As colorful lights flashed from all directions, male and female models sauntered down a long white runway, while ultra-trendy songs from CDs by Justin Timberlake and Paris Hilton provided high-energy background noise. As model after model showed off new examples from the collections of upscale retailers, audience members got a sizable sneak peek at some new styles for the fall.
And they didn't have to go all the way to Manhattan to do it.
The runway show marked the 13th year of Phashion Phest, held Sept. 11 at the Hyatt Regency Philadelphia at Penn's Landing. The event showcased clothing and accessories from Center City stores like United Colors of Benetton, Christopher's Mens Store and Chic Bella; suburban retailers like Suky and Bloomingdale's; and New Jersey-based clothiers like Zinman and Fashions by Penina. The evening also featured a hair-styling exhibition by local salons and an amateur model search.
"Who needs New York?" posed Phashion Phest organizer Sharon Phillips Waxman. "Why go there when we have great upscale retailers here?"
JoAnn Morgan, vice president of Zinman — a chain of stores in New Jersey and the Philadelphia suburbs — believes locals are just as fashion-conscious as people from any other locale.
"I think Philadelphia strives to be at the forefront in the fashion industry," said Morgan, "and I think both men and women here want to keep up with the latest fashions and be trendsetters."
Zinman's collection — the show's finale — elicited raucous cheers from the audience as the male and female models sported gray, black and white chinchilla coats with no shirts underneath, adding a little skin to the exhibition.
Fashions by Penina, a store in Marlton, N.J., showed off elegant gowns and dresses, items that co-owner Penina Gould hopes appeal to mothers of a bride — or mothers of the Bar or Bat Mitzvah child.
"It's a look that is anything but mother of bride," said Gould, who believes her fall collection can make a middle-aged mother feel classy and still look young.
Phashion Phest also featured an amateur model search, where 10 local females between the ages of 13 and 20 competed to win a trip to New York City to meet with a modeling representative and visit top agencies. The eventual winner was Jennica Stiglich, a blonde-haired 16-year-old from Quakertown.
Before the 18 professional models graced the runway, their hair was styled by Salon L'Etoile. Mel Silverman, owner of the Jenkintown salon, described the trends this season are for hair with volume and movement. The flat-ironed straight haircuts that had been "in" during the past couple of years, he said, are history.
During the preshow cocktail hour, area salons took center stage performing live hair-styling and makeup demonstrations, while models stood on raised platforms to show off the finished products.
While many of the salons styled their models for elegance, Rapunzel's Salon & Spa in Lansdale showed off female models with wild-hair and tattoos who wore bright leggings and colorful capes.
"Normally, you have to do what the customer wants," said Dawn Sunk, co-owner of Rapunzel's, "but when you get to do a fashion show, we took it as though we could have fun and do something we don't do every day."