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Wednesday, September 7, 1994 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Cutting Edge -- Arena V Promises To Be Another Sro Fashion Showcase And More

------------ FASHION SHOW ------------

Arena V fashion show, 7 p.m. Friday at Union Station, 401 S. Jackson. Tickets $20 in advance, $22 at the door. Tickets available at SIN, 616 E. Pine St.; Market Optical, Pike Place Market; Betsey Johnson, 1429 Fifth Ave.; and Fantasy Unlimited, 102 Pike St. Tables for 10 available for $190 by calling 680-9940.

For those who may be shy about attending Arena V on Friday (if you fall into this category you're probably over 35 and own a lot of clothes from The Gap and mail-order catalogs), here are a couple of points to ease your fears.

One: You won't be an instant geek if you're not multiply pierced. But if you are, cool.

Two: You don't have to wear black. Some people, even a few of the kohl-eyed punk ingenues who flock to Arena, do not wear black. Some wear gray. In fact, given the outrageous stuff paraded on stage - last year a line of Daisy Mae sweet gingham-and-chintz lingerie for large women was one of several show-stoppers - a lot of people won't even notice what you're wearing.

Three: It's a great place to see without going deaf the crowd that has helped put Seattle on the map as a capital of cutting-edge culture. These are the hip and the young, the late-night First Avenue and Capitol Hill crowds. Anthropologically speaking, the show's audience is a great show.

Arena bills itself as a "designer showcase" for Seattle's independent fashion designers, and there is no denying that the annual runway fashion show is Seattle's best-attended, most entertaining and hippest fashion event. Held each year in the huge, stylishly remodeled Union Station, the show inevitably attracts a standing-room-only audience made up of the local fashion crowd, musicians, boutique owners, stylists, photographers and the youthfully chic. More than any other fashion event in Seattle, it's a happening.

(Evidence of its "happening" status is the fact that about half the audience is usually male.)

Whetting appetites

This year marks the fifth Arena show, and co-producer Jason Harler, one of the city's most energetic twentysomething fashion entrepreneurs, has a lineup of 13 apparel designers and three milliners. Most are from the Pacific Northwest, although San Francisco and Los Angeles designers will be represented. As always, Harler says the point is to put on an exciting, professionally produced show that whets the appetites of store buyers and the fashion-buying public.

A young man who understands that designers don't survive unless their apparel gets in stores, Harler and Linda Deal, his co-producer, have this year enticed a few shop buyers from New York to attend. Past shows have resulted in national exposure for some participants, including fashion spreads in Details, the fashion magazine for young men who regard GQ as passe. (New York-based Interview magazine, a co-sponsor of shows past, is not involved this year. Harler says it was time for Arena to move out on its own and find local sponsors, two of which this year are Market Optical and Bada Optics.)

Though few of the designers in the show have any significant distribution outside Seattle, their clothes and hats generally are available at local shops, mostly on First Avenue or Capitol Hill. Few if any are sold at major department stores, a result both of the designers' limited production capabilities - many sew their line themselves with a couple of part-time employees - and the fact that the fashions are too outre for local department stores.

Featured designers

This year's featured designers will again be mostly in their 20s, with a few in their 30s. Veterans of Seattle's non-mainstream fashion scene include milliners Wayne Wichern and Anne DeVouno, and apparel designer Carol McClellan, especially known for her exquisite leather, rock-'n'-roll-inspired apparel. Siren Blue, a small label associated with sleek, classy day and evening wear, is also making a return appearance, as is SIN, leather fetish wear that definitely is not daywear. (The SIN segment is always X-rated. Bring blinders for the kiddies or the squeamish.)

Keri Dahl and Mikel Jared, a duo that has participated before, will be presenting their fall and winter lines. They make clothes that they describe as "futuristic," though their black jersey-and-leather evening ensembles for women also suggest Geoffrey Beene's avant-garde styling. The men's wear is sleek club wear, with a hint of the Jetsons. Their third year in business, Dahl and Jared have wholesaled to small shops in New York and Atlanta.

There are also newcomers to Arena each year. One such pair this time is Erika Syvertsen and Alicia Wullum, two fledgling designers who just graduated from the textile and apparel design program at Seattle Central Community College. Both women make party clothes for 20-year-old glamour girls. Syvertsen's designs suggest an understated Courtney Love look while Wullum likes to mix black lace, velvet and flouncy petticoats into punk Marie Antoinette ensembles.

Harler also promises a line that he describes as "metaphysical, New Age dressing, kind of gypsy-looking, Greco-Roman goddess wear," and a line he says is "mod stuff for girls. Cute little swing coats, stuff like that."

Fantasy wins

As usual, Wichern, one of Seattle's top milliners, will open the show. A man with a background in theater and dance, Wichern last year swooshed on stage in a full-length black cape and swashbuckling broad-brimmed hat leading three models shrouded in black black chiffon like a trio of Dracula's widows. He then pulled the chiffon off each model to reveal fabulous hats.

Like New York designers who create fantastic, impractical, unsaleable outfits for the runway - the idea is to attract the attention of photographers and to get publicity, not necessarily to sell those outfits to stores - Wichern says he always wrestles with the question of whether to show wearable little chapeaux or fantasy hats. Fantasy usually wins the day.

"For me it's an opportunity to do something that I wouldn't be able to sell anyway," said Wichern. "Hats that sell are smaller and discreet, but it's fun to get a chance to do the glitter and glitz. Besides, they look better on stage."

Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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