It’s not every day you see a bulldog in a tuxedo. Kind of a shame, really. Once a year, however, the dog-friendliest show of Fashion Week El Paseo specializes in just those sorts of happy spectacles, all to benefit The Humane Society of the Desert.
Sunday night’s Le Chien presents Le Dogue en Vogue was an unexpectedly elegant runway show featuring three designers and a heavy-hitting array of colorful couture.
Le Chien is always a Fashion Week El Paseo highlight at which families and fashionistas find common ground in dressing up, taking a seat as the lights go down, and watching fantasy unfold on the canine form. The 2018 show, however, marked a turning point in Le Chien’s evolution, treating guests to a show in which dogs shared the runway alongside models, but high (human) fashion claimed center stage.
The 5 p.m. pre-show reception provided ample daylight for attendees to linger outside the tent, nibbling on passed appetizers and posing with the girl in the “Champagne dress” before plucking a flute from her skirt. The loosest night for guest fashion yielded a comfortable crowd. Sneakers and Doc Martens boots were no more out of place than a woman dressed head-to-toe in several versions of leopard print, topped off with a pair of cat ears. Pups donned striped sweaters and pink dresses with matching barrettes, and most managed to stay on stylish behavior.
Biance Rae comes down the runway with her new best friend, while Lily Neil holds one of the dogs up for adoption with sister Claire and brother Turner.
The dynamic show kicked off with a video about the Humane Society of the Desert (a safe haven for local animals since 1961) to the tune of Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend.” Several winners from the Palm Springs Life-sponsored Bow Wow Cutest Dog Photo Contest shook their things (Shakespeare, the bulldog in the tux, was named best dressed) before Humane Society donors braved the catwalk to introduce an irresistible array of adoptable dogs (and one good-natured cat with an orange plume tail). Those unable to embrace a new furry family member contributed to the spirited live auction with enthusiasm and bids, amassing more than $26,000 for the cause in a matter of minutes.
With money raised and dogs surely getting antsy backstage, the fashion show segment burst forth in a storm of colorful Emil Couture designs, rolling thunder, and fast-paced clouds across a screen. As Rhianna and her “Umbrella” rained down a fierce rhythm, two male models helped a woman in a graphic-print maxi dress slip into a clear ankle-length trench coat. Down the runway she strode, holding a toy-size dog under one arm and a clear umbrella over her head.
Designs from Emil Gampe included structured circle skirts – one dotted with three-dimensional white daisies. Others seized on primary colors.
This fresh start to the collection by designer Emil Gampe poured into more. His simple palette often seized solid white, black, or primary colors and used them to explore shape and texture. Feathers caught the breeze on capelets, collars, and one canary-yellow dress. A rainbow petticoat worthy of a Pride Weekend dance was only slightly upstaged by a scalloped-hem rainbow skirt that looked like a 360-degree folding fan. Structured circle skirts – one dotted with three-dimensional white daisies – contrasted body skimming dresses with waist-low necklines and confident cut-outs. The sleeves on a black dress poufed out so dramatically they could have been inflated with air. Gampe showed additional versatility with a silky camouflage dress and another in animal print. Possibly to express affection for the dutiful dogs of the evening, the designer paired many of his looks with heart-shaped sunglasses.
Double slits down the front of a dress by VOVI created a leggy, hot-pants look that introduced several pieces by Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising graduate Alyssa Quevedo. Spaghetti-thin straps, gathered bustlines, and light draping were trademarks on these gowns for the nonchalant urban goddess.
VOVI design created by Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising graduate Alyssa Quevedo.
Closing out the show were special-occasion confections by Bohimi. Each statement-maker had something glamorous to say, from layers of netting adorned in sequins to a deep-red sparkler with a mermaid twirl. Designer Charmaigne Menn maintains a shop on El Paseo and a studio in Carlsbad, catering to bridal, formal, and evening dress clientele.
Bohimi designer Charmaigne Menn maintains a shop on El Paseo in Palm Desert.
The sophisticated silhouettes from all three designers elevated Le Chien for 2018. Beautiful poodles, beagles, and little fluffy white dogs didn’t detract from the serious fashion at hand, proving they could steal guests’ hearts without stealing the show.
VIDEO: Watch Le Chien presents Le Dogue en Vogue from start to finish, including the auction for The Humane Society of the Desert.