The annual Art of Fashion fundraiser hits the runway with lots of lace and a splash of Belle Epoque

Southtown’s Art of Fashion fundraiser returns to Blue Star this Saturday with a line-up of local designers including event director Angelina Mata Chumney, Agosto Cuellar, Henry De La Paz, Rodrigo Virgen, Mary Alice Medina, and Luis Almanza.

The annual runway show, now in its 16th year, fits right in to the CAM calendar, given just as many of the designers tend toward visual flights of fancy as couture construction. Last year’s show was a happy mélange of pageant-quality evening gowns, deconstructed club wear, drag-inspired headdresses, and from-the-rack-to-my-back wearable fashion. Nowhere is this diversity of design more apparent than in the contrast between two of San Antonio’s fashion principals, Agosto Cuellar and Angelina Mata Chumney.

As Cuellar explains, “I did have a certain ‘theatrical’ look as my finishing point, so each garment stood alone,” more like individual paintings or stories, or a tableau the curtain can fall on. Cuellar has always been attracted to the purity of unbleached muslin and stiffened lace, and those influences linger in this year’s work. In one piece, a thin, massive ruff edged in shocking pink floats away from the head and dips down to cross the body, while another piece juxtaposes a simple crochet hood with a silver lamé bodice. Cuellar’s current obsessions include “18th-century paintings of the Virgin Mary, mountain witches of Japan, and the Raptor dinosaur from the film Jurassic Park” — and clearly inspire this collection’s elaborate headgear.

Mata Chumney, owner of the Euphorium Salon in King William and a veteran designer, completely charmed this writer with her French “pique-nique” inspired collection last year, including a covetable polka-dot hobble dress. Mata continues to be one of the most professional, and wearable, designers in town. This year, the French influence remains but becomes more architectural, relying on Mata Chumney’s admiration of the Belle Epoque, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco (specifically bold geometric shapes and bright colors) design movements. Mata Chumney feels this inspiration most in her collection’s wedding gown: “The use of leaf-shaped lines and the delicate hand beading of freshwater pearls exhibits the work of French couture of the Art nouveau era,” she notes.

With crowd-pleasers like Mata Chumney and Cuellar leading, it will be interesting to see if San Antonio’s biggest fashion moment continues to improve. As a city with such a strong emerging local design scene, we’d like to see standards climb for Art of Fashion — including fewer collections, but with a higher quality of work. We’re looking forward to an even better show this year. 

Art of Fashion
Proceeds benefit the Southtown Mainstreet Alliance
8pm-midnight Sat, Jul 21
Blue Star Contemporary Art Center
116 Blue Star
Info: 226-0888