The Fashion Conspiracy

Felicia Ann Ryan

Meet Me in the Parking Lot

It’s not often I accept invites to late night rendezvous’ in parking lots, but for Mikhael Kale I make an exception. The invitation reads P2 (parking lot) and a satisfying sense of intrigue builds inside me as I enter the time and location in my calendar, absentmindedly curious whether this means downtown parking will be easier to find, or more difficult.

all hail mikhael kale

The night of the show we hurriedly step in from the brisk night, promptly greeted and escorted through the building which will serve as venue for every other show. We’re happy to escape the chill and thankful for the distraction from work filled with a welcomed feeling of comfort that preludes an anticipated show and follows a good glass of chardonnay. I had been on set earlier, the second last day of an all consuming job, and journeyed almost straight from work, stopping just briefly to change my shoes and hurriedly indulge in the aforementioned glass of wine with my assistant.

In the lot ahead of us, between concrete pillars, lies a runway of alternating blue and white stripes, lined with glowing lights and colour coordinated enough to question whether it is a part of the parking lot or an installment for the show. Guests naturally begin to gravitate towards the “runway”, weaving in and out of the small groups that begin to form. As I walkthrough to find my own place to stand, I overhear long time no sees and where have you beens and I’m swiftly reminded of how shows have a way of feeling like a reunion.

I find an unobstructed view and settle in my stance as a live drummer plays a beat and the models start to walk out. Someone next to me loudly declares their superior talent in comparison to the drummer and I decide that a space further down the runway, although a bit more cramped, would be more comfortable.

The opening model, soaked in yellow tulle cut in layers opposite of business in the front, party in the back, is a model I had just worked with a couple of weeks earlier. We shot a fashion editorial on the coldest day of the month; a day in which a parka would not have been enough to stay warm and our motto for the day was, Do it for the photo”, which we chanted through chattering teeth. She had been in much less than a parka, but through permanent goosebumps, the 16 year old kept her composure which made her memorable, although I wouldn’t realize this was the same girl until long after the show was finished, once the photographer from the same editorial dm’s me to comment on a picture of her in my stories.

No matter how memorable, she is unrecognizable.

That’s how different she looked. As though she had transformed, not into a butterfly, but the same type of transformation in the sense that she was as unrecognizable as a butterfly is from their caterpillar selves, unrecognizable even to eyes that had seen them before. It was the dress, it had to be; and the tight braids, lifted chin and steady look in her eye. She was in character, the fibers of the cloth had sunk into her being, emitting a constant beam of steady confident energy. This was her first show, I know it because when we worked together, it was her first editorial, her second shoot ever. And yet, here she was, transformed by the power of kale.

One after another models streamed down, not making it all the way to the end of the runway for the traditional pose and twirl back, instead opting to freeze on staggered concrete blocks and stare back at the crowd. After the last model takes their statuesque place, nobody moves, models frozen in their stance, looking out like an old tree rooted in place, people watching with eyes that have seen it all before.

An unexpected turn of events had occurred, the ones getting watched are now the ones watching and the crowd isn’t used to deviations from the traditional runway formula. Light bulbs start to go off, the room getting brighter as the herd realizes Kale has a different plan for tonight. People start to cross the border from sideline to runway, and the event seamlessly transitions from runway show to a gallery.

The detail. This close to the garments, texture is seen rather than implied. Silhouettes not blurred in motion but sharp in stillness, pieces inherently meant for still observation, readily available to absorb their meaning rather than a fleeting glimpse. I want to say it was curated but would rather avoid such a commonly used adjective to describe such an uncommon occurrence (I suppose this means avoiding ‘coveted’ as well). A pleasantly unexpected divine interception of observation and interaction would describe it best.

My phone dies and i’m graciously gifted with the opportunity to observe through my own eyes, distraction free, coming away with more feeling than images to remember the experience by.

By taking us out of our norm, into the unexpected, kale transported his audience to a place that we could calmly and fully absorb the collection; the lights, the music a perfect monotone backdrop to the main attraction, leaving the crowd to walk away with the buzz of inspiration that follows attending an art exhibition.

art exhibition (ɑːt ˌɛksɪˈbɪʃən) is traditionally the space in which art objects (in the most general sense) meet an audience.          

It was more than a show; an experience that left me chanting, “All Hail Mikhael Kale”