Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Stitches Midwest Diary, Part Six

(Continued from here.)

Friday Night: The Fashion Show

As Jon, Robert and I head into the ballroom for the evening’s dinner and fashion show, I am thinking to myself how happy I am to be there. Two terrific classes taught by two excellent teachers, and a well-planned market with a good range of vendors. It’s a complicated affair, and I have to admire the hard work that went into getting it off the ground.

We join a large table of festive ladies right next to the runway. I will admit to being one who enjoys a good fashion show, and I’m looking forward to this. I also hear from Jon that the door prizes can be quite nice.

Dinner is interesting. We are served salmon. I usually do not eat fish because it often makes me sick. But I’m so famished I shovel in a few forkfuls and demolish the fettucine. I eat one of the haricots verts, and it tastes like a Clover bamboo US 4. Bon appetit.

Everyone is finishing up dessert (individual factory-made custard tarts the size of silver dollars) when Rick Mondragon takes the stage. I know it’s him without being told. He is, and I do not say this without years of experience to back me up, the gayest man I have ever seen.

We are talking Liberace gay. Richard Simmons gay. Rex Reed impersonating Bette Davis while simultaneously having sex with Paul Lynde, baking a soufflé, and redecorating the bathroom gay.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

No, seriously. I’m not the world’s butchest man, myself, and camp humor can be a riot. Alas, Mr. Mondragon is not funny. And a big queen who is not funny has an Annoyance Factor rating somewhere between a telemarketing call on your wedding night and a wasp in your underwear.

After some welcoming remarks and a couple prizes, he gives a shout out to some woman named Maggie. I have never heard of her before, but Jon has shown me some of her designs at the market. (They weren’t to my taste, but I could see them being deeply popular with women who live in Palm Springs, carry raffia totes, and describe themselves as "sprightly.")

A shout out is fine, but Maggie is then invited to take the stage to tell us all about her new love. It would seem that she is getting married to some fellow who makes her knees weak, and moving to Spain. She gets that far before becoming fahrklempt and handing the microphone back to Rick. She doesn’t say anything about knitting. Or yarn. As she sits down again at her table and starts winding wool, I cannot for the life of me understand what has just happened.

But it is time for the show.

Things get off to a rocky start. Whoever has been hired to run the audio is having a bad day. Or is possibly drunk, or tripping. When the lights go down, there is no music. Rick calls for music. There is a long pause. Then the music starts. Then stops. It will continue to do so haphazardly throughout the evening. Songs will repeat (how hard is it to come up with an hour of different disco songs?) or occasionally fade out completely in the middle of a model’s walk on the runway, leaving her stranded.

The balance with the microphones is also off, meaning that sometimes you can’t quite make out what Rick and his co-host, someone named Susan, are saying.

Given Rick’s announcing skills, this is perhaps a good thing. Unfortunately, we do hear at full volume and clarity his extremely inappropriate and unprofessional remarks about the sole male model. At one point, he goes beyond mere leering to say that Casey or Chip or whatever his name was “…has to get home soon, his parents don’t trust me around him at night.”

Great, Rick. That’s just what we need. A gay man in a room full of Midwesterners reinforcing the negative stereotype of gay men as predators who can’t control themselves. I am embarrassed and angry.

The pieces on display are a mixed bag and there are far too many. The show seems to go on for hours. Edited down by half, it would be an appropriate length, but would still have far to many schmattehs.

We are subjected to an entire segment devoted to ponchos. So many that they sometimes have to come down the runway in groups of three.

Now, it’s my guess that the poncho must have risen to popularity partly because it is by definition a simple garment. However, that simplicity means you can only do so much with it. The designers, having realized this, apparently have decided that the only direction in which they can take it is “uglier and uglier.”

The nadir is reached when the “Mermaid Poncho” is thrown in our faces. Where the name came from, I don’t know. Perhaps, like the Little Mermaid, it is supposed to look like something wretched and bedraggled that washed up on a beach. If so, hats off to the designer for succeeding with flying colors.

I begin to notice a pattern. There are only two designers whose works consistently draw actual, as opposed to merely polite, applause. They are Sally Melville and Barry Klein. Sally Melville’s men’s sweaters are almost all wonderful, the only exception being an odd pullover which is described as having “shirt-tail styling.” Unfortunately, it makes at least four people at our table ask, “Hey, what’s up with the ass-flap?”

I also notice that:

  • Very few of the women’s garments in the show would fit the average woman sitting in the audience. Given that so few supermodels knit their own clothes, I think this stinks. Know thy audience. The designer who gives instructions for plus sizes (or hell, even average sizes) stands to make a mint.
  • 80% of the pieces in the show would not be worth the time, effort, and money because they will fall completely out of fashion within one season.
By the time the lights come up and the music limps to a close, I feel 40 years older and barely have the energy to straggle down the Habitrail to bed.

