Asheville Fashion Week – Part 1

On Thursday night at the Altamont Theater in Asheville, NC dozens of people find their seats 4 and 5 rows deep surrounding a runway. The dim lighting and club mix beats filled the air with a palpable anticipation.

Modeling the Hattitude collection from McKinney Gough, Day 2 of AFW, courtesy of Asheville Fashion Week Facebook page

Over 100 models take to the runway, showcasing looks from local designers McFarland, McKinney Gough, Southern Charm/Charmed, Deirdre Blume, Tasha Lief, Runway Ready, Chapeaux by Simone, MG&B, and Diamond Outdoors.

Thursday’s most impressive surprise was the debut collection designed by a pair of local 16 year old girls, MG&B. Their designs are fun, colorful, and bold. A white knit dress with spoons on the front, a green chiffon ball skirt with a black bodice, and a fun mix-print crop top and skirt were crowd favorites (based on the amount of cheering).

On Friday night at the Millroom of Asheville Brewing, The crowd was larger, the runway staggered in a Z shape, and the lights were pulsating color-changing orbs. Collections shown included Sacred Garden by Anna Gordon, Tricia Ellis, a reprisal of Diamond Outdoors and Deirdre Blume, KatDog Couture, Legends of Hollywood retail, Wildflower Bridal with accessories from Uber Kio and Hatchett Creative Group, and Xen by Rachele swimwear.

Models for Xen by Rachele after the show, courtesy of AFW Facebook page

Friday’s presentation was phenomenal. From casual date night looks by Diamond Outdoors to opera-worthy ensembles by KatDog Kouture, to fairy-tale wedding inspirations by Wildflower Bridal, there was something for everyone on the runway.

What these two incredible nights showcased wasn’t just fashion: it was the creative soul of Asheville. Produced by Gage Models and Talent Agency, which created Chattanooga and Knoxville fashion weeks, the models of Asheville were guaranteed a spot on the runway. These were real men and women of real proportions from petite to traditional model to plus size wearing real clothes from local and talented designers.

This afternoon begins the last day for Asheville Fashion Week with the children’s collections, and tonight is the Grand Finale at the Renaissance Hotel.

Author’s Note: I am honored to bear witness to these historic event. I am blessed to have found my path as a fashion journalist in the same time as the blossoming of Asheville’s Fashion community. Special thanks to model and stylist extraordinaire Sarah Merrell for making Asheville Fashion Week a reality.

Costume Drama Delivers

Summers in Asheville, NC are nothing short of alive. From the street performers to the purple comedy bus to the PubCycle, Downtown Asheville has a thriving energetic ambience, defined by the Artistic Community. Asheville Community Theater is but a part of the growing Fashion Scene in Asheville, having contributed by creating and hosting its signature annual fundraiser for the last 4 years: Costume Drama: A Fashion Affair.

It’s a fundraiser, a fashion show, and a fun competition with audience participation. This year, the event was expanded and sold out. A pre-party, a silent auction, four categories of runway, voting, a post-party, and silent auction on the very costumes from the runway.

“[This event] shows Asheville talent. The designer is a pastry chef. No matter the day job, people have hidden talents,” says model Gessi Boyd in the green room backstage.

The four categories of competition were Christmas in July, Nature, Tape, and Inflatables. 

 The Christmas in July category was full of breathtaking, angelic, and magical constructs, from Olivia Mears modeling her own red and gold wrapping-paper Tree Topper with mobile white angel wings to McKinney Gough’s blue, silver, and white Nutcracker, to Susan Vonceil’s candy-cane striped poolside pinup.

Susan Vonceil's creation Model: Sarah Merrell Photo: Hannah Silberman

Susan Vonceil’s creation, modeled by Sarah Merrell photo by Hannah Silberman

The Nature category was definitely a crowd favorite, featuring woodland warrior fairies, dragonflies, garden wardens, and an ocean goddess.

Caroline Williams entry, modeled by Gessi Boyd

Caroline Williams entry, modeled by Gessi Boyd, photo from model’s FB page

The gown is a gorgeous blue and white goddess dress, with cascading ruffles at the mermaid hemline remniscent of waves cresting on the beach.  The bodice is constructed of pearls on one side, bringing to life Caroline Williams’ vision of “surf and elegance.”

