Arise: African Collective Spring 2012

Rushing to the show after work in steady rain was a fitting, albeit frenetic precursor to the ARISE Show, whose theme was simply Water. The collective showcase of African designers benefitted clean water projects for the region, and reminded us all sharply how luxurious NYFW and living in New York simply is in comparison to the third world situations across the globe.

A mix of business casuals straight out from their 9-5 and the “to be scene-sters” waiting to capture the attention spans of the fashion blogosphere filled the Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center. Waiting in the crowds, occasionally scanning the torsos of glamazons (both male and female) was slow and disorienting having spent the first 15 minutes after receiving my ticket in the wrong side of the hall.

The show was incredibly slow to start, seemingly from technical issues, and murmuring from the crowd became the subscript behind the pounding tribal beat soundtrack. Eventually, the group got their act together and opened with sale-able contemporary pieces in graphic black and white with paneling of cheetah print.

The diversity of models was quite suprising, in the best ways, from black, white, asian, famous, and the not-so-famous. Suffice it to say, the ARISE collective won major brownie points in the diversity hiring department. Major players in the collective were mostly graphic, brightly colored in rich vegetable dye hues. Some sheer, shimmery, and flowing evening pieces were also shining stars. A bright pink and purple colored tie-dye caftan was worthy of Rachel Zoe and a feathered mermaid style seemed likely to show up on a red carpet somewhere in Hollywood. While some designers decidedly took a literal representation of the aquatic theme, others took a different perspective and played up the less obvious qualities of water. Ornate evening dresses, in all lengths, were sequinned and embroidered, reflecting and shimmering in the catwalk light. Feathered pieces hearkened back to aquatic animals and glittery cigarette pants reminded us of fish scales. Sheer ballgown lengths lended their likeness to the transparency of water.

The night was not without its climactic drama as one of the designers took a spill of the stage in her dangerously high heels. Collective audience gasp ensued, and we wondered what terrible luck had befallen this poor woman. Luckily enough, she survived, mostly bruised in ego and not in body and walked the catwalk to a standing ovation (hopefully for her collection and not for the unfortunate spill she took moments before).

Overall, the show was a fine medium. Mediocre ready to wear at worst, and true artisanal creations in both structure and color combinations at absolute best. A few pieces seemed oddly tributary to the late Alexander McQueen which reminded us of how truly great he had been. Replicating such genius never comes easy and can be harshly telling when not sourced and executed correctly. However, the show was not without it’s own stellar uniqueness and the talent behind this collective seems on trend and confidently here to stay. Having already 2 successful years on the NYFW roster is nothing to scoff at for a burgeoning design force.
– Rachel Rozzi

Photos by Stevyn Llewellyn

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