Jessiica Howell should be proud. The new fashion designer stepped away from a corporate job to bravely debut a Saturday night sneak preview of her self-titled line, Jessiica Howell Fashions, which she created in less than four months. She should also give herself a pat on the back for transforming the previously bare-bones Hermann Park Golf Clubhouse into a glitzy after-five venue that hosted the inaugural event, held as both a fashion show and Howell's birthday fete. Her competent style staff and her wide circle of fabulous, fashionable friends deserve kudos, too, for stepping out to support a dream born in middle school in her hometown of Chicago. Claps all around.
Now, on to the show.
It went off without a hitch, minus a few tiny flaws. For one, we didn't expect the event to start an hour late. But there we were, waiting pensively at 8:54 p.m. for models originally scheduled to strut down the runway at 8:00. Emcee Nakia Edwards's attempt at a stand-up comedy career didn't pacify the impatient crowd, either. Once started, the show -- broken into two halves -- was unnecessarily punctuated by performances, the first being poet Paul Wilkinson, who stumbled over his lines, and Maxx Julian, a burgeoning singer/songwriter who thought his song, "Lipstick," would be a great opportunity to serenade a woman in the first row, who happened to be married -- and sitting right next to her husband.
On to the fashion.
The 14 outfits, divided into four categories -- Flirty and Flowing, Sexy and Sassy, Fire and Ice and The Boss Lady -- were made of lush, well-sewn fabrics, like peachskin and taffeta, and rich colors, such as poplar pink and cocoa brown. Her Sassy and Sexy jumpsuits were a juxtaposition of elegance and edge, with the chains and belts hanging off the frame-hugging garments not only daring, but also practically adjustable.
The best of the four was The Boss Lady's cutting-edge "independent woman" fashions, like the cleavage-grazing hound's-tooth dress that blurred the lines between boardroom and bedroom. The best overall piece came from the Asian-inspired Fire and Ice collection: a mid-length turquoise dress, its back scooped out like ice cream and covered throughout with leafy accents that lit up the room as they came down the runway. Another Fire and Ice stunner: a hot red frock dubbed the "little red dress."
Despite the strength of its parts, when taken as a whole, the line came across as a bit rushed. For example, the first piece from Howell's Flirty and Flowing line was described (by Edwards, who cleaned up his stint as an unfunny comedian with a well-delivered overview of each style) as a black-and-white dress, but looked more like a bikini cover-up, which we found odd, as Howell's line was announced (Edwards again) as a Fall 2012 collection (Her Web site says the line is scheduled for a Summer 2012 release, so there seems to be some confusion about that.).
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Plus, there was no unifying theme to each of the subcategories in Howell's opening line; each looked as if they could've been their own mini fashion show. Perhaps she should have taken more time between inception, conception and design before choosing to debut her young line to audiences.
This is not to say Howell does not have an aptitude for fashion. The exquisiteness of the individual pieces proves this. If she takes her time when designing her next line, she should be just fine.