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Normally, Dominicana Moda, the Dominican Republic’s Fashion Week, shows only the works of individual designers. But for an unprecedented second year, The Altos de Chavón School of Design was invited to participate in this prestigious event. Hurricane Sandy was present, as well.
The torrential rain did little to dampen the enthusiasm for Dominicana Moda’s presentation of the work of Chavón’s 2012 Fashion Design graduates, the School’s 28th senior thesis show. The tent holding the show was full of eager, fashion-savvy spectators, dressed to compete with the runway: plenty of décolletage, micro-miniskirts, and clunky, skyscraping platform shoes seemed to be the audience’s uniform. The theme, The New Resort Wear, was a trifle ironic on a day when the fringes of Hurricane Sandy made Santo Domingo feel less like a sun-soaked tropical destination and more like London. But once the lights dimmed, the rain outside had little or no effect on the crowd’s ebullient spirit.
Ten students, each offering three distinct takes on resort wear, provided the afternoon’s visual treats. The show, with its 30 outfits on top models prancing down and back up the runway, lasted a mere 22 minutes, but there was plenty to see in that brief production time. The models and professional staging garnered attention at once. There was a distinct nostalgia to the soundtrack, a kind of retro Latin American remix, a back-to-the-future mélange of Bésame Mucho and other slightly kitschy ’50s standbys.
The fact that the 10 students showing their work had studied fashion design at Altos de Chavón for only eight months seemed implausible. Joel Diaz, a Chavón graduate with select group of clients in New York (Michelle Obama has worn his creations), was the critic for the daytime resort look, which were mostly dresses or ensembles. The clothes were refreshingly wearable, cut from linen or linen-look fabrics, with many structured to show cutaway layers of shorts beneath tunics. The colors were pleasing tones of taupe and beige accented with black graphics. Colombian student Cindy Ramírez won the first Silver Thimble for her daytime dress, a demure ecru linen confection.
The menswear collection was curated and closely supervised by José Jhan Rodríguez, a well-known Dominican fashion designer who is also a graduate of Altos de Chavón. The students’ take on new resort clothing for men included everything from a flowing Lawrence of Arabia kaftan to ingeniously tucked asymmetrical pants. Again the fabric tended to be linen or a linen-like blend, and the tailoring was impeccable. Dominican student Luisa de Villar won the second Silver Thimble for her handsome confection, a visual oxymoron that was at once magically masculine and delicate.
The last collection was evening wear. These dresses were unabashedly romantic, with serious yardage and layers of flowing, floating chiffon. In keeping with the retro-futurist music, the models wore Afro wigs and were all remarkably identical in height and appearance. The colors were jewel tones—emerald, sapphire, ruby, topaz, onyx, amber. The contrasting element was a stiff, shining piece of hammered metal complementing each garment: a choker toque, a wide belt, or some other rigid accessory superimposed on each soft, billowing dress.
Sinead Castellanos was the student whose dress carried the contrast still farther. The third Silver Thimble winner had ingeniously crafted an anatomical reference, a spinelike harness with shoulder blades (or were they collar bones) and a pelvis all cut and hammered out of gleaming metal (pictured right). It was the imagination and vision of critic Julio Marcano, yet another successful designer from Chavón, that transformed the last element of The New Resort Wear collection into something so spectacular that on several occasions the audience broke into spontaneous applause.
Adolfo Lucero, The School’s vice rector and academic dean, coordinated the show. Joselo Franjul served as the stylist, lending such touches of genius as the baguettes and rolled newspapers carried by the menswear models to emphasize the casual charm of their garments. Much of the luscious fabric used in the show was donated by Kay Unger, a New York-based designer who is a special patron of our event. The Silver Thimble awards were designed and executed at Bill Everett’s jewelry shop and studio in Altos de Chavón
Memorable and satisfying, the show once again proved that even in a year with an unusually small class of Fashion Design students, The Altos de Chavón School of Design—affiliated with Parsons The New School for Design since 1983—continues to set the standard for design education in the Dominican Republic.
The School of Design is part of the Altos de Chavón Cultural Center Foundation, a U.S. not-for-profit public charity, with almost half its students receiving some form of financial aid. The School is able to provide first-class design education to a wide range of applicants thanks to the generosity of many members of the Casa de Campo community.
Photo credit: Raul Miyar, Chair of Fine Arts at the Altos de Chavón School of Art and Design
Article contributed by Stephen Kaplan
– Thank you Stephen!
Stephen Kaplan is the Rector of the Altos de Chavón School of Art and Design
About the Altos de Chavón School of Art and Design
A component of The Altos de Chavón Cultural Center Foundation, a U.S. 501(c)(3) public charity, the Altos de Chavón School of Art and Design has been graduating students from its two-year associate-degree program, affiliated with New York City’s prestigious Parsons “The New School For Design” since 1983.
Three majors are offered: Graphic Design, Fashion Design, and Fine Arts/Illustration. In addition, The School has developed a state-of-the-art Certificate Program in Digital Design.
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