Hallowed Halls: A Night of Dark Elegant Fashion

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Last fall, fashion designer Heather Mathiesen and filmmaker Stephen Simmons collaborated to produce An October Evening, an arts event designed to showcase their creative endeavors as well as those of like-minded peers. “Stephen and I are both very inspired by the October season and wanted to capture what we felt was so intriguing about it,” says Mathiesen, “I first decided I wanted to make an event after being on many fashion show committees and in many fashion shows. I was tired of being a participant and wanted to see what it was like in the ‘big chair.’”

The ‘big chair’ seemed to agree with her; the first An October Evening was so successful that it completely sold out the Regency Theater. This year, Mathiesen and Simmons are hosting their second annual An October Evening on a grander scale. It will be held at the 1,000 capacity Masonic Temple, and a portion of each ticket price will be donated to charities that benefit children with health conditions.

“An October Evening is more of a formal art event than a festival,” says Mathiesen, “This is not necessarily a Halloween event, but a dark elegant evening that we hope will have a similar feeling to an old 1920s film.” Attendees of An October Evening 2007 are encouraged to wear costumes for a chance to win the “Autume basket.” After they pass between the two sphinxes that guard the Masonic Temple’s doors, a stilt walker will greet them and usher them into the main auditorium. There, the evening will be introduced by an elaborate multi-media performance that makes use of fanciful costumes on an ornate set in front of a green screen.

“I want to create a story around the clothes,” Mathiesen says. “I don’t just want to create clothes for people to wear; I want to create a whole entire fantasy world. When you see these clothes in the show and you wear them later, I want you to feel like ‘Oh yeah, I’m part of that fantasy.’” The introduction will be followed by a fast-paced fashion show, in which 11 local designers will showcase models walking across a red carpet. The fashion shows will be interspersed with four original short films, including the work of Simmons’ SKS Productions.

An October Evening will also feature a show by hypnotist Brian Swan, and a musical performance by an alchemic and ritualistic band from Portland called The Red King, whose performance offers a multi-sensory experience in itself. (Read an interview with The Red King for SLUG here.)

An intermission will provide an opportunity to visit the banquet hall to partake of free refreshments and view the works of local artists, including photographer Jeff Carlisle.

Mathiesen’s own Blue Medusa Fashion will headline the fashion performances. Her current line is titled “I Am So Hallow,” which she has described as “electric-pink Marie Antoinette on acid, a juxtaposition of queen and punk.”

She explains: “My fashion shows always incorporate a story. As a part of a show I want to create more than clothes; I want to create an entire artistic concept. I love theatrics and feel like a show should leave people entertained.”

Other fashion designers include the proprietresses of two local clothing stores, Arsenic Fashions and Obscura Clothing. Arsenic’s Donna Rhodes will display her trademark Victorian-inspired attire, while Obscura’s Mia Espinosa will present the debut of her first original line, a men’s and women’s collection which she describes as “Mozart meets punk.” Some of the other designers are students at Salt Lake Community College, who were recommended by their teachers. One, Krista Nielson, was the national finalist for a Steve Madden shoe contest.

Mathiesen notes that Utah can be a great place for fashion designers. “They’re actually able to create something from the ground up instead of getting involved in something that’s already established,” she observes. “If you’re going to get into the fashion world in New York, it’s going to be very hard to start with something that you want to do and make it huge. Here, you have a lot of independent people who are working together to create something.”

Simmons feels the same way about film. “Everyone’s always moving out to New York or L.A. to go do something, when they could actually just create and do something here in Utah,” he says.

Mathiesen is quick to point out that many designers who do choose to stay in Utah do have what it takes to make it elsewhere if they chose. “A lot of the people who are involved in this show have gotten national attention,” she says.

“I look forward to Utah’s growth and want to be a part of it,” she adds. “I see that there are more and more things going on every day that get me excited [about] where our city and state are headed.”

An October Evening will take place on October 19 at 7p.m. Tickets are nine dollars in advance and can be bought at Obscura and Arsenic Fashions.