Running and texting through a parking deck is difficult, especially when you’re wearing Doc Martens. But I’m just trying to make it to Mint Museum’s QC GarMINT District event, part of the Levine district’s Wednesday Night Live series.
The event is billed as a confident runway strut showcasing designers Megan Ilene, Gordon Holliday, Tara Davis, Gege Gilzene, and Brehon Williams, who will present their couture creations in a live fashion show.
The show highlights the Mint’s recognition of fashion designers’ work as art, while serving as a prelude to the December 2022 exhibition and catalog Fashion Reimagined, which celebrates 50 years of the Mint’s fashion collection.
In my moment of negligence, the phone rings. “Where are you at, whore?” my friend Kaycee yells over what sounded like a million people talking.
“FACK!” I yelled. “Give me a couple minutes.”
I must be doing the most because my boyfriend and I catch the attention of another couple who can’t find their way to the Mint Museum and decided to tag along. Hella late and frantically trying not to miss anything – no thanks to the road rage breeding ground that is Charlotte – I luckily survive the most hectic seven minutes I may ever spend in America.
Walking inside, my mood instantly changes. I notice people getting their selfies and outfit pictures off and I start to feel settled in. We were greeted by our friends: Kaycee, who’s always tomboy chic; and Kevin, dressed in full Vivienne Westwood down to the boots. I took a second to look around and get a feel for the setup.
The all-white runway with the multi-colored lights are perfect, simple but the draping gave the runway ambience and didn’t take away from each designer’s aesthetic. Thanks to the QR code programs, I’m quickly able to see whose walk I just missed. I hear Ohavia Phillips (one of the best people to host anything ever) gave a brief intermission for the bar, or maybe I just made that up. Either way, I definitely went to the bar.
Something about drinking alcohol at a museum for me feels rebellious but grown, you know? Aside from the drinks and the vibes, an event like this brings the fashion enthusiasts out, but it also brings out Charlotte’s most elite art and music scene socialites. It almost feels like a family reunion. The energy is high and I know it will be a good time.
Since I don’t fully understand directions and also don’t recognize the drink tickets right next to the drinks, I do everything backwards (what a surprise) but it gives me time to catch up on the rest of the info on the designers.
The designer I basically missed was Tara Davis. I was able to see the last walk with all of her models and notice how eclectic her patterns were and the vibrancy of the colors. It was giving chic black excellence – but at brunch. Like Issa’s character on Insecure going to a day party.
I can see the layout a little better now that everybody is starting to scatter and socialize, but I have to figure out how I’m going to get a better view of the show. I look up to see people in the exhibit windows, which honestly is the best seat in the house. My friends decide that they want to ride the escalators up to catch an aerial view, so we do that just in time for Megan Ilene.
Megan’s looks intrigued me because I read that she only uses biodegradable and organic materials. Zero waste. The ability to manipulate certain textiles is fascinating to me, thanks to watching multiple seasons of Project Runway and my love for thrifted and recycled clothing. There are two looks that I gravitate toward: the paint-blotted tunic dress, because I love an “art hoe” look (it’s a compliment); and the asymmetrical dress. The latter is textured and layered over pink cigarette pants and a white blouse. It could easily be formal or casual with minimal effort.
I struggle to record while still holding my wine and phone and navigating the escalators while running into literally everybody – giving big hugs and even bigger praises.
Ohavia makes sure she gives a fashion statement anytime I see her, as she’s smiling and cheering while standing behind the podium. I’m too far up to see the details of the beautiful black gown that Oh’s wearing but I do notice that standing slightly behind her is Davita Galloway, one of Charlotte’s most notable curators – and to me one of the most stylish women in the city.
I always gotta see what Davita got on because it’s always going to make a statement, and it does tonight chal’! It looks like a blazer met with a belted and layered brown graphic print dress and a sheer kind of tulle skirt part at the bottom, to top it off with the art mom specs … a look!
I solidify my space on the second to the top floor and finish my wine just in time for Gordon’s looks. I’ve known about Gordon Holliday for years in passing with mutual friends and random events, and when I used to work at Buffalo Exchange he would come in to sell clothes and would always be wearing something amazing that he made.
He has grown so much in the tiny scope that I’ve had through Instagram, so I’m excited to see his pieces. The models walk very steady and intricately, telling a story through their strides. When Gordon speaks with Ohavia as the event wraps, he mentions his line was inspired by the first African samurai warrior (Yusuke), but with modernized elements of everyday street wear and high fashion. He kills it!
My favorite piece from Gordon is a pink patchwork short set; the pink floral jacket looks like terry cloth and there is a bag to match! There are so many details in these looks that I know I have to find a way to get closer as the aerial view isn’t doing these designers the justice they deserve.
The energy shifts to the other end of the runway, where a ballroom couple takes to the floor to give a three-song dance set, including “Butterflies” by Michael Jackson. The way everyone sings in unison, laughing and pretending their phones are microphones, the energy is still palpable. I am among familiar strangers.
I admit it: I am loving the attention my outfit is getting as I come down the escalator. I was feeling weird about wearing bright orange in the beginning of March, but I don’t like to follow those “color palettes by the season” rules. Not my ministry.
I get into a lengthy conversation about the topic, almost forgetting about the next walking designer. I’m able to meet up with more of the homies downstairs near the top of the runway where I see one of Brehon Williams’ looks: a white-to-pink ombré suit with blue accents. Shortly after that look, an all-black outfit with pants underneath a pleated skirt comes down the runway and I love it!
Androgynous looks are always a go-to and a must-see for me. I read in the program that Brehon recently expanded from strictly womenswear looks to experimenting with menswear, and I can’t wait to see how his creativity carries that forward. Ohavia reappears from another outfit change, seemingly out of nowhere, in a white blazer-blouse with the most beautiful cascading ruffled sleeves I’ve ever seen.
The final designer starts his walking looks with a very dramatic score, which catches the attention of many people I’m standing around. GeGe Gilzone delivered nothing short of drama, giving chic avant-garde looks. There was a short, green, ruched “freakum” dress with exaggerated puff sleeves that I drool over. I look over to my boyfriend to grab his attention (my look says “Buy me that!”). He laughs and points back to the runway, nodding at the slow choreographed mannequin spin.
GeGe is giving the crowd a show and we eat it up. Just when I think the green dress is my favorite, there’s a black tulle blouse that looks like it’s exploding from the chest, paired with high-waisted slacks that have a geometric black-and-white pattern. I can’t take my eyes off of it – until event staff dressed in all black aggressively (but not rudely) clear the area where people (myself and the homies included) are all standing.
I’m confused for a second, then I look up and see THE Jennifer Michelle, a Charlotte legend, and coming down the escalator toward the runway in GeGe’s final look. It’s a black-and-white gown decorated in black lace with a high slit and a train that was as elegant as any, joined with what looks like a reversible green kimono/shawl moment. The presentation, the surprise, the intricacies … that’s how you close a fashion show!
Dammit Wesley, facilitating the vibes beyond visual art as the evening’s DJ, sets the tone throughout the show all the way to the end as he encourages us to turn up when Ohavia gives us a runway walk to a live version of Prince’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” As everybody cheers her on and starts to say their goodbyes while taking pictures with friends and family, I can’t help but be in awe by the fashion presence in the city. It’s always been here but, thanks to Davita, Jennifer and the Mint, I’m hoping it will expand in bigger ways in the near future and get ALL the eyes it deserves.
Walking out, I let the breeze carry out my elevated mood until my boyfriend looks at me and says, “Do you remember where we parked?”