Frozen Fashion

The Vermont Fashion Net-working group met to discuss Vermont’s fashion sense Wednesday night at the Fletcher Free Library.

Images of Burlington’s oldest residents leafing through newspapers in comfy chairs may come to mind, but the issue of the night was “Vermont and the Catwalk.” Yet, in a city with snow banks piled three feet high, heels seem impossible, let alone catwalks.

The network was created by Jennifer Michelle, a local lingerie designer who sells via the Internet, so designers, photographers and stylists could share ideas and questions about the industry.

Has Vermont’s fashion industry become one made up entirely of mall ‘runway’ shows? Stylist and owner of the Metropolitan Hair salon, Walter Wood, said no it’s actually getting better.

The speaker of the night, Wood offered a fresh and blunt perspective of Vermont’s fashion industry to the few shell shocked Vermonters present.

Wood previously worked in New York City, doing hair and makeup for fashion shows with big names like Paul Mitchell.

Tired of the city life, Wood came to Vermont in 1973.

“I drove some friends back up to school at UVM and my car broke down. I’ve been here ever since,” he said.

Wood said what’s missing from Vermont’s fashion shows are the desire to put things over the top.

“It’s not just the clothes and hair that are lacking. It’s music, lighting…the goal is for the whole show to be dynamic,” he said.

He also had advice for Vermont’s aspiring models: they need to be quiet.

“At shows they’re always saying, ‘these pants are too low,’ or ‘my hair is too big,'” Wood said. “They are not comfortable and it shows in their walk amateur shows, it looks like the women got their clothes out of their closets. It’s hard to watch,” he said.

His take is that there are two major problems facing Vermont’s fashion scene: Vermont’s a hard climate to sell fashion, and it’s a small market.

“Things that look good on the runway aren’t practical here, and things that are practical don’t look good on the runway,” Wood said.

“What designers should do is put the two things together,” he said. “Like Northface outerwear and lingerie.”

There was a time when Wood used to sit on Church Street and mock women who walked to work in silk blouses, silk skirts and the dreaded clogs.

People in Vermont were not putting in enough work sacrifice is necessary to look good, Wood said.

What happened to beauty being puffy coat deep?

But all is not lost. These days, Wood has happily noticed, Burlingtonians are starting to put together entire outfits to create a “look.”

He’s also noticed an increasing quality of models he’s seen at the local agency, Fusion.

“Girls who were pretty in high school aren’t going to college, eating a lot of ice cream and drinking beer, and still thinking they look good,” Wood said

His current celebrity style winner: “Ellen DeGeneres, because she’s simple, casual and comfortable.” The worst: “Paris Hilton, Nicole, all of them. They need to put on some underwear,” Wood chuckled.

So how would Wood classify Burlington’s fashion style?

“Well, of course you have your Jerry Garcia/Jeep Wrangler look. And then there’s the L.A. Rams cheerleader meets Nanook of the North wearing pink Ugg boots in 50 degree weather.

“My biggest fashion critique of 2007: Just because it’s fashion, if it doesn’t look good on you, don’t wear it. Around Burlington I see that a lot.”

The message here: Wear something you’re comfortable in … but not too comfortable.

Where to shop in B-Town accord-ing to Walter Wood, fashion guru …¥ “Old Gold-since you can mix vintage and new stuff to create a great outfit.”¥ “Stella-the only place in Burl-ington to go for shoes.”¥ “Ecco-boutique on Church Street, they have great clothes.”

And for men?¥”Take a bus to Montreal or New York City,there’s no good men’s shopping here!”