Glasslands Gallery, a music and arts venue on Kent Avenue, is normally home to up-and-coming bands and young hipsters standing around waiting to dance, drink, and possibly get laid. But for three years now, for one weekend apiece in February and September, Glasslands has transformed itself into a space for new fashion, replacing the traditional catwalk with a stage for “models” (who seem more like dancers and artists) who perform short performance art pieces while modeling clothes. The tagline of the event, “where art meets fashion” is appropriate.
Williamsburg Fashion Weekend founder and curator Arthur Arbit created the event (which took place this year September 17-18) because he wanted a way for local designers to share their work. The shows begin as soon as New York Fashion Week ends, and since many publications are still looking for fashion-related stories, WFW gets a chance to share the spotlight. You may not be able to buy tickets to see the likes of Anna Sui and Michael Kors at the Lincoln Center tents, but just $8 at Glasslands gets you tickets to see dozens of young, new designers. Comparing the two, Arbit describes NYFW as “more of a business,” while “Williamsburg Fashion Week is straight from the heart.”
Harlem-based designer Minnae Chae was one such young designer. Chae, whose favorite designers include Isyae Miyake and Jeremy Scott, says the best part of designing is the process itself, being able to see her collections evolve. She chooses her models based on who she feels “embodies the spirit” of her clothing, particularly her fellow artists (Chae’s models are all beautiful, but they aren’t 5’11, with twenty-inch waists). Perhaps this is a divine example of art imitating real life.
Chae admits, though, that designing isn’t always so pleasant, and that it can be difficult to translate inspiration into actual clothing. In addition, making money can be a challenge, for any designer. Arbit worked as a tailor during NYFW to supplement his income, and says he made $2,000 one weekend working for Diesel. Not bad. This might sound a tad hypocritical from someone who’s denounced many of the NYFW designers for lacking spirit, but even starving artists need to eat now and then.
Part of what makes WFW such a great experience is that it welcomes those who might not fit into the typical mold of the young fashionista. Not dissimilar to the neighborhood in which it takes place, WFW makes room for those interested in the intersection between fashion, music, dance, theatre, and visual art#&8212:in an industry notorious for exclusivity, it’s nice to know that there’s room for everyone.