Chic Washington lined up in force at the third annual Washington Post Fashion Symposium last night. Some of the fashion-conscious wanted merely to catch a glimpse of designers Bill Blass, Gloria Sachs, Willi Smith and Michaele Vollbracht. Others came to Constitution Hall to get tips on how to break into the fashion industry, to see snatches of the new collections and the latest in designer wear for dolls, or just to parade their fashion-awareness in banner colors. They also wanted to raise $20,000 for The Hospital for Sick Children.
"I'm sort of a total fashion person," said model and fashion consultant Helen Moody, in bold mustard and black. "I own wonderful clothes, I wear these designers' wonderful clothes, and I buy their clothes for my clients."
"I'm here because this is an honor for me to see Bill Blass," said Washington seamstress Naimah Omar, dressed in one of her own creations, a linen, back-buttoned skirt, fringed upholstery-cloth shawl and belt of beige and muted turquoise. "I would like to sew for a top designer, and I want to ask what you have to do to sew for a top designer."
Five-time Coty winner Blass punctuated his presentation with slides, his staccato narration frequently interrupted by appreciative applause.
"White silk suit -- cinched at the waist," he said, describing one crowd-pleasing design. "Stripes -- always important -- silk dress," describing another.
Sachs, in one of her own handcrafted black-and-white print skirts, took the audience from inspiration, which she often finds in art museums, to completed product. "Everything I've ever done follows through to the present," Sachs told the crowd of 2,900. "I draw on everything I love."
Smith, president and designer for Willi-Wear Ltd., shared slides of his playful collection of women's and men's fashions and included a preview of his new Snoopy clothes for designer toys. And designer/portraitist Vollbracht painted a picture of a "powerful and lethal" business.
"What I will say is toward the students, because it was the greatest help to me, when I started out, to have a designer come and help you understand the fashion industry," said Vollbracht. "I both hate and love it. You don't have to do it in New York. There are plenty of Chicagos and Atlantas and certainly Washingtons. Just do it."
Wandering through the lobby before the program, Vollbracht was crowded by Mount Vernon High School fashion students.
"We saw a video of him in class," said Diana Jackson, who is planning a career in fashion advertising. "His clothes are great. He was for real. He comes out here and talks to us."