Fashion versus art has been an ongoing battle for, I imagine, as long as the two have existed. The discussion can get pretty heated when it turns to which came first, or copyright laws, but I won’t go there today. For now I will ponder for pure entertainment reasons. Is all fashion, art? Is all art, fashion? Is all fashion, well fashion? When posing these questions at Susan Cianciolo’s spring summer 2010 collection of eco-friendly designs for women, men, and forest nymph there are so many other questions to ask first. The ones going through my mind as I stood up against a wall observing the presentation on my lunch break last Tuesday- Are these models “real” people? Is this what the boys from Lord of the Flies wore? Did they wear clothes? And more importantly when did they make peace and find girls? Is there a baby here or is that “music”? Am I witnessing the fine line between Avant-garde and arts and crafts? And maybe most pressing- Am I the only one who has no idea what to think about what I am observing?

The presentation was entertaining and fluid in concept. The SoHo loft smelled like a secret garden. Crushed flowers littered the hardwood floor and fluty folksy music topped of the atmospherics. The event began with an introduction presentation by Rachel Littenberg-Weisenberg for Elyse. I have to be completely honest here and admit that it was a little confusing for some people who didn’t read their programs closely enough, like myself, not to mention the Epilogue editor who never knew what was going on. I didn’t realize two separate designers were scheduled to show. The fact that I saw Cianciolo’s show a year ago also added to the confusion, because this introductory line of clothing shared some of the aesthetic qualities of her line. Only after the cute Woodstock worthy pieces left the runway to applause did I realize it was not the main event.

When Cianciolo’s pieces began their way down the long loft space on pretty but refreshingly less-than-perfect models I felt a little silly. This resembled my memory of the ornate organic cotton pieces from the last collection of Cianciolo’s I saw. Neutral toned fabrics adorned with paint, lace, and cardboard cut outs flowed down the runway over the flowers, even though the models walked meekly. For the most part Cianciolo used shades of off-white, in fabrics that looked like what you would wear to make art in order to protect your “real” clothes, not what you would use to make ”real” clothes out of. When color was used Cianciolo pulled punchy colors from nature. One particular dandelion yellow dress stood out as one of the more wearable pieces, relatively speaking that is. The adornments were charming and artistic, mostly comprised of dainty painted flowers, which went a long with the theme dubbed “Wisdom of Flowers.” After viewing the collection I don’t feel inclined to wear the clothes in everyday life… wait, let me rephrase that; I wouldn’t be caught dead walking down the streets of New York in them. That being said I must admit there is something strangely romantic about the element of nature in the clothes and the whole presentation. It kind of made me want to give up city life and run around barefoot crushing dandelions all day long. But, alas that’s not a practical lifestyle and neither were the clothes.

Can’t say I can think of who would be the target consumer right off the top of my head for an $800 burlap sack, I am pretty positive it isn’t me. But maybe it isn’t really supposed to be worn. Or maybe I just don’t get it. Or maybe I’m not supposed to get it. So which came first? Is this art or is it fashion? Oh art… I mean fashion… I mean art. Ah shit. I guess the battle won’t end today.

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© 2009

Susan Cianciolo Fashion Show

Jolie McKay