- STRAIGHT-JACKETED: Form designer Essence Flowers
The third Designers Choice Fashion Preview proved the old saying true, since last weekend's show was the annual event's slickest production yet. This year, along with three out-of-state designers, a crop of nine new Arkansas designers was featured, a testament to the budding creativity in our state. Tyson Beckford joined perennial emcee and Little Rock favorite, Korto Momolu, to host.
An obvious difference from last year was the time the hosts spent on stage, though there was enough time for Beckford to plug his desire for both a book deal and a fashion line. Despite Momolu's and Beckford's stardom and Beckford's enthusiastic fans, the focus was squarely on the designers.
A large screen behind the runway played pre-recorded, short interviews with each designer, just before each segment. Like last year, designs were diverse, several picking up on current international trends. Tashika “Teekie” Keown sent out studded denim jackets and grommeted leather leggings, a trend that's been popular with the young set already reliving their '90s child-hoods. Shoulder embellishments were prevalent as well, a take on the military look made popular in recent years by Cristophe Decarnin for the French label Balmain.
The notable designers of the night were men. Ocie Collins, one of the three out-of-town guest designers, sent out a menswear collection that was cohesive and tailored. His paneled jackets, styled with T-shirts, slim-cut trousers and desert boots, looked ready to hit the racks.
Jonathon Nichols and Feleke Ross, designing under the name of Diem, fearlessly mixed patterns and silhouettes, creating a look that recalled the '80s by way of the Space Age. They hit their stride with a blue and gray printed shift with a peplum skirt and paired with black and grey geometric printed leggings.
Many of the designers styled accessories as well as clothing. Ngozika O'keke's models sashayed out with her playfully over-sized handbags on their arms; her garments incorporated the brightest shades of blue, pink and yellow with khaki.
The two jewelry designers of the night created outsized pieces fit to be viewed from the runway. Krystal Bijoux and Leah Ranae Jackson, designing under the name LeJae, sent out, among other pieces, necklaces fashioned from masses of chain and stones.
The final, most arresting segment of the show came courtesy of swimwear designer Essence Flowers. The crowd didn't know where to look as the first model came out in a red, straight-jacket-style top, with metallic tape over her mouth and red netting atop her head. While she writhed and danced on a chair in the middle of the stage, the rest of the models stomped out with a similar look.
Little Rock doesn't boast of many fashion events, but if the Designer Choice Fashion Preview keeps placing designers of this caliber in its spotlight, fashion seekers will have a lot to look forward to.