Despite Gessi’s nerves of her first runway (ever), she felt “empowering, exposed, and freeing” in the gown.

The Tape category was interesting, to say the least. Designers were challenged to use tape to construct their designs. (If you’re anything like me, your mind goes to duct tape or scotch tape.) The creativity presented here is nothing short of inspiring, from VHS and Casette tape flapper dresses to painted painter’s tape fairies to caution tape tulle ballgowns.

The papparazzi dress, by Stephen Lange,  constructed of light reflection tape materials, looked like something Lady Gaga would wear (if she hasn’t already).

The most whimsical category, inflatables, presented the most memorable creations and characters. From Charles Josef’s balloon bridesmaid to Sheila Thibodeaux‘s lionfish to Marla Looper‘s jellyfish, ensemble after ensemble left the audience excited and craving more.

The house was packed, warm, and filled with applause and laughter as the Category winners were annouonced: Danielle Chaboudy & Sue Ellen Black with their golden tree-topper (a month in the making) took Christmas in July, Olivia Mears with her woodland fairy took Nature, Sally Garner took Tape with a VHS film party dress, and Carina Lopez with her doctor’s glove cocktail dress took Inflatables.

Applause, laughter, and nervous indecision filled the air as the audience took one final vote for best in show. Christmas in July, modeled by Jessica Robin Riley took home the victory.

All four of the winning designs are currently on display through Saturday, July 18 at Bellagio Everyday in Downtown Asheville.

An Ancient Cure for Arthritis?

Jopai Weed or Queen of the Meadow

Use the roots of this plant to create a tea to treat arthritis and rheumatism. Photo credit: Vick, Albert F.W. at wildflower.org

In the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, the homeland of the Cherokee, lie the secrets to ancient medicine. There was a time, according to legend, when there existed no sickness. The animals were tired of being hunted, and vowed for each animal that was killed, a disease would be released. The plants heard of this, and being friendly to humans, vowed that for each disease, a plant would offer a cure. And so until European contact, the Cherokee had a cure for every ailment.

When his grandfather hunted deer, Davy Arch recalls, he would pray to the entity “Little Deer” in song. He would then watch and wait. While the rest of the group would move, one deer would behave differently either by hanging back or facing a different direction. He would make the kill, and again pray through song for forgiveness of what he had done. The intestines were removed, the game then taken to the river and cleansed before the hide was ever cut: this elaborate ritual done so that a family might eat and survive. If the entity is not appeased before the journey begins, the meat will poison those who partake with rheumatism and arthritis.

To cure rheumatism and arthritis, a plant known as Queen of the Meadow or Jopai Weed offered a cure. Use the roots to create a tea. The tea’s medicinal properties are that of a blood cleanser. Cleanse the blood, the blood cleanses the body, removing chemical build up near the joints and along the bones. Science, of course, backs this knowledge, but in ancient times, it was simply logical.

To gather the plant for medicinal purpose, pass peacefully by the first six growths. If found in a patch, watch and wait with quiet purpose. One will offer itself by facing a different direction, stirring a leaf, etc. Leave a white bead in its place as an offering of peace, thanks, and forgiveness.

Davy Arch is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and may be contacted at the Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee, NC where he works as the Education Manager. Other sources include personal experience and history,  Mooney’s Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, and the Ethnology of American Indian by Professor Charles O. Noble, Ph.D. published in 1973.

Caretaking

Wind Song’s Last Topic

Stefani and I talked about the importance of caretaking in almost every aspect of our modern lives. Native traditions across the country find it important to care for the environment, the animals, yourself, your village, and your family. So we challenged you, the listener, to do something to better someone’s life in some way.

What I’ve Done

I started my internship with clearchannel radio this week. I’m not sure what I expected, but organizing freebies from previous remotes was not it. Neither, really, was adding concerts to the site calendars. But I did it, and it actually did make a difference to the actually employed. Staying organized and reaching the audience was important.

Why does it Matter?

If we expect people to help us, we have to help others. Volunteering, interning, talking, listening. Being there. It makes a massive difference to the lives we interact with. So I once again charge you to do what you can to better a life.