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NYFW: Couture Fashion Week Hosts Head-Turning Production

By Alexia Hill, Olivia Madrid

Interviews conducted by Larisa May 

NEW YORK- The venue was seemingly inconspicuous, placed amidst a row of other doors and brick-red buildings on the dimly-lit Norfolk St. We happened to walk right past it, and realized we were lost, only to turn around and hear a security guard ask, “Are you ladies looking for the fashion show?” 

Couture Fashion Week, an event series founded in 2005, showcased its New York Fashion Week production on Feb. 3. Located at the iconic Angel Orensanz Foundation, where Art Hearts Fashion also hosted its NYFW shows, the production immediately felt gaudy and exhilarating. With green arched ceilings, and ambient warm-toned lighting, pointed intentionally at the ornate architecture of the synagogue, the Angel Orensanz Foundation has a deep-rooted history in New York. 

Known for being the venue space for many community and artistic-driven events, this location has been tucked into the Lower East Side of Manhattan since 1849. Alexander Saeltzer was the architect of this building. Originally known as the Ansche Chesed, (The People of Loving Kindness) was a synagogue created during the Reform Movement of the German-Jewish migrants of the 1840s to the 1880s. 

For better or for worse, the venue, rich with history and elaborate detailing, elevated the Couture Fashion Week’s unpredictable production all throughout the night. 

Founded by entrepreneur and fashion designer, Andres Aquino, the show began with MC actress Janel Tanna making her way to the catwalk to introduce the first musical performers and designers. Tanna was wearing a custom pink Aquino floor-length gown, adorned with sparkle embellishments all over. Her hair, makeup and overall presentation were beautiful, but her crowd work was monotonous at best, lacking variety and feeling overall unprepared. 

Musical performers had taken up more time than the fashion itself. There was a wide variety of performers, ranging from a romantic musical duet to some operatic numbers, to a country rock band. The randomized order of performers added to the unpredictability of the show, leaving the audience unsure of what to expect next. Of all the performers, one of the highlights of the night was the operatic performance from Phoenix native Victoria Sadow. 

Himawari Diamond by Nhat Linh, a top luxury jewelry designer was the first to present their collection. Styled by Andres Aquino and Cory Tran, floral silky textiles that draped loosely on the models made their way down the runway, but the zenith of these looks were the exaggerated diamond necklaces that hung around the model’s necks. Linh’s regal natural diamond collection ranged from princess-length necklaces adorned with colorless diamonds to major statement necklaces that take up the entire neckline. Models presented statement necklaces varying in size, shape, and material. While some were a rainbow of colored diamonds creating floral shapes and decorum on the neckline, others utilized pearls and more neutral colored-jewels to create a royally-curated layered effect. 

Primarily a menswear collection, by Majid Lodi, presented gold suits, similar to traditional South Asian menswear such as the Sherwani, Bandhgala and the Dhoti, which are suit-like attire. The coats were bedazzled, some coupled with boots or jewelry to match the sparkle of the blazers. One notable look, a royal purple blazer paired with lilac silk pants and glitter boots stole the audience's attention. Coats breezed with models' swift walks and performative poses during this collection, marrying traditional looks with attitude.

The man behind it all, Andres Aquino rounded out the show with his new 65-piece collection entitled, “Magical Muse.” Every piece as a stand-alone look, beautifully crafted from head to toe, most were embellished with sequins or unique flower appliques. 

“It’s not something that you see every day, obviously, it’s not what you put on to go to work in the morning but it’s really something special,” Aquino said. “Each one of them is unique in their own way, and the whole collection makes sense because it’s all about using art in fashion.” 

However, the collection altogether felt like a disordered clash of styles and colors, where there was a discordant attempt to put together a ready-to-wear collection in marriage with couture. Against the backdrop of an incoherent playlist of music, models first began the final designer collection wearing a classic mini leather sheath dress, paired with a big beach-styled hat. Perhaps the theme of ‘Magical Muse’ was meant to allow the creative freedom of exploring different couture silhouettes, color palettes and more. 

Being the first instance of where models are gifted cryptocurrency in NYFW history,  Aquino chose 70 models and selected press to be awarded $5,000 worth of XIA coin, a form of cryptocurrency. This coin is backed by gold and physical assets, which differs from other forms of cryptocurrency. To those that aren’t familiar with the world of cryptocurrency like myself, this news appeared to be dubious. The coin, from XUSD Blockchain Holdings LLC, receives its physical assets from KerixJad SAC, one of the largest mining consortiums in South America. Though the mission and sustainable practices of this coin in particular are unclear, it is a historical moment for bridging the world of fashion and the digital economy. 

Couture Fashion Week is in its 39th season of showcasing luxury clothing across New York City and Cannes, which is a feat on its own. Overall, the incongruent production value and the imbalanced ratio of musical performers to designers, in contrast with the beautiful models, hair, makeup and actual designs being showcased confused the trained eye of some viewers, but left the entire audience and team feeling incredibly grateful to be a part of the experience. 

“We had an amazing show opening up New York Fashion Week,” friend to Aquino and producer Dimitri ‘Manuel’ Chkagidze said. “I love fashion, I live fashion, and I like to teach people the way things should be [in event production]. New York has a lot of shows, there’s a lot of mistakes but we organize it all and it’s all about education and knowledge, we have to make it professional.” 

Learn more about Couture Fashion Week on its website or on Instagram


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