Hello, Eliza SS14: Dressing the Rave
Photographs by Nicholas Peter Wilson
Don’t envision ’90s fashion as synonymous with grunge. Working backstage at Portland Fashion Week, the dream of the ’90s was indebted to another youth culture: the rave. Designer Eliza Harrison’s collection infused EDM energy into her line, which ranged from spaced-out smiley tees to holographic dresses. Stylist Jordan Barnes sorted through tables of neon chokers and jelly bracelets. Others members role called models. As a dresser, I had arrived hours earlier and fit models with cyber punk boots and platforms. Think D.I.Y paint jobs and glitter haze. It was club kid costume play for the Tumblr generation.
But Harrison wasn’t reinterpreting the “peace, love, unity and respect” (PLUR) mantra of ’90s clubbers. The night was about transforming the teenage raver into a contemporary model of empowerment. The look was darker and more aggressive. Sleek pony tails and green lipstick were more Brooke Candy than candy raver. Elsewhere, models slung orange chains over their shoulders. One model, practicing her walk by the racks, wore a shirt which announced Friday’s theme: “Have a nice Doomsday”.
This “Fashionable Apocalypse” was the inspiration behind the opening show, where models pounded the runway in garments “salvaged” from a post-civilized landscape. Cropped, hemmed and tight were the choice looks of the night. In Harrison’s hands, the silhouettes kept the collection wearable in spite of the futuristic materials. Two standout pieces were neoprene dresses carrying slogans of belligerence (“Know Weapons, Know Fighting”) and urgency (“Doomsday Countdown 00:13”). But when you’re working backstage during the show, these messages take on greater meaning.
Sprinting between racks in 5 seconds? Undressing three models in 20 seconds? These were my tasks as models traveled from the behind the curtain down the catwalk decked out in Hello, Eliza’s collection. Someone’s got to run from model to model, pull off her shoes, fit them on the next girl and zip up the outfits. But that’s the wonderful thing about working as a dresser – handling the individual pieces really allows you to see the craftsmanship behind the label. It’s normally the quiet before the storm gives you the time to really examine what’s on the rack. But come performance time, the materials actually shine and move beautifully. The metallic skirt and crop top outfit on the green haired model? The nylon pencil skirt? Both look (and feel) as good on the rack as they do on the model. With Harrison’s collection, the garments aren’t just photogenic, but they are also build on a dedication to quality.
Too many brands fail by privileging trends and spectacle over the garment’s reliability. But while we’re sure Hello, Eliza will grace the pages of a fair share of editorials, the collection is equally suited for the wardrobe. Not for the faint of heart, but what else can be expected from the brand which introduces itself as, “From Skid Row to Front Row”?
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