Downtown Abbey: CMH Fashion Week Finale

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

I have been to fashion week twice; first in New York City, at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week at Lincoln Center, and then again last weekend at CMH Fashion Week’s finale show at the Columbus Athenaeum. I went in expecting the whole thing to be set up like it was in New York, but CMH Fashion Week was an entirely different beast. Rather than a quick and dirty viewing of a single designer, CMH Fashion Week’s finale was a full-on fashion event.

Packed with local celebs, well-heeled women and dapper dudes, the cocktail party prior to the finale felt like part of the show, rather than an ice-breaker. From “playing-it-safe” evening wear to daring street style, the cocktail-sipping crowd filling the ballroom ran the gamut of fashion-forward personality types. After a few glasses of wine, we were directed to head upstairs for the main event.

The show opened with a dance number on the runway, with one dancer donning a pair of “jumper stilts.” It became clear the finale wasn’t meant to be just a runway show; it was meant to be an experience. See, at New York Fashion Week, you’re rushed into a room, the models saunter down the runway, and then you are promptly rushed out so the next group of on-lookers for the following show can get seated. The entire ordeal takes 20 minutes. CMH Fashion Week moved at a more leisurely pace, and felt more like a spectacle.

Five designers sent their latest works down the catwalk. Each show was separated by a video of the upcoming designer describing his or her line and why he or she wanted to participate in CMH Fashion Week. Some showed street wear, others flowing formal gowns. Even if there had been no separation between each designer, the diversity in their points of view would have made it clear where one show stopped and the next began.

The stand-out stars were Ray Marsh and Marquis Engle of Popular Culture. Marsh’s line was edgy, dark and deconstructed, featuring models doused in black leather and chain accents. Marsh’s looks would be right at home in a fashion editorial, or in the back alley behind a metal show. I wanted everything he sent down the catwalk. Engle’s Popular Culture line took on a street-style vibe, featuring creative lines and styling fit for Pharrell or Kanye; definitely not for the faint of heart.

At the end of the night, I reflected on both my experience in New York and the one I had just had. Though I went in expecting CMH Fashion Week to be a carbon-copy of my New York experience, I was relieved it wasn’t. We’re Columbus — we do things our way.