Model citizens: Williamsburg Fashion Weekend nixes runway for the stage

Model citizens: Williamsburg Fashion Weekend nixes runway for the stage
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

In a neighborhood known for its sometimes-schizophrenic style sensibilities, a carnival fashion show is just right.

Forget the tents and paparazzi, Williamsburg’s answer to Manhattan’s fashion week features trapeze artists, stilt-walkers, and smoky cabaret performances — all decked out in the season’s hottest styles.

“We don’t do runways,” said Arthur Arbit, the artist, designer, and master tailor who founded Williamsburg Fashion Weekend — the smaller, weirder fashion celebration that takes place twice annually in its namesake neighborhood.

“We like performance-based shows — it makes [it] memorable for the audience and gives designers a chance to not just show fashion, but show another facet of who they are.”

And while a good chunk of the show will be art pieces not meant for the store racks, this fashion show blurs the line between the unwearable and the ready-to-wear — from a Hellraiser-inspired collection by Mark Tauriello, to a beastly series by Russian-born designer Uta Bekaia.

In a nod to the late, great Alexander McQueen, Bekaia’s models will wear antlers, as will the show’s creative director, Gina Tron.

“I feel like a deer in headlights every season,” Tron said.

Antler-antics aside, Williamsburg Fashion Weekend is on a serious mission to shake up the fashion world, touting cutting-edge design while pushing to the center stage the politics of looking pretty.

“We want to start a revolution in the fashion industry,” Arbit said. “Whenever you buy a blouse at H&M for $29.95, someone on the other side of the world is paying for that blouse with their blood.”

So, Williamsburg Fashion Weekend features designers who embrace ethical, transparent business practices, and the clothing is sweatshop-free — much of it handcrafted in Brooklyn by the designers themselves.

Many collections even use recycled or salvaged fabrics and non-toxic dyes and chemicals.

“It’s very do-it-yourself,” Tron said.

They must be doing something right. This season, Bushwick artists declared Sept. 22 and 23 “Bushwick Fashion Weekend.” That event will center around a “Bushwick Zoo,” an animal-themed costume parade beginning at the Morgan Avenue L stop and winding through the neighborhood to the Living Gallery, on Flushing.

“You know you’re doing something right if people start copying you,” said Tron. “You can’t patent a good idea. We’ll take it as a compliment, I guess.”

Williamsburg Fashion Weekend at the Windmill Studios [287 Kent Ave. betw. S. First and S. Second streets, (718) 384–7300, williamsburgfashionweekend.com]. Sept. 14, 15, 8 pm. $15 advance, $20.

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