It's possible in this town to go to a fashion show every day of the week. But even among the devotees of fashion shows, few people go to more than one a week. This past weekend, with a lineup of at least six choices, we hit three that offered great variety in showmanship, if not much difference in the kinds of clothes. All were entertainment in the name of fund-raising.
"That must be Ungaro with the bald head," said a size 14 to a size 12 as they waited to retreive their coats at the Chilean Embassy Friday night. "He's got a French accent." It wasn't Emanuel Ungaro, the Paris designer whose clothes had been modeled at the embassy for the benefit of the National Symphony. The man was Jaime Roviro, an Italian, one of Ungaro's representatives at the show.
Ungaro was in New York showing his couture collection to his usual customers, who often include Jacqueline Onassis, Chritina Onassis, Deeda Blair and Binaca Jagger. His absence at the Chilean Embassy was one of the few things that went as planned. The invitations had gone out with the designer's name spelled incorrectly; the morning of the showing the taped music normally used in Ungaro shows in Paris hadn't arrived from France and a large share of the clothes Saks-Jandel had planned to sell as a spin-off from the benefit were still en route from Italy.
The audience was not used to Ungaro's fabulously bold mix of prints, which sometimes look as though a woman had ramdomly grabbed individual items from a closet and worn them together. They liked far better a group of white clothes that looked like something from a Visconti movie, many worn with veiled hats, in which Ungaro's penchant for mix was far more subtle in texture and pattern.
When the spotlight was turned on for one of the vignettes at Howard University's Cramton Auditorium Saturday night, a male model appeared to be nude on stage. He sat in a vintage bathtub scrubbing himself with a long-handled brush and tossing Styrofoam around. The model, Wayne Harrell, carefully slipped out of the tub into a towel, then put on black satin pajama bottoms and a reversible quilt-to-tie-dye satin smoking jacket and strutted down the runway to cheers.
The audience was cheering both the outfit from cheryle d. carson (she uses all lower-case letters) as well as the choreography, the music and the model, from Rafiki Productions, which presented the entertaining benefit for Howard University Hospital's Cancer Center.
The models were a varied mix, and if dancing distracted from some of the unpolished details of the clothes, the inventiveness of many of the designs by LAVONIA (he uses all upper-case letters), Olive Davies and carsonwas always apparent. Colorful satin roll-up pants for men worn with cotton blazers and bare chests; harem bloomers; strapless peplum dresses; rompers; waist-length jackets and pleated pants for men, and glitzy jackets for women were showcased in varied amusing scenes.
All of the clothes were made in fabrics brought from Africa by Jeannette Carson, an AID regional program specialist, Rafiki, a nonprofit group promoting cultural awareness of Africa through fashion, gives these fabrics to three young designers each year.
Several people were watching when real estate developer Stuart Bernstein raised one finger while sitting in his front-row seat at the Saks Fifth Avenue fashion show Saturday night. He was listening to a small radio he shared with oil executive Robert Cohen, and was signaling that Maryland had lost by one point to North Carolina in the basketball champsionships at Capital Centre.
Store manager Lawrence Hill had considered setting up a television screen on the third floor for husbands who attended the UNICEF fashion show benefit at the Chevy Chase store. But after setting up several bars and tables of international hors d'oeuvres and desserts, and making room for disco on three, and big band on two, and a huge runway and chairs for the 500 or more guests on the lower level, there wasn't much space left for other entertainment.
Like the Chilean Embassy event the evening before, the clothes were imports but this time from many designers in France, England and Italy, including Giorgio Armani, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior and Janice Wainwright. Twenty models danced down the runway in ways far less formal or serious than designers usually use to show their clothes.
Effi Barry, wife of the mayor, who had modeled at the Rafiki show only an hour earlier, had a front-row seat for the show. Other guests included the ambassadors of Sweden and Israel and their wives; Lady Henderson, the wife of the British ambassador; and Italian Ambassador Paolo Pansa Cedronio, escorting Dina Spencer, a public relations executive from New York, who was clearly enjoying sharing her name with the fiance of Prince Charles of England. "A lot of my friends were surprised to learn that I was 19 and a virgin," she said.