Know your customer. That's the first lesson of fashion. That was also the first element focused on in the first months of the first year of The Philadelphia Fashion Incubator, a program designed to cultivate and keep fashion talent in Philadelphia. While following the program over the course of 2012 I saw over and over again how Melissa D'Agostino, one of the inaugural group of five Designers-In-Residence and designer/owner of D'Agostino Fashion Textile & Design, embodies that tenet. Her clients are her tribe, they are friends, they trust her, and it is always evident why. Always she gives each woman her full attention, no matter how crowded the event. She'll gracefully drape a client with her Shibori-dyed garments, showing how to create look after look from one long piece of cleverly nipped fabric--and not just any look but a look that flatters that particular woman's body.
When it came time to show her collection on the runway at the Macy's Philadelphia Fashion Incubator show last fall, Melissa asked her clients to be her models. The women were different heights, different body shapes, different ethnicities. Two women wore glasses. They could not have been more opposite the typical samelook/sameheight/sameweight group of models on a runway. But they were so much more beautiful. Each woman glowed with confidence as she walked in front of the crowd in an outfit that clearly made her feel fantastic.
For the finale came Karen Randal, both a client and mentor of Melissa's. Barely five feet tall and brandishing her cane, she lit up the cavernous space with her energy and received the loudest cheers of the evening.
Now, that's my kind of runway show.
The Macy's Philadelphia Fashion Incubator runway show returns tonight with the 2013 group of Designers-In-Residence, as part of the week-long fashion celebration, The Philadelphia Collection.
Client models, from top: Hilary Fitz-Gibbons Aubrie Costello, Rebecca Lopez Kriss and Ann Sacks; Natalie Nixon; Karen Randal. All photographed by David Hilliard Smith for Style Maniac.
At left: Karen Randal and designer Melissa D'Agostino photographed by Mechelle LaVelle.