Dressing Up at the Project Runway Trunk Show

Michael Costello and his Project Runway friends offer trunk show attendees the chance to play for keeps.

Amelia Rodriguez Current Digital, Fashion & Style, Fashion Week El Paseo

Michael Costello dresses one of his models from his collection during the Project Runway Trunk Show at Fashion Week El Paseo on March 20.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY NALANI HERNANDEZ-MELO

The late designer Kate Spade famously said, “Playing dress-up begins at age 5 and never truly ends.” At Fashion Week El Paseo’s Project Runway trunk show, March 20, visitors arrived in droves to try on looks by Michael Costello, Viktor Luna, Anthony Ryan, Seth Aaron, and Mondo Guerra and prove that no matter your age, there’s nothing more fun than a game of costume play — especially when you have the chance to take the outfits home.

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Luna’s opalescent silver moto jacket started the trunk show layered over a mannequin’s printed catsuit, but it didn’t stay there for long. Fashion Week Diva Dr. Deb Windham capped her own outfit with the piece, then followed with test drives of an olive-green flight suit, a parachutelike coat, and a cape emblazoned with the designer’s name. Luna adjusted the back of the cape for Windham while his sweet, snub-nosed dog wandered the tent at leisure, collecting pats from friendly showgoers.

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Fashion Week Diva Dr. Deb Windham tries on an olive-green flight suit with help from Project Runway grad Viktor Luna.

Across the way, Ryan helped a customer fix the ties on a pair of mustard trousers. They matched his own head-to-toe yellow outfit and mingled well with the muted greens, pinks, and reds that dominated his collection. “I originally quoted Walt Whitman,” Ryan explained of his vision. “It was a fun acid-trip [version of] what he might have seen on some random road trip back in the ’60s or ’70s.”

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Anthony Ryan  helps fit a pair of mustard trousers from his collection.

Meanwhile, the underwater wonderland that is Aaron’s collection acted as a siren call to dozens of eager shoppers. Two school-age sisters with flaming red hair twirled in black and silver dresses with pipettes resembling iridescent mermaid scales. As one elegant blonde paid for a ruffled gray skirt, her friend cooed and picked it up. “I know you’re buying it,” she said, “but I just want to try it on.”

While Aaron’s black-and-white T-shirts embellished with artwork of a mermaid’s face proved to be his best-sellers, the sequin dresses and jumpsuits he sent down the runway the night prior steadily disappeared off the rack as well. “I actually didn’t intend on selling the collection,” Aaron admitted. “But people wanted it, so I sold it.” He grinned. “I can make more.”

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Seth Aaron’s sequin dresses and jumpsuits he sent down the runway the night prior steadily disappeared off the rack at the trunk show.

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Mondo Guerra offers a sample of the accessories during the trunk show.

Not so for Guerra. “This is from fall of last year,” he said, gesturing toward the rack of dresses and separates in wearable neutrals, metallics, and soft orange-pinks made unique by the designer’s eye for quirky details. “These are all one-of-a-kind samples. This is the last you’ll ever see of [them].”

Guerra only offered 13 pieces. But shoppers who sought to bring home a Mondo original at a lower price point found a variety of accessories — spiky sunglasses, artful bangles and broaches, and earrings worthy of a disco queen — all in bold neon brights.

And as women donned designs by homegrown talent Costello, they got the opportunity to embody “Harper,” Costello’s attention-loving, impeccably dressed imaginary muse, for which his collection is named.

“This season the collection was inspired by a mixture of hard and soft,” Costello noted. That influence shined in silky fabrics topped with harnesses; soft but sculptural jackets; and a shimmering pink dress that reads slinky and delicate from afar but, upon closer inspection, is constructed of hundreds of tiny, interlinking metal pieces, as if a supremely glamorous sheath of chain mail.

A young girl held up Costello’s pink dress against her chest before a full-length mirror. It was a little too big, but there was no need to worry — she has the rest of her life to play dress-up.

For livestreams of every runway show, go to palmspringslife.com/livestream. Visit fashionweekelpaseo.com for tickets and more information.

A piece from Seth Aaron’s sirens-inspired collection.