My final summation is that obviously those responsible for Stitches, while eminently capable of getting great teachers and putting together a fun market, don’t have a fucking clue about putting on a proper fashion show. If this is they best they can do, they should either not do it again, or hire somebody who knows how to do it.

And Rick Mondragon should keep his mouth shut. His clothes make enough noise on their own. I now understand why the stuff in Knitter’s looks like it does.

To be continued.

(Sorry this is taking so long, y'all. I wrote most of it Sunday night, and I'm posting it when five minute lulls in my work allows.)


Nik said...

That's funny. I kinda feel like i was there.

Anonymous said...

I love your Stitches diary and I love your blog. Can I be your nutty older sister?

Kim in Oregon said...

Franklin, I'm so enjoying your recap of Stitches. I've always wondered about RM when I see his picture in the magazine. Now I know. Thank you.

goblinbox said...

When you said, "Richard Simmons gay. Rex Reed impersonating Bette Davis while simultaneously having sex with Paul Lynde, baking a soufflé, and redecorating the bathroom gay."

I laughed so hard and so suddenly that I actually got spit on my monitor! This is not ladylike, and damn you're funny.

Anonymous said...

Franklin, in case you really wanted to know, Maggie is Maggie Jackson from Belfast, Ireland.
At Stitches East a few years ago, we (Simply Knit, in Lambertville NJ, no longer in business) had our booth next to Maggie's at her first ever Stitches. She was fun, and we laughed alot. Good craic and all.
But her designs got weirder and more inexplicable as she got more and more friendly with Rick et al.
I recently saw her latest, and it's beyond belief.
Even more overdone and unflattering and goofily complicated than the designs of that Famous Designer with the decaying digits.

Unknown said...

Your experience at the banquet and fashion show mirrored mine seven years ago--endless and tasteless. And this was Pre-Mondragon. However, we did have Leigh "Dance As Ever" Witchel running up and down the runway with the Tiny Diva, both wearing matching shocking pink frou-frou t-shirts. Ye gods and little fishes.

I have to say, your series on Stitches Midwest is the some of best blog writing I've ever read. Period. I'll brook no arguments on that opinion. Brilliant writing, just brilliant.

La Cabeza Grande said...

I am so very glad I linked through to your Stitches diary. You are too funny - and right on the money with your witty observations!

I saw both you and Jon there, but wasn't sure if another gushing stranger would have been an appropriate overture.

Knit on, Franklin!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the opera suggestions. Franklin, I live in the former capitol of Illinois, Springfield. Wee hee. The only thing I've ever done in Rosemont is see Genesis and Rush. The lace classes sound intriguing. Is a tiny diva fashion disaster coming up next?

Cheryl said...

Yep, that was my take, all right, although you said it so much more amusingly. (I just blurted out, "Could he be any more gay?" - and that before I had even seen him, based solely on hearing him say two sentences.)

Great story-telling, Franklin.

Anonymous said...

Franklin, plain and simple, I love you.

Jesus, I'm going to have to get a new keyboard and name a bunny after someone you idolise and everything...

Mon. Dragon. Think about it. Kinda makes the neck hairs creep out a little, eh?

Anonymous said...

I've been to Stitches West but only as a daytripper. I'm glad to hear the classes are worth the money. You've become one of my daily must-read blogs!

dragon knitter said...

i'm glad that my impressions of rick from reading his editor's letters were not off at all. flaming, eh? need a fire extinguisher?

Rabbitch said...

You made me spit on my screen.

Anonymous said...

So funny that I finally had to come out of the shadows and say so! You have a wonderful way with words -- I just wish I could be there to hear the sidebars!

Thanks for making my morning!

TurnipToes said...

Yes, Franklin, this has quickly become my favorite blog before your series on Stitches, and now how could it not be? Your style of writing is entertaining and very vivid. And anyone who mentions Paul Lynde in a completely appropriate situation is my hero.

Keep up the great work.

Anonymous said...

Just read through all of Jon's and your Stitches postings to see what I missed. Still consumed with jealousy, but at least I know to skip the "fashion" show when I get to attend East someday. Happy to read of Nancy Bush's class--I do admire her research and excellent pattern writting.

Anonymous said...

Your reporting Franklin, flavored with WIT and Truth, is dead ON.

Rick was mild, honey. I met him at the Knit Out, really acting out. He may have thought his Liberace-esce performance would be entertaining for the ladies in the audience. Lord.

Working at the Men's Style Section of the NYT, I will not comment on the fashion show, but I will ask–were there ANY garments for men?

Anonymous said...

I completely agree - I was thinking Richard Simmons too! And I hate ponchos - isn't it enough already?

Fran / Blue Gal said...

YOu are a wonderful writer AND it's about knitting. Fab, darling.

Anonymous said...

sigh, wish i was there!

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