in fact, has a vibrant arts community that is interested in examining the link between high-end fashion and art. That’s why Sherman enlisted the help of Craft Alliance, which in turn partnered with Saks Fifth Avenue and Wash U’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts to kick off “Fashion Lab,” an ongoing program that explores the art and craft of fashion by presenting exhibitions, lectures, trunk shows and more.

“Fashion Lab is the only program of its type in St. Louis and is unique even nationally as it fuses fashion and art,” said Boo McLoughlin, executive director of Craft Alliance. “It brings to St. Louis designers who are cutting edge and highly artistic in their approach. It presents the artistic elements of fashion and the craft of fashion, which includes the care and the making of these garments.”

In January, more than 200 people braved the bitter cold to show up for Fashion Lab’s inaugural event. It featured a show by New York designer Timo Weiland and his designing partner Alan Eckstein whose Spring 2011 Fashion Collection is called “A Wharf on the Baltic.” Weiland told the fashion website style.com that he and Eckstein had Swedish actress Bibi Andersson in mind with their creations, thinking about what she might wear in her fjord-side country house. “That meant little tie-front blouses and jeans with a leg-lengthening and timely flare. Scandinavian wallpaper inspired a graphic, Marimekko-ish print,” Weiland told style.com.

Translation: Weiland’s designs skew young and edgy. Nonetheless, at a trunk show at Sherman’s home the day after the Craft Alliance event, Sherman and McLoughlin explained how the Fashion Lab idea grew out of a coffee meeting they had together with Saskya Bryon, head of development and communications at Craft Alliance. Several years ago Bryon tried to launch a similar “Fashion Incubator” here, but the concept died after a couple of events.

This time when the three got together and began talking “it made so much sense to start this and do it under the umbrella of Craft Alliance because of its association with fiber art,” said Sherman.

McLoughlin agrees. “Fashion is a careful use of fiber material. It’s wearable art that serves as function, which is one kind of art that we show here.”

Sherman talks excitedly about a members-only Fashion Lab pool party and fashion and trunk show at her home in June by the world-renowned Italian design house FENDI. “(FENDI) knows that in one day it can make enough money to make it worthwhile to come here,” said Sherman. “Even FENDI is going out and doing trunk shows because in this economic climate, you can’t guarantee anything. This event also allows FENDI to get in front of its Midwest customer and see what she is into.”

For more information about Fashion Lab or to join, call Saskya Bryon at 314-725-1177 ext 321 or email [email protected].

Upcoming Fashion Lab events

March 10: Timo Weiland will be the first speaker at Yarn, Fashion Lab’s lecture series, sponsored by Alison and John Ferring, at Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. Lecture is free and open to the public.

April 7: Yarn with guest speaker at Washington University Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. Lecture is free and open to the public. Dinner with guest speaker at a private home (for founding members only).

April 8: ARTrageous Costume Ball: Gala with focus on fashion, honoring Washington University Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts’ Professor of Fashion Design, Jeigh Singleton. Proceeds of the gala benefit Craft Alliance’s

exhibition, education and outreach programs. (The ARTrageous Costume Ball is a separate ticketed event.)

June 1 & 2: Posh Pool Party – Poolside cocktail party with the internationally renowned fashion house FENDI’s Spring 2011 collection, evoking a “Summer by the Sea in Italy.” Trunk show and fashion show in a sumptuous poolside setting at the home of David and Susan Sherman. Members-only event.

September 16: Exhibition of the site-specific installation work of the nationally renowned artist duo Guerra de la Paz exhibition at Craft Alliance’s gallery in the Kranzberg Arts Center in Grand Center. Free and open to the public. October 5 & 6: Yarn with New York designer Todd Thomas at Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. Thomas dresses the likes of Katy Perry, Sarah Jessica Parker and Cindy Sherman, and is responsible for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show (exclusive for founding members). An exhibition featuring Todd Thomas’ conceptual work will be on display throughout the month. Lectures and exhibitions are free and open to the public.