When Red Carter's models took to the runway yesterday, it was clear that the designer, who launched his brand in Miami in 2004, had achieved "hometown hero" status.
We're gonna level with you: After Sunday's downpours, nobody appeared particularly enthused to be wandering around the Raleigh pool in advance of another day of fashion shows -- ourselves included.
But then again, we didn't know we were about to see the most Miami-style runway show thus far.
Outside the tent, the scene was soggy and sparsely populated. Early afternoon thunderstorms had frightened off a noticeable number of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim attendees, it seemed, and those remaining stepped gingerly around puddles and congregated around tables draped in soaked tablecloths. A hotel housekeeper swept a broomful of water off the floor of the second-story restrooms beside the pool -- directly onto the backpack of a reporter below. No, The Raleigh did not seem like a terribly glamorous place to be.
Inside Red Carter's tent, however, the energy transformed. When the first look strutted down the runway, the audience applauded and cheered -- a definite change of pace from the silent, judgmental appraisals we witnessed during most of the Swim Week shows. And the disco beats, though perhaps a bit cheesy, still managed to keep things lively.
That's not to say these looks were flawless, of course. It takes a certain level of ballsy-ness to look at a rainbow-hued, metallic print like one on the model above, and say, "You know what this needs? A giant disco ball purse." But this opening look certainly did set the tone for the rest of the show: Wacky accessories, wackier hairpieces, and shiny, busy prints galore.
Even the lower-key looks, like this ruffled, monotone bikini (another version of which showed in orange) came paired with eye-catching accessories and disco platform shoes. Red Carter's press materials cite New York City and Studio 54 as inspirations for this collection, and yes, we certainly do get a bit of a Donkey Show vibe from these looks. But let's be honest: When you think neon colors, oversized earrings, and throbbing club music, you don't think of New York. You think of Miami.
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....And then the coneheads appeared. Red Carter's models gradually lost the bobbed wigs and replaced them with what appeared to be woven thatch funnels extending from their crowns at least a foot and a half -- with wisps of quite obviously fake hair trailing from the pointy ends. The cones themselves looked absurd, and in some cases, blonde models wore cones with dark brown hair sprouting from the ends, compounding the ridiculousness. The effect was to detract from the swimwear itself -- and that's a shame, because its patterns managed to blend Art Deco and American Indian patterns in a unique, flattering way.
Aside from a yellow, black, and white color story that really didn't work for us, Red Carter's collection ranked among the most exciting swimwear we'd seen thus far. Maybe we were drinking the Kool-Aid, but we'd even gotten over our conehead-related shock and awe. But then, in a move that took us from Miami to Rio de Janeiro, the final looks came down the runway framed by feathery arcs. The crowd, once again, went wild with cheers.
Was it over the top? Absolutely. In fact, the feathers on the final look looked more suited for a Muppet than a model. But after several days of waiting in long lines, suffering through humidity, and enduring snooty, unsmiling glances from fashion snobs, Red Carter's show felt like a fever breaking. The humidity had subsided, the energy was high, and everyone from the audience to the models to the designer himself came ready to have a damned good time, at long last.