Fashion, Boston style

By Anna Rice, News Staff

The couture shows in Paris ‘- the height of high fashion ‘- ended July 8. The City of Lights was lit with editors, models and every important person in fashion. Meanwhile, in Boston, life went on as usual. The world’s most fashionable cities (arguably New York, Milan and Paris) still have a lock on the fashion world. But perhaps a few new developments could lend the Hub a little more fashion cred.

Recent events like the Museum of Fine Arts’ (MFA) acquisitions of illustrations by Kenneth Paul Block and costumes and sketches by Arnold Scaasi and the launch of the Design Industry Group of Massachusetts (DIGMA) in June may alter how the world regards Boston’s fashion industry.

DIGMA is an economic cluster initiative aimed at growing the design economy in Massachusetts, said Beate Becker, director of DIGMA. The group brings together and provides a funding resource for designers across the disciplines, including fashion, architecture, graphic design and industrial design, she said.

Amy Patt, founder of the store and fashion marketing firm Guilded Boston, said DIGMA’s launch is big news for the Boston fashion industry.

‘It allows people to get into a bigger scene,’ Patt said. ‘If you need funding, you have a place to go now. If you need to network, there’s a built in group of people that are there for you.’

MFA spokesperson Mary Keith said the museum has a similar goal to offer support to Boston’s fashion industry.

Guilded Boston will collaborate with the designers of Boston Fashion Expose for a four-day exhibition during Boston Fashion Week, Patt said. The exhibition will include a panel discussion of local experts, politicians, and members of the arts council; shows featuring local clothing and accessories designers and hair and makeup stylists; and a black tie ball.

The exhibition will take place in tents on Pier 4 of the Charlestown Navy Yard from Oct. 1 to Oct. 3, Patt said. Times and ticket prices have not yet been announced; more information will be available at Patt said she hopes to recreate the atmosphere of New York’s Bryant Park during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.

Patt said she is also working to gain recognition for local designers outside of Boston Fashion Week. On Thursday, Guilded Boston will present a fashion show at 10 p.m. in the Liberty Hotel at 215 Charles St. which will feature clothing from Boston-based clothiers Lily & Migs and 9Tailors. The show is free, but only open to the over-21 crowd.

Guilded Boston also hosts bimonthly industry fashion shows to introduce local designers to press, buyers and other industry insiders. The first show took place June 30 at the Charlesmark Hotel on Boylston Street, and the next will occur at the same location sometime in late August. Tickets cost $25 with an R.S.V.P., though invitees are mostly industry professionals.

Both Becker and Patt said they are planning events that will take place during 2009 Boston Fashion Week, from Sept. 25 to Oct. 2. Also, DIGMA will host its first Massachusetts Design Festival, which will showcase local design talent and assets, from Sept. 24 to Oct. 24, Becker said.

DIGMA will also invite designers from Switzerland, Scotland, Australia and other countries to showcase their looks at 2010 Boston Fashion Week, to connect Boston with international, young, emerging designers, Becker said.

While Guilded Boston and DIGMA provide economic and marketing resources to local fashion entrepreneurs, the MFA is working to expand its collection of 20th century fashions that serve as an educational resource.

‘Boston is becoming more of a center for fashion and fashion design, and the museum really wanted to expand its holdings of 20th century fashions,’ Keith said. ‘Especially to make them available for designers and students as a resource.’

In April, the MFA announced the acquisition of more than 100 fashions and the complete archives of American fashion designer Arnold Scaasi. The acquisition represents the first time the museum has secured a major collection of drawings and costumes from a single designers. Pieces from the collection include clothing worn by Barbara Streisand and Barbara Bush’s inaugural gown. The collection will be on exhibition in late 2010, Keith said.

In May, the MFA announced that it had been chosen to receive the archive of original drawings by Kenneth Paul Block, one of the 20th century’s most influential fashion illustrators, according to the press release. His illustrations are accessible to the public by appointment at the museum.

These two additions position the MFA as a leader in the collection of 20th century fashion illustration, Keith said.

While organizations like DIGMA and Guilded Boston have helped local fashion designers receive more media and public attention recently, Becker said she thinks a little more needs to happen.

‘When you look at the numbers and the data, it’s not huge,’ Becker said. ‘But I really feel like there’s a lot of energy in Boston fashion. What it needs is to grow up as an industry.’

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