What you missed if you skipped the Fashion and Retail Society’s yearly show

by Madelaine Millar, Deputy Editor

Photos courtesy of the Fashion and Retail Society

2400 years ago, Aristotle declared with absolute certainty that everything in the universe is made up of four elements — water, air, earth and fire. Last week, Northeastern’s Fashion and Retail Society declared with equal certainty that fashion can be just as elemental, with their 2019 runway show “The Fundamentals”. With one sections to represent each of Aristotle’s four elements, the show’s expansive theme left a lot of space for the stylists to flex their creative muscles.

“We decided to go with The Fundamentals because we wanted to choose a theme that left a little more room for creativity in every aspect of the show, from styling to hair and makeup to production,” said Aneri Shah. She and Josh Levanos are co-presidents of the Fashion and Retail Society, as well as the creative directors of the show. “Every year the theme has been pretty strict and specific and we felt like we wanted to switch that up. Fashion is art and we just wanted to be able to play that up a little more.”

Jennine Abramsky styled by Kerri Beck, shot by Aidan Cooke

Jennine Abramsky styled by Kerri Beck, shot by Aidan Cooke

The show started on a high note; the fringe on first model’s ultramarine skirt and bandeau set felt evocative without being on-the-nose, while her transparent rain jacket was modern and street-ready. Other highlights included a calf-length blue duster dripping in holographic raindrops and a turtleneck and ankle boots drenched in rhinestones; but between every look, the water element had a certain. The stylists felt in-their-element here, and played freely with textures and layers, which made for a visually interesting show that still felt organic and natural.

After the easy coolness of water, air felt stark and minimalist. In places it felt as though, in order to project themes of lightness and simplicity, the stylists came close to forgoing styling completely, but they never quite crossed that line. That’s not to say that the element didn’t have some gems; one of my favorite looks of the entire evening was a plain white bodysuit, covered by a dress that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the hot and windy prairies of the old West but for the fact that it was made entirely of blush-colored chiffon. The air element may have best embodied Aneri’s desire to create space for play; it offered up some looks that wouldn’t feel out of place at Coachella and others that wouldn’t feel out of place in the classroom with equal reverence.

Eseli Emasealu styled by Stella Westlake, shot by Aidan Cooke

Eseli Emasealu styled by Stella Westlake, shot by Aidan Cooke

There was a noticeable tone shift after the intermission; the stylists were done playing, and with earth on the runway they meant business. This theme was interpreted less strictly than its two predecessors; the entire natural world was fair game, and the stylists were sending out their best animal prints, furs, and camo. Some looks bordered almost on martial, but there was always an oversize pair of hoop earrings or a pair of chunky trainers to lend wearability. With an emphasis on deep colors and practical textures, earth felt refreshingly unpretentious and direct.

John Zhang styled by Jackson Wang, shot by Athel Rogers

John Zhang styled by Jackson Wang, shot by Athel Rogers

Fire walked last, and fire (we learned) means streetwear. Almost every look incorporated some traditional streetwear pieces, be they chunky trainers, bucket hats, or baggy athletic pants. Although the handful of classically streetwear looks that the stylists sent out were obviously well crafted, they didn’t feel revolutionary; the stylists shone when they mixed those streetwear elements with high fashion fabrics or business-appropriate cuts.

Ruby Jenkins styled by Jackson Wang and Alessandra Nagar, shot by Katie Margiotta

Ruby Jenkins styled by Jackson Wang and Alessandra Nagar, shot by Katie Margiotta

I have almost nothing but praise for the order in which the stylists chose to present; their water looks grabbed our attention from the start, the intermission felt like a natural tone shift, and fire felt like a powerful high note on which to end. That said, anyone who is familiar with couture runway shows knows that it’s customary to present a bridal look as the last look; this is because it’s typically the flashiest, the most over-the top, the most breathtaking and heart-stopping look of the show. Although it wasn’t in any way matrimonial, it was clear that the stylists’ bridal look was the one presented second to last. The long camel duster coat, black mesh shirt, gold sequin flares, and chunky black platforms were absolutely show-stopping, especially when carried with such absolute self-possession, and yet for some reason the show did not stop. When you’ve created a moment like that one, please let it ring; we in the audience need a moment to take it in.

If it’s a surprise to anyone that The Fundamentals went off so well, it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The vision of the creative directors, the imagination of the stylists, and the dedication of everyone involved makes for a consistently stunning show, and if you’ve never spent the $0 for a ticket, the only person you’re cheating is yourself. The annual Fashion and Retail Society shows have set the bar very high for themselves, and yet every year they continue to step neatly over it, one spike heel at a time.

The Avenue Magazine