multi woven knit fitted long sleeve dress, Cesar Galindo fall
collection; necklace and earrings, Bangles and Bags, various
and Makeup: Neda Stevic
Stylist: Pam Stasney
When it comes to
Milwaukee’s performing arts scene, Cream City and couture culture
seem a rather disparate pairing, but for the city’s theater patrons
it’s becoming customary fare to indulge in performances that exude
high fashion. And while it has never been novel for the city’s
various arts groups to ascend to a higher aesthetic, a more recent
luring of nationally lauded designers has upped the ante.
collective effort by the city’s cornerstone arts groups. As the
economic climate improves, and Milwaukee continues to garner acclaim
on the national stage, the city is attracting world-class talent. We’re
simply ready to talk about it. "In Milwaukee, we are humble by
nature," say Brent Hazelton, associate artistic director at the
Milwaukee Repertory Theater. "With everything we do, we want to
be a mix of local (talent) and supplement that with really notable,
nationally recognized people. It makes the experience richer. We have
a lot of things worth celebrating."
stripe jacquard Michelle gathered skirt dress, Cesar Galindo
fall collection; Claudia Ciuti chartreuse pumps and necklace,
Picardy Shoe Parlour, Brookfield and Mequon
and Makeup: Neda Stevic
Stylist: Pam Stasney
arts groups, it is also a way to make a statement. Drawing high-class
designers to the local stage not only brings widespread recognition,
but also convinces audiences they don’t have to trek to places such
as Chicago and New York to indulge in an over-the-top experience.
that the coasts are the hubs of creativity and the rest is just
imitated is bulls*** — you can quote me on that," says Michael
Pink, artistic director at the Milwaukee Ballet. "The quality of
the (local) arts is truly world class. We produce extraordinary works.
We have incredible craftsmanship. We are a major force to be reckoned
jersey halter front tie maxi, Cesar Galindo fall collection;
sterling silver and 14-karat white and yellow gold plated
multistrand necklace, Bali mesh triangle dangle sterling silver
earrings and 18-karat white gold moonstone and diamond ring,
East Towne Jewelers, Mequon
Perhaps this was
no more strongly reflected than in the ballet’s recent production of
"Mirror Mirror." The company tapped New York’s Todd Edward
Ivins — a fashion and scenic designer, which is an anomaly in the
dance world — who gave the rendition of Snow White an intense, edgy
and fashionable feel. It was a visual gorging, a sideshow nearly as
imperative as the choreography that flitted across the stage.
The foray is
indicative of a more modernized, engaging and sophisticated arts
scene; something the groups hope will expand and diversify its
audience. "It puts the city in a new light," Viswa
Subbaraman, artistic director at Skylight Music Theatre, says of the
creative crusade. "It’s a different perspective. The
discussions are different, and (working with these designers) pushes
us in a different way."
This fall season
promises to be the city’s most ambitious, and stylish, yet. At
Skylight Music Theatre, the upcoming production of Rossini’s
"La Cenerentola" (Cinderella) is drawing excitement
following the announcement that New York fashion designer, Cesar
Galindo, is designing the show’s costumes. The work of the fashion
veteran has graced everything from the cover of ELLE magazine, to
contributions to collections for Dolce & Gabbana, L.A.M.B by Gwen
Stefani and Calvin Klein.
sequin racerback dress, Cesar Galindo fall collection; cuff,
earrings and Aquatalia bootie by Marvin K., Picardy
On a recent
summer evening, Skylight hosted Galindo as he showed his CZAR by Cesar
Galindo Fall 2014 ready-to-wear line (soon to be presented at New York’s
Mercedes Benz Fashion Week); a rare event for Milwaukeeans who may
have only been introduced to the designer in magazine articles, or
through his various appearances on "All on the Line" and
other fashion-centric television segments. The unique event — the
combination of both theater and fashion — erased the very preclusion
that Milwaukeeans lack an interest in the upper echelon of couture.
As the crowd
gathered in the theater’s salon, there was considerate buzz, not
only to view the designer’s stunning fall collection, but also to
get a peek of the artist and his vision for the show. At the back of
the room, flanked by a gorgeous ball gown and a row of avant-garde
masks, the Skylight presented its vision board for the production.
One thing is for
sure: the wardrobe is far from reminiscent of Disney’s periwinkle
princess, fairy-tale tulle.
the designs evoke images of Vogue circa the bold, late ’80s; pinup
fashion; ’60s mod; and Truman Capote’s infamous 1966
black-and-white masquerade ball. It’s dark, daring, sexy and hip to
entirely the point, says Subbaraman. "We’ve been disingenuous
for a while," says Subbaraman. "People want us to play into
the fairy tale — it’s easier to sell. But, there is a gruesomeness
(to the original tale) — there’s not always a happy ending. There
is a class element that’s anti-stylish. This is relevant. So, we
played into that concept."
The key is to
keep audiences guessing, he adds. "We’re all doing shows that
are exciting — that’s one of the reasons we can get these
people," Subbaraman says. "We’re paying more attention and
marketing it better. Our patrons deserve the best we can give."
Of course no
amount of celebrity can save a show. Pink says the relationships that
are cultivated with national designers only enhance the city’s
status when performing arts groups are able to execute mutual
of theater and creativity is about the people you work with," he
says. "You could be doing this in the desert, or on Broadway. It
makes no difference if you don’t have the artistic integrity."
working with top-notch local talent is still so necessary. "The
economic impact of the arts is huge. And it’s something that leaders
should want to talk about, but don’t talk about," says Pink.
"The number of people who work in the arts is incredible for the
size of the city."
That being said,
the inclusion of out-of-town artists and designers has created a
deeper pool of talent from which to choose, Hazelton says, which has
lead to more creative and exciting partnerships between local
designers and national ones.
It’s a sign
that Milwaukee is truly on the up and up.
we’ve raised the bar," Hazelton says. "As a regional
theater it’s important for us to have a pulse on the national scene.
It’s about people who want to raise the profile of the institutions
they want to support. It gives a wider variety of shows, different
aesthetics and is continuously refreshing. It’s the ultimate
As more and more
out-of-town designers flock to the city to leave their mark,
performing arts groups say audiences can expect Milwaukee’s shows to
rival that of any cosmopolitan city.
going to get Isaac Mizrahi to come design a show? Probably not,"
Subbaraman muses. "This isn’t ‘Sweeney Todd,’ with a $50
million budget. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t get world-class