For the better part of a month, St. Louis has been buzzing with the kind of insider conversations usually reserved for East and West Coast fashion Meccas, not the Midwest. What are you wearing to the Kimora Lee Simmons party? Did you snag a front row seat to the Black Halo fashion show? How many trunk shows did you shop? Which emerging designer's clothes are on your wish list?
St. Louis Fashion Week, spearheaded by Alive Magazine, may only be two seasons old, but the audience is already full of seasoned pros. Even the gate crashers had flare. Crowds wore their designer best or styled nondesigner goods with a mission to be noticed. A few genuine haute couture fashions made appearances off the runway, and no one had qualms about being appraised or appraising others from head-to-toe.
More than 20 designers and a host of boutiques presented the cream of their crop, including fashions that embodied the beauty of wearable art and some that looked effortlessly practical and chic.
Whether you missed it all, or were among the fashion faithful now looking to compare notes, here's my look at the week's best.
Best of show (photo below left)
Casual daywear gets a nomadic twist with a stellar collection of eclectic cotton jersey pieces with unfinished edges and experimental dye applications from Miacro by Tina Davis-Noble and Jenn McKelvie. The duo adds new dimensions to layering with see-through, screen-printed and colored nylon tops and
toeless leggings. It was one of the most buzzed about collections (for good and for ill), but there was no doubting its charisma. The collection actually made people edge forward in their seats.
Best dressed menswear (main photo at top)
There is much to be said about the mystique of a well-dressed man, and designer Victor Hugo de Leon of Niformis and Roberto da Carrara continues to give us much to talk about. His best looks were the epitome of what makes people stop mid-sentence and take notice of the guy who just walked in.
Best use of a print (photo above right)
Rachel Pally's line was full of fabulous frocks that were as comfy as they were attractive. This look incorporates a dramatic mud cloth print but is so wearable that it can be tossed on with sandals for a day of running errands and then dressed up with a shoe change and gold bangles for a dinner date.
Best swimwear (left)
Vitamin A by Amahlia Stevens of Laguna Beach has a clean, sexy line of swimsuits in rich hues and cool shades that seem perfect for any complexion. Most of the pieces are embellished with Italian hardware that looks perfect for a Mediterranean isle vacation. St. Louis-based Lori Coulter, however, wins for most wearable swimwear with colors and styles that consumers can mix, match and tailor depending on their individual physical attributes.
Best skirt (above right)
The skirt and blouse set is the new fashion standout. With the little multihued dress's reign as the preferred feminine uniform, the skirt by Zeto designer Nami Ogawa deserves its due. This provocative twist on convention with ruffles rippling up the seams turned heads.
Best alternative day wear look (left)
For the girl who isn't looking to blend into a crowd, this tomboy look by St. Louis designer Lyndsy Walker was inspired by Marie Antoinette's youthful penchant for riding in men's clothing. This is a look that should come with walking lessons to perfect the petulant swagger.
Best dressed women's wear (above right)
Laurel Berman of Black Halo offered a collection of what to wear while being stalked by the paparazzi. The body-conscious clothing accentuates curves and seems to speak to the executive femme fatale. But we were not so happy with the walk-out-of-the shower hair.
Best retro reincarnation (left)
Josephi Kadi of Joseph's Cloak presented an assortment of brash '60s-sofa upholstery colored velvet blazers with burnished paisley and floral designs. But this butter yellow plaid with cable knit sweater pockets and hood was the perfect nostalgic, whimsical mix.
Best of the unexpected (right)
Designer Sohung Tong has a reputation for reinventing menswear into brash and beguiling women's wear. For his current collection, he used zippers to create retooled Edwardian collars, belts and corsets like this one seen on a daring ball gown ensemble.
Best dress for daywear (left)
A knee-length dress that converts to a mini with a little zipper isn't new. But the combination of the bold print, contrasting fabric at the shoulder and the overall fit of this stellar little sheath dress gives it a long shelf life and universal appeal.
Best clothes for emerging socialites (right)
Amy Johnson of KayOss Designs creates the kind of pieces that are too pretty for typical office attire. Her outfits are elegant with notes of mirth and guile and are much better-suited for a long lunch followed by light shopping on a day with little to do but be seen.