Express Brought Exclusive Spring Sneak Peek to Raleigh Hotel

Let's face it. Runway shows in Miami are about as hard to find as a straight man on Lincoln Rd. Although our "Cuban cousin" community is slowly ascending the fashion ladder of life, we're still no New York, and forget about coming close to Paris. However, in every shadow there is light, aka when massive retail chain Express selected our very own Magic City as a docking station to preview its Spring 2014 collection at the Express Yourself Miami Runway Show.

"Anti-trendy" Wynwood kids and trust-fund babies alike came spillin' in by the dozens to the sandy backyard of the Raleigh Hotel on South Beach. Arriving felt a lot like pulling up to Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Swim, but without all the cluster-fuck mayhem of five different PR companies not getting their shit together. Instead, the line situation was rather civilized. One single-file line curved around the corner of 18th Ave, and the sight of people throwing elbows - or chancletas - was no where to be found.

When admittance was granted, stilettos, despite their blatant altitude, were gradually filled with grainy remnants and their heels sunk deep below the man-made quick sand. Guys who looked like they just parked their teal Vespa right outside, dressed in rolled up chinos of every shade and sat on ottomans on the outskirts of the beachy plains; their counter parts in wide-brim hats, bralets, and high-waisted midi skirts. It was confusing to distinguish the models from the normal folk, casting the confused to the farthest reaches of the Twilight Zone.

To the left, a long line formed -- rivaling the line to get in -- to screen bespoke t-shirts from the Three Fold Apparel booth with the help of blogger P.S. I Made This. The booth provided an assortment of multi-colored tees by Express. The choice was yours to iron verbiage such as "Can't stop, won't stop," "Selfie in SoBe," and "Let's party." After the iron maiden stamped its seal of approval, you were able to further customize the tee with knick-knacks ranging from safety pins to jewel-tone bedazzlers. The former seemed to be the less cheesy path traveled.

On the opposite side was a beauty station with double vanity mirrors, where girls from Candy Coat Nail Boutique filed down jagged-edged nails and spruced up matted beach waves.

While custom tees assembled and knots detangled, the audio of hard beats with a mellow tempo penetrated the air -- A-Trak made his presence known. The Canadian turntablist and record producer went easy on us in the beginning with loungy tunes and '80s renditions care of Debbie Deb.

Fist-fulls of platters hoisted finger foods which made their way into every mouth no thanks to our dear friend Michael Schwart. For the carnivorous "non-models," classic turkey sandwiches on a French baguette and crab salad mixed with dices of cucumbers sat atop a circular crostini. For the carb-counting, vegetarian models, a measly two green beans, one stock of celery, and one carrot stick were rooted into a bed of ranch on the bottom of a clear, square, plastic, tumbler cup -- it must suck to be a model.

But of course, it wouldn't be a proper "industry" event without a little liquid entertainment. In order to satisfy our pre-Alcoholics Anonymous palettes, the mother ship of bars was conveniently located in the eye amidst all surrounding festivities. A myriad of thirsty business men and equally parched Hipsters built a fortress around the bar, leaving all who could not break past its solid barriers no choice but to retreat to the other two, smaller - and less eventful - bars on either sides.

Being such a mega event, naturally, mega-celeb run-ins were prophesized. Those prophesies came true when Chris Bosh came out to support the brand looking like a fox, dressed entirely in none other than -- you guessed it -- Express. Model Kate Upton introduced the show, but had an odd stage presence, assuring the crowd that the show would start momentarily. The alleged, "plus-size" temptress was dressed in a white A-line dress, hugging at the -- only plus-size part on her body -- chest, and wore a salmon blazer to even out the anatomical score.

After A-Trak called out the final warnings and summoned all attendees to gather round the runway -- that gave the illusion of levitating over the pool - the show finally kicked off.

The collection inhabited the concept of monochromatic sportswear -- for both the male and female specimen. Rolled up drop-crotch pants, exposing an inordinate amount of mankle, mated with a leather motorcycle jacket over an airy tee, help set the tone for the menswear, while the women's wear opt for chiffon-sleeved bomber jackets paired with skin-adhering pencil skirts for a sultry upgrade. The show premiered a wave of sophistication. However, the misses of the night happened mid-show when unnecessary acid-wash patches covered the knees of the men's denim and sequin tops and jackets with texts that read, "Swag" and "Bling," dispelled the lure for the women. Ñoo Que Barato called, they want their best sellers back.

Post-show, A-Trak ditched the cordial behavior and with the beating of his left arm, pulsating toward the sky, gyrations of intoxicating bodies unabashedly reported to the dance floor - any floor they could stomp their feet on. The turntablist set transmogrified from mainstream funk to underground dub-step, drawing a line between those you could not keep up with the party and the dwindling survivors of the night.

-- Nycole Sariol

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