Loveladies — The only thing better than doing good? Looking good doing it.
Wildflowers by the Lighthouse hosted its second annual Artful Noir fashion show, a fundraiser for the Long Beach Island Foundation of Arts and Sciences and its programs, Saturday at the LBIF. Guests ate, drank and socialized before the show while listening to a live piano performance. There was even a silent auction for a chance to win some of the most coveted styles of the evening.
Cricket Luker, owner of both Wildflowers Too! Gallery and Wildflowers by the Lighthouse, in Barnegat Light, combined her two passions – art and fashion – to develop an art-to-wear clothing collection in which the name says it all.
“I truly love what I do. I started as a printmaker and an art teacher, but I somehow got addicted to the art of shopping and the quest of finding wonderful designers,” Luker said.
Luker attends trade shows, craft fairs and markets near and far to discover new designers from all over the world to feature in her gallery-boutique. At Artful Noir, models walked the runway in wearable works of art from Japanese designer Mieko Mintz, Polish designer Teresa Maria Widuch, German designer Sabine Wagner, Samuel Dong, Heydari, English designer Ray Harris, Israeli designer Alembika, Scandinavian designer Bitte Kai Rand, and Amsterdam designer Uli.
While each model showcased outfits from head to toe, Luker narrated and described the overall styling techniques and fabric compositions of the garments. The models accessorized with fabulous add-ons such as fascinators, woven hats, statement necklaces and even a porcupine-inspired handbag. The audience cheered, clapped and snapped photos the entire time. There was even a fluffy model, a white dog named Ava. Her outfits were furtastic and complemented her owner Pat’s style for the duration of the show.
“When I meet these designers and select their works, I ask them about their creative process,” Luker said. “The teacher in me loves to educate people about how these garments are created and hopefully inspire them.”
The show commenced with Mieko Mintz’s jackets crafted from vintage fabrics, Kantha material and recycled sari fabrics from her family kimono collection. Each jacket is fully reversible and constructed with fine, colorful stitching and bold, intricate patterns.
“Mieko is one of my artisan designers. I call her work ‘casual elegance.’ It is so comfortable, it feels as if you’re wearing a bathrobe,” Luker said.
Next up were Widuch’s designs, which were much more simplified, yet equally as elegant. Her open-front pieces with sharp edges provide a polished finish.
“Where Mieko uses pattern and color and texture, Widuch’s jackets are more constructed and sculptural. She does solid colors in a boiled wool or ultra-suede from Japan,” Luker said.
Heydari’s designs were a little bit funkier than the rest, and as Luker says, “not for the faint of heart.” What sets her work apart is her unique design choices for added flair, such as an asymmetrical collar on a dramatic trench coat. She works with a lot of alternative materials like mesh, which can be layered on top of other pieces or worn by itself to show off some skin. One model sashayed across the runway in Heydari’s black long-sleeved mesh dress topped off with a black chapeau.
Samuel Dong, a designer that Luker has admired for years, creates dresses and jackets with billowy silhouettes. His most famous style is the balloon dress that inflates, so to speak, at thigh level. Large statement collars and spacious pockets are also typical of his work. Dong also likes to incorporate sculptural wire into his designs to experiment with the shape.
Crinkle fabrics are Ray Harris’ signature look. Harris, a designer from London, utilizes pleated materials for long dresses for added drama while the fabric is in motion. The texture plus the vibrant color palette was simply breathtaking on the runway.
Luker discovered Sabine Wagner at the Philadelphia Craft Show and her work stopped Luker in her tracks. She was mesmerized by the sculptural accessories, and the fashion show spectators had the same reaction.
“She (Wagner) calls them scarves, but they are more like collars, sashes and gloves that you can build on a very basic outfit, whether it be that perfect little simple black dress or black pants and a top,” Luker said. “She is using a combination of iridescent silks and an easy-care microfiber, which is usually black. She designs fashions for women who dare and are individualists, through and through.”
Uli’s rubber necklaces were a total hit. These fully-reversible pieces are made from medical rubber with printed designs, multiple layers of texture and patterns, to mimic the look of metal chains or strands of pearls.
“It’s the next level of rubber jewelry. These are all beautiful, and if people travel, they don’t have to take their gold with them. This really dresses up an outfit and reads like a statement piece of jewelry,” Luker said.
Fashion is the ultimate expression of personality, and there was truly something for everyone at this event. If you’re looking to dress to impress, Luker will happily be your style guide.
“When people come into my store, I always tell them that it doesn’t cost anything to play dress-up,” she said.
— Sandra Weyant