Martha’s Vineyard Fashion Week gets early start


If you’ve recently found yourself wheeling your cart around Stop and Shop in pajama pants, or showing up at a cocktail party in UGG’s, now is the time for letting your personal style blossom after a long winter dormancy. Tonight, Thursday, April 7, fashion will be the focus at a fundraiser that will launch a new event — Martha’s Vineyard Fashion Week — which will take place in mid September.

Shephard Fine ArtSpace — the new occupant of the former NYE Gallery on Uncas Avenue in Oak Bluffs — will be the scene of the fashion show/cocktail party kick-off of a fun, late summer happening that will include a number of events featuring local designers, boutiques, and beauty specialists. Tonight’s event benefits Angel Flight Northeast.

“For as long as I’ve been on the Island I’ve heard people complain that there’s no place to go and get dressed up,” says Richard Skidmore, one of the event’s organizers.” We want to give people the opportunity to get into their closets and get out the clothes that they look great in, but couldn’t wear on-island – until now.” Mr. Skidmore, who once owned a boutique on the Lower East Side of New York where he sold his own designs, is also hopeful that the event will give some added public exposure to many of the Island’s designers and fashion retailers.

Fashion Week is the brainchild of Trena Morrison, fashion editor for the seasonal style and entertainment publication This Week on Martha’s Vineyard. “I always wondered why we didn’t celebrate something like New York’s or Boston’s Fashion Weeks,” she says. She was kicking the idea around with her friend Amy Love Heflin last fall and just decided to do it, and she recruited Mr. Skidmore and Basia Jaworska Silva to help plan the events.

Among the few events scheduled so far is a red carpet evening at Nectar’s. Other events tentatively planned include live model window displays, trunk shows, beauty seminars, a taping of a show based on “What Not To Wear,” fashion shows, and theme nights in bars. The hope is that the week of events will encompass venues all over the Island.

Chrysal Parrot & PIKNIK

Tonight’s fashion show spotlights Island designer Chrysal Parrot and stylist and boutique owner Michael Hunter of PIKNIK Art & Apparel. Says Ms. Morrison, “We wanted one designer and one store to start out with. The fashion shows [in September] will involve both boutiques and designers.” Notes Mr. Skidmore, “We need to get a buzz going because Fashion Week is a big undertaking and we plan a nice long ramp up to the event.”

Chrysal Parrot’s line of feminine dresses, skirts, jackets, and bodices draws inspiration from historical fashion, while combining quality natural fabrics with ease and comfort of wear. Her looks often evoke Victorian, boudoir, prairie, and Wild West scenarios, yet play as well with bare feet as with high heels. She has a talent for mixing patterns and choosing fabrics and colors. Ms. Parrot creates custom looks for high profile clients such as Carly Simon and Kate Taylor (for whom she designed a dress for President Obama’s inauguration) but she also sells ready-to-wear pieces. She formerly had a shop/studio above the now defunct Che’s Lounge and currently she operates out of her home in West Tisbury.

PIKNIK carries a variety of high-end label and independent designer fashions, which have an urban flair paired with an Island attitude. The Arts District boutique features women’s designs from Vivienne Westwood, Byron Lars, Armand Basi, and others. For men they carry looks from the Woolrich Woolen Mills and Timberland UK — the upscale outlets of the classic American companies — as well as European designs. Mr. Hunter also offers accessories by a number of designers, including hats by Tracy Watts from Brooklyn. Says Mr. Hunter, “I love hats. People are wearing hats again, and it’s a wonderful way to express yourself.”

The fashion retailer explains, “I rely on my connections with showrooms. I don’t go to the fashion trade shows. I go on hunches. I’m not big on trends. The trends can spoil. Good taste doesn’t spoil.”

With the eye of a stylist, Mr. Hunter chooses pieces for women that flatter the female shape and stand out in a crowd without an overabundance of fanfare. For men, he focuses on amping up the rugged look a notch to create an effortless individual style. The pieces that Mr. Hunter chooses tend to be as striking, unique, and sometimes as daring as the artwork that he shows in his adjacent gallery.

Angel Flight NE

Fashion Week’s beneficiary will be Angel Flight Northeast, an organization of volunteer pilots that arranges free flights to those requiring access to medical care. According to Angel Flight NE’s Keith D’Entremont, last year the charitable organization coordinated 1,400 flights off the Vineyard for a total of approximately 8,600 here and 55,000 area wide in the 15 years that they have been in operation. They are active in all of the New England states as well as New York and northeastern Pennsylvania, with a target on rural and inaccessible areas like the Vineyard.

Mr. D’Entremont notes that Angel Flight had been looking for a way to do public outreach here and, fortuitously he was approached by the Fashion Week organizers. “It’s surprising how much we do and how little people know about us,” Mr. D’Entremont says. He and his colleague Dick Sundell will be at tonight’s event to make a presentation about their independent pilot-manned organization.

Ms. Morrison, who moved here from New York, notes that she’s been to some Fashion Week events there and says, “I just want to create that same ‘wow’ factor.” Of Vineyard fashion, which she has observed has declined in its scope recently, she comments, “We would like to see a distinction between the towns and have fun shopping again.”

The fashion editor notes that when she visited the Island in her 20s, she would arrive with “about 20 pairs of high heels” to the amazement of her mother who warned her that she’d have no occasion to wear them. She says, “I want to feel OK to wear stylish clothes. You can rock whatever fashion you want to. It will give everyone the opportunity to dress up.”

Adds Mr. Skidmore, “People might think that this is not an event that men would be drawn to. But, in fact, it makes the most sense for men. Where else would you find a gathering of women looking their gorgeous best?”

M.V. Fashion Week Launch Party, Thursday, April 7, 8–11 pm, Shephard Fine ArtSpace, Oak Bluffs (formerly NYE Gallery). Hors d’oeuvres, music, fashion designs. Benefits Angel Flight NE. $25.