Couture clothes, runway shows, frantic designers doing last minute fittings on models while stylists make final adjustments on updos and glam makeup — not the scene you’d expect on the Vineyard in September, but the inaugural Martha’s Vineyard Fashion Week has taken over the Island since this past Sunday and will continue to add glamour to a time of year that is generally associated with a very different sort of event — the fishing derby.
A few events Thursday and Friday, Sept. 22 and 23 — designer trunk shows and theme parties at bars — will lead up to the main event on Saturday, a runway show and party at Dreamland, above the Martha’s Vineyard Chowder Company in Oak Bluffs, which promises to be an appropriate extravaganza to cap off the fun and colorful weeklong event.
All day Thursday, Sept. 22, The Green Room on Main Street, Vineyard Haven, will be showing the fall line of Tom’s shoes and taking special orders. Over at Citrine, also on Main Street, the designer of the Fisherman’s Daughter line of handmade organic clothing will be on hand, showing off new styles from 2 to 6 pm. Tonight, The Lampost in Oak Bluffs will host a Bringing Sexy Back party. Clubgoers are invited to “Wear your sexiest dress and feel your best,” according to a press release.
On Friday from 1 to 4 pm, The Green Room will again host a trunk show, this time for Barbour, the British lifestyle brand that specializes in waterproof and outdoor clothing. A Barbour rep will be on hand. In the evening, fashionistas will have the chance to wear their “cooliest, classiest funky hat” to Seasons in Oak Bluffs and compete for cash prizes.
Saturday’s big bash
The Saturday gala show at Dreamland will feature the lines of two established designers and two teams of newcomers to the Vineyard design world.
Karen Rusillo and her designs made it as far as the first cut at an audition in New York for the hit show Project Runway two years ago. She was unable to make the return to the city because of another commitment. Her designs, which incorporate antique fabrics along with interesting silks, textured materials, and some unexpected elements, have a fantasy flair which should add to the drama of the show.
One of her showstopping pieces is a bridal gown with a corset entirely covered in polished bits of conch shells. This piece is one that helped Ms. Rusillo beat out the competition at the Project Runway preliminaries. Her evening-wear pieces similarly make bold statements, and the designer, who is known for her structured netting hats, plans to accessorize each look with handsewn gloves and stockings as well as her signature fanciful headgear. Ms. Rusillo promises to provide “a real splashy finale” to the evening.
Chrysal Parrot, who makes custom clothes for a few women of note on the Vineyard, as well as for a dedicated following of Island women, provided the Emmy Awards dress for writer/producer Dahvi Waller of “Mad Men.” Ms. Parrot’s design was seen by 12 million viewers last Sunday as Ms. Waller accepted her Emmy for outstanding drama series in the slinky black silk dress.
For Saturday’s event, Ms. Parrot will spotlight that dress in a cotton print along with a number of her classic looks and a few surprises. “I’ll be showing some things that people don’t usually expect from me — not so much of the Victorian feel but more modern — but still classic,” Ms. Parrot said.
A couple of her attention grabbing looks will be a blue shot silk mermaid skirt and a full-length skirt suit made of a russet-colored plaid linen. The top bidder on a Fashion Week item at the Possible Dreams auction, Michelle Pedro of Lynns, will walk the runway along with her young daughter, Olivia, dressed in Ms. Parrot’s styles.
Both Ms. Russillo and Ms. Parrot recently opened stores in Vineyard Haven — Menagerie on Beach Road and Demi Monde on State Road, respectively. These two women have been fixtures in the Vineyard design scene for a long time and have helped shape the fashion aesthetic — one that celebrates individuality — that defines the Vineyard style.
Two new design teams will be premiering their lines at Saturday’s fashion gala. Mother/daughter team Marlene DiStefano and Randi Sylvia have put together a collection of silk dresses inspired by the ocean. Ms. Sylvia calls the first-time line they created, “A project we’re doing for ourselves.” Ms. DiStefano credits her daughter with the designs and says that she lent her considerable seamstress talents to the team. Ms. DiStefano’s primary creative outlet is doing event flowers for her business, Island Ambiance. Ms. Sylvia, a world traveller in her 20s, has no definite plans for her designing future but said, “I’d love one day to open a store with my designs and other people’s from around the world.”
Two 19-year-olds who have worked on clothing design together since their days as classmates at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School make up the other featured design team. Rose Maidoff and Chelsea Phaneuf will present their first collection in a line called “A Step out of Time,” which Ms. Pheneuf describes as being informed by Steampunk fashion, blending Victorian with science fiction. They will be showing a collection made primarily of brocades and silks called Keys and Clockwork, with some keys being featured as details.
The young designers have both worked with Ms. Parrot, who was instrumental in getting them involved with Fashion Week. Although this is their first foray into fashion design, the two did the costumes for several of their school plays, including a Shakespeare compilation that Ms. Phaneuf notes was a lot of fun to design for. The women will also create their own accessories for the fashion show.
Along with the designers, a few local boutiques, including On Kennebec, will show fall fashions. After the runway show, the party will continue downstairs at the M.V. Chowder Company. In promotional material for Fashion Week, the organizers encourage guests to “Dress to the Nines — Show us your Ten. Your Style, Your Way.”
The Fashion Week organizers — Trena Morrison, Basia Jaworska, Alaina Rastelli, Richard Skidmore and Ms. DiStefano and Ms. Silvia — have been planning and preparing for the event since last winter. Says Ms. Morrison, who jumpstarted the event, “I felt there was a need for a good fashion show on this Island. I really just want to put people’s focus back on the designers and the stores and maybe help young, aspiring designers.”
Sponsors for Fashion Week include Vita Coca coconut water and the International Watch Company. All proceeds from Fashion Week events will go to Angel Flight NE, a volunteer organization that provides free flights to children and adults in need of critical medical care who do not have the resources to access other means of transportation.
The Designers Collection gala pre-fashion-show party, on Sept. 24, starts at 8 pm with cocktails at Dreamland. The fashion show starts at 9 pm. Tickets are $20 or $30 for premium seating, available at ticketsmv.com. Apres party downstairs at MV Chowder Company is free and open to the public.