Fight for Your Rites: Kelly Cutrone and Co. Mix Voodoo and Fashion at a Collective Runway Event

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"Ceremony"

What to do when logic and civility seem to have flown out the window? Protest is one option, another is to turn to spirituality. The latter was the path chosen by publicist Kelly Cutrone and three of her clients who staged a group show cum “installation-y runway voodoo ceremony dance party with cupcakes,” which attracted T.I. and assorted members of the ASAP crew as well as Whoopi Goldberg and her granddaughter.

Cutrone listed the motivations behind this event in a missive: Among them was the seemingly broken state of the fashion system (not to mention the expense of staging shows) and the lack of, and need for, female mentors that was painfully revealed by the #MeToo movement. Cutrone and co.’s decision to share with their guests a voodoo ceremony was a pointed riposte to the president’s alleged denigration of certain countries. Three of the drummers who performed wore T-shirts reading “Brooklyn/Haiti”; the forth sported one that read “Voodoo Child.” Models shared the runway with the celebrants, clad in white, and there were altars laden with flowers, candles, and Magnolia cupcakes.

Just before the lights went down, Talking Heads’s “Road to Nowhere” blared from the speakers. Furthering the political agenda/commentary was the next track, “God Bless America,” by the witchy Lana Del Rey (who allegedly hexed DJT), then the drums and sung incantations took over. There was even some fashion.

The first designer to present was Mimi Prober, a graduate of FIT with a zero-waste philosophy whose work is sold at If boutique and through Barneys. Like Bode’s Emily Bode, she uses vintage materials to handcraft her designs, which are painstakingly assembled into something new, often with a rustic sort of look. Prober said she doesn’t consider her work upcycling, because she rejects the implication that something low is being elevated; to her, vintage wares are treasures. The designer also combines locally sourced luxury fibers with her brocante finds. Opening with blazers and bombers made of crazy quilts, she followed with some lovely prairie-like dresses. There were numerous iterations of lace skirts, many comprising dozens upon dozens of individual pieces made into a whole, and which might better have been appreciated in a presentation format.

Hogan McLaughlin, who hails from the historically witch-averse Salem, Massachusetts, showed designs that were vaguely Gothic, resembling armature. Some of them featured cutaways that revealed vast amounts of skin. Primmer were the long and high-necked dresses near the end. Daphne Guinness is said to be a fan, which makes sense as the designer is clearly an acolyte of Alexander McQueen.

Closing was Xuly.Bët’s Lamine Kouyaté, who returned to New York with his signature African wax prints. This season, they were overprinted with gold and tailored into sharp, slim suits. Some of these were layered over zip-front track-style jackets, made of sequins or from salvaged activewear. Layering an LBD over a neon animal-print bodysuit was a neat styling trick. It was another feel-good show from Kouyaté, though repetitive. While the designer seems to have moved on from his early work—Kouyaté was known for his top-stitched assemblage like outfits made of upcycled materials—decades later, the fashion world is just starting to catch up. In 1993, 24 years before Alexander Wang sent his models to Brooklyn by coach, Kouyaté’s arrived at the Tuileries via autobus. It would be interesting to see the designer revisit some of the concepts he pioneered so long ago. A smiling Kouyaté took a bow to the strains of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child.”

“Ceremony,” as the event was called, certainly qualifies as an alternative show format. The audience, which seemed gathered more for the experience than the fashion, was engaged and enthusiastic. “Now, more than ever,” wrote Cutrone (who said she produced the evening gratis), “we choose to insist on love and magic in our lives.” The success of “Ceremony” was its collective spirit through which past and present were connected and cultures shared in the service of creativity and positivity.

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