Gaga had her meat dress, McQueen had his glass box, and on Tuesday night, Palm Desert boutique owner and designer Denise Robergé had Clinton, Spitzer, and Edwards — the latest political statement to grace a runway.
Instead of your standard fashion show, Robergé set up a series of vignettes — fashion theater, if you will — and used clothes from her InSanity boutique to costume eight musical numbers, most corresponding to the state of the world.
Robergé tackled unemployment, philandering politicians, unemployment, and homelessness. But don’t cue the violins just yet. Through peppy, choreographed dance numbers, live musical performances, and her clothes, Robergé made each of these rather dour subjects look fun.
Her exploration of joblessness started with expressionless models slowly making their way down the catwalk in fully closed, thigh-length jackets — a patchwork and tweed number, ’60s-printed swing version and sculptural, buttonless trench included. A glittering cityscape loomed in the background and the soft, quiet beginning of the 1969 hit “Proud Mary” filled the tent.
Then the ladies lost their jobs and the atmosphere turned upward.
The music crescendoed, the skyline was replaced by a graphic that read “unemployment approved,” and the coats came off to reveal leather skirts, metallic tank tops, and chain-adorned mini dresses. The sulking turned to smiles and the models began a girls’-night-out-style dance party, celebrating their newfound freedom. If only everyone who ended up in the bread line could realize that things do in fact work out, there would be many more of these dance parties.
Robergé also expresses her feelings about sex scandal-riddled politicians who have infiltrated our news cycle for the past few years. While large-scale photos of Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, and John Edwards brought a seamy quality to the room, three suited-up gentleman sat in chairs on the runway, sipping booze, as if at a strip joint.
Then out came their girls — the interns, hookers, and mistresses — dressed in black lace and mesh-topped body suits, cage-patterned and back-seamed stockings and almost erotic black sequined masquerade masks. The anonymous, masked models proceeded to entertain the seated gentlemen with tame, yet suggestive lap dances while a singer belted “Big Spender.”
Robergé even tackled bullying in an eveningwear number that at first appeared run-of-the-mill with models in black dresses. Some of the dresses were long with mesh detailing. Some were short with asymmetrical necklines. And the long, Jean Paul Gaultier cage sleeve column gown that we saw at Saks’ Monday-night showcase even made a cameo. But they were all black. Until a lone pouf of red fabric made a dramatic entrance causing all the black-dresses to stop, stare, and kick her off the catwalk. It could have been any playground at any school across America.
The subjects may have been heavy, but the crowd was clearly entertained, with viewers dancing in the aisles and gasping not at the clothes, but at the creativity behind their display.
Whatever Robergé’s intentions, one thing was absolutely certain: The philandering politicians number wouldn’t have worked if the models wore curve-covering floral shift dresses. She proved that in the midst of our great big world, fashion is insanely powerful, too.