Just Call Me Mr Blackwell: THE FASHION UNDERGROUND at Transit, 3/01/01
Transit is the kind of shadowy, bleeding-edge club where you have a nice time dancing one night, only to discover it’s a meatpacking plant the next. Pillars of smoke-filled light lead you through a dark hallway into a circular main room that looks like a crack-laced Thunderdome taking place inside the parlor at Monticello. I kept waiting for blood to come out of the sprinkler system.
On Thursdays, Transit is taken over by FORM – Fashion Or Music. A short runway extends into the club’s main dancefloor, and resident DJ Jernell Geronimo spins fashion-centric house and triphop. For last night’s Fashion Underground event, Geronimo’s selections ranged from Daft Punk’s latest to a nice remix of Sneaker Pimps’ “Spin Spin Sugar” from a few years ago that sounded great. Of course, when the club features a 25,000-watt sound system and state-of-the-art lighting reminiscent of space ships with expensive production design, my left shoe would sound good on the turntable.
After about an hour of carousing, dancing, and the downing of prohibitively expensive cocktails, Transit got the show on the road. A troupe of male and female models trotted out collections from five different Chicago fashion collectives, including Jesus Rodriguez, Supreme Parlor of Funk 2000, and Narcisse Designs. It wasn’t exactly Land’s End Outlet material.
In such a proto-urban space as Transit, with its shady location under the EL tracks and uncomfortable, haughty furniture, it was no surprise that the fashion wasn’t any different. The first collection on display was like a third grader’s Betsy Johnson paper mache project gone horribly 80s. Unkempt strips of multi-colored fabric formed rag-tag hoop dresses underneath black vinyl bustiers that would make Rosanna Arquette’s character in “Crash” shudder violently. In fact, the majority of the night’s clothing had a decidedly post-modern feel – post-modern retrofitted to 1986. Looking like rejects from Scandal’s video for “The Warrior,” models traipsed up and down the runway in get-ups that would not look out of place in a “Steel Dawn” road show. Post-apocalyptic? Maybe. But only if Gordon Gartrell is the leader of the New States of America in a bizarro new-wave future imagined by David Cronenberg and George Miller. In Narcisse Designs’ urban chic beta test, voluminous amounts of eye shadow and fetishistic, insect-inspired fashion somehow suggest what we’ll all look like in 2020. I hope I die before I get old.
As an overall music/culture experience, Transit’s FORM Thursdays aren’t a bad idea. Despite their inherent pretension, it’s still kind of cool to cock your head to one side and say “yeah, I went to a fashion show last night.” Unfortunately, I’m never going to understand the whole concept. Call me crazy, but I don’t think the swirling, flesh-colored bondage nightmares I witnessed on last night’s runway are going to trickle down to the local Greatland Target. When a designer’s line reminds me of a textile Pontiac Aztec, is that a good thing?