I went to the Spring/Summer show of Bishkek Fashion Week last year. It was awesome. The agency that organizes it (for some reason) granted me a press pass just for asking for one. (Is that how these things work? I’m inexperienced at being “press”.) I got to creep around backstage and take some of my favorite photos of Kyrgyzstan ever. I missed last year’s Fall/Winter show because I was hugely pregnant and already back in the states, but I swore to myself that I’d go again. So when I started getting email updates about preparations for BFW 2013, I was stoked.
(most of the photos in this post are from last year’s show, fyi)
But then, things went a bit pear-shaped. Some would call it a SNAFU.
Let’s walk through the timeline of my understanding of the week’s events.
Sunday, March 24: Cat show at the Russian Drama Theater! Near the end of the show, it was clear that there is a high ratio of high-heeled, willowy, attractive females in the building, leading me to believe there was a dress rehearsal for BFW going on at the same time. Or, maybe models just love cats.
Tuesday, April 2: Fashion Week kicks off at the Russian Drama Theater with “well-known” fashion designers that I’ve never heard of.
Wednesday, April 3: Supposedly, the recently fired director of the theater, believing his termination to be unfair, steals all of the lighting and sound equipment. The fashion show that night is cancelled. All of this is unknown to me at the time.
Thursday, April 4: Kirstin and a friend show up at the theater. Things that are strange: All of the banners on the outside of the theater are gone, there is no one selling tickets and very few people in the lobby other than vendors selling handicrafts (that was the same as last year, so that seemed like a familiar sign). We were a bit late, so I figured the show had started and we could sneak in. We open the door to the main hall, expecting to run into a scolding, ticket-collecting babushka, and were met with… nothing. Pitch black, no people, no fashion.
This is the part where I have a mini-meltdown. I know there’s a fashion show scheduled for tonight, I know that it’s supposed to be here. If I have the wrong day or the wrong location, then why is the craft fair still in the lobby, like last year? I’m positive. I received emails that said it would be this week, at this location. We spoke to a few vendors in the lobby who had no idea what Fashion Week was. Where did I go wrong!?
We wandered aimlessly outside the theater while I texted Farrell and tried to make sure I hadn’t made a huge error. He called back and said an article he found explained the now ex-director’s plundering exit. Apparently the show for that night had been moved to Atmosphere, a restaurant/bar. Considering how late it already was and our collective fear about trying to weasel our way into a swanky bar with sub-par Russian skills, we cut our losses and spent the night having a much needed girl-talk session at an Italian restaurant.
Friday, April 5: I get an email from the BFW organizers (I must have been stuck on a mailing list at some point) about a newly scheduled “Best of BFW” night in a few days that will happen to feature mostly designers from the cancelled Wednesday night show, at a different restaurant/club that I’ve never heard of. I later found out that the Friday show was also held at Atmosphere.
Saturday, April 6: I’m assuming that the Saturday night show happened, but I haven’t found any news about it. I received another email that the super exclusive black-tie, invite-only gala that typically follows BFW (scheduled for Sunday) has decided to be super inclusive. The email was essentially begging everybody and anybody to attend (at yet another restaurant, a different one) because they could really use the 500 som (~$10) entrance fee from as many people as possible.
Sunday and Monday: I had other plans already, so I skipped the gala and the “best of” show, despite how obvious it was that the organizers needed people to attend.
It’s disappointing that Bishkek Fashion Week became so chaotic and hard to follow just because one guy was upset about getting fired. I think the organizers could have done a much much better job at trying to keep the public up to speed on what was happening; the Fashion Week website wasn’t even updated with any evidence of this Spring’s show until after it had already started, and the emails they sent out for rescheduled events usually did not include information like when the show would start or the address of the place it was being held at. Also, examining some photos from the first night, the absence of a big-name sponsor that was on the main banner last year makes me think that maybe the organizers have lost a vital source of funding. Bad news for Bishkek Fashion Week, but I hope they can pull through.
Some of my friends (especially some in the fashion industry here) have complained about how meaningless they believe BFW is, but these things need to start small, they need to have some bumps, they need to feature shitty designers and eventually (if the event can survive) it’ll become better. Or, at least that’s what this clueless foreigner thinks.
In other Fashion Week news, Kazakhstan Fashion Week was held this past week in Almaty. Yours truly, feeling like any Fashion Week would be happy to have a random American girl poking around backstage with her camera, requested a press pass and was denied. Another Fashion Week Fail for me.