Wednesday, September 15, 2010

7th Annual Lela Fashion Show...Guest Blog by Joy Bach

While Shanel is busy working on her seventh show with Lela Boutique, I will try to update you on her process, progress and my observations leading up to the big event, Saturday, September 25th. For those who have never been, look for the beautifully lit, decorated, tent on Broadway. Complete with red carpet, lounge and beauty bar. 7p start; 8:30 Runway.

My dear friend Shanel Regier asked if I might be interested in guest blogging on the process of pulling together this particular show, Lela’s 7th Annual Runway Show. Each year, Shanel is the headliner and closes the show with incredible creations. I say this not because she is my friend, but truly from an objective perspective.

I have had the pleasure of working on several of her shows in the past. After which, I purchased a pacemaker. Event planning, promoting, watching the process unfold is pure fun for me. I have worked the front of the house and back of the house at different shows in order to understand how all the working parts come together. And I will say, it gets a little intense. But being invited to witnessing Shanel’s process -- from the actual concepts, to creation, to prepping for the final show -- is a new angle for me. I am simply a reporter in this case, so I get to kick back and learn.

Stress is a funny thing. Everyone encounters it to many different degrees all throughout life. And everyone handles it differently. A girlfriend used to remind me, “Stress is simply your reaction to a situation. So just control your reaction.” People say I’m too nonchalant. Funny, I am quite certain my personal trepidation and internal shouting manifests in the antithesis of a calm demeanor. But for me, it’s when I gain clarity in what needs to be done.

Lo and behold, it seems to visit Shanel the same way… Fifteen days out from the show, I popped in her studio to see how things were moving along. She greets me with her mischievous grin, sits back down and starts to hand sew something that looks to be a black skirt. The studio is surprisingly clean. I don’t see the dresses in the main room, but I also don’t ask. That’s her business.

“Are you stressed out?” I ask.

“Um…(honestly pondering)…yes.” She replies calmly.

“Are you where you are supposed to be on the timeline?” No pressure.

“Every year, I don’t know if I am behind or ahead. I do know I will show up two hours before the show. I also know that Pepto Bismol gives you a brown tongue. That’s a fashion fact.”

Sense of humor. A must in life. Let’s just say I understand hers, and follow its twists and turns. I happen to think she is hysterical. While I’m talking, I see her purposely peek her bare toes out from the garment she is sewing. Yes, stress is a funny thing. I am pretty sure others would be flipping out right about now. She attributes her calm to listening to “The Promise” from the 80s band “When in Rome.” She also reports to me she has 30 garments started. Two are done, and she wants to conceptualize six more. “I will be making new things up until the day of. The ‘uggos’ will be weeded out.”

In the midst of pulling together a lofty goal of 36 pieces, some of which may or may not make the final cut, is the added challenge of other custom work projects. Every piece Shanel creates is sewn to fit a specific body and one-of-a-kind in design. Just thinking of this feat puts a pit in my own stomach.

Shanel developed her style when she was a senior at Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD). “I was reading a lot about the Victorian period. I was intrigued by corsets and ruffles, which was represented in my first collection. But I took it more seriously in 2003 -- my first show for Lela.”

Lela's and Shanel’s relationship began during her second fashion show. "Lela had just opened up, so Carrie and Stephanie came to the show. They were looking for indie designers and asked if they could carry my work. I said ‘no.’ I was still embarrassed of my work! After some convincing, I started creating my tie skirts.” [Skirts literally made of men’s neckties.] The rest was history.

Through headlining Lela’s fall show every year, Shanel has garnered a well-rounded clientele – from juniors in prom dresses, brides and bridal parties, partygoers in cocktail and dramatic dresses to the everyday woman dressed in blouses and corsets. Seems to me, a formidable partnership and mutually beneficial relationship was formed.

Her goal for the week? Finish five pieces and start one new one. Good luck, Sunshine.

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