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Art and style, deconstructed

Telfair event forgoes the runway for annual fashion show

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IT'S BEEN A whirlwind of style events around here lately, and the fashionistas’ feet must be screaming:

First there was SCADstyle that brought Domenico De Sole and Alexander Wang to town. Then came Savannah Fashion Week and its dazzling showcase of local talent.

Now the grandest dame of Savannah chic, The Telfair Academy Guild, takes its graceful turn down the catwalk with its annual Art of Great Fashion event this Monday, May 5.

Except the guild is so au courant, it doesn’t even need a runway. This year’s red carpet event will deconstruct the traditional fashion show and its blasé trappings, instead utilizing the breathtaking setting of the Jepson Center for the Arts to present the Marc by Marc Jacobs Spring 2014 collection.

Rather than saunter nonchalantly back and forth, models will ascend and descend the dramatic staircase through a series of photo shoots as attendees mingle throughout the space. Guests will be inches away as photographers Alexandra Arnold, Zoe Christou Welsh, Geoff L Johnson, Pablo Serrano, Cedric Smith and Bryan Stovall capture images in their signature styles. A live video feed run by Ian Knott will reflect the action as it unfolds.

“The runway show is the past. I think there’s a movement to interact with everything that’s been brought on by technology,” says Art of Great Fashion co-chair Meredith Gray. “We’re used to looking at things up close now.”

Gray and co-chairs Jan Herman and Lynnetta Hartson not only incorporated the Jepson’s majestic setting into the presentation but the museum’s content as well: The show integrates Jacobs’ garments with the current exhibit featuring images of Marilyn Monroe, and the innovative concept comes together as Marilyn and Marc: Celebrating American Icons.

“They’re both iconic, obviously, and both of them have this similar quality, beautiful and vulnerable at the same time,” describes Gray.

As she oversees fittings and styles the models, Gray brings a citified element to the yearly fashion event. A former editor at Vogue and Harpers’ Bazaar, the seasoned fashion expert first encountered Jacobs as an emerging designer in the mid-1980s, back in the days of his happy face sweaters.

“He was just a baby,” she recalls with a smile. “I was pretty young myself, and the other editors all wanted to cover Calvin, Oscar, Donna…so I got him. His designs were so fresh, so playful.”

Gray gave up NYC chaos and came to Savannah a few years ago, seeking a slower pace. Jacobs went on to shake the fashion world at its foundations with his grunge-inspired flannels and cashmere thermals. He served at the helm of Perry Ellis and Louis Vuitton. He launched his more moderately-priced Marc by Marc Jacobs line in 2001 and opened a shop in downtown Savannah in 2007.

“Marc Jacobs and his business partner Robert Duffy have done so much to revitalize that end of Broughton Street,” enjoins Gray. “They’re also very philanthropic, giving back to the local community.”

The Art of Great Fashion evening features an open bar and plenty of nibbles, and proceeds benefit the Telfair Museums’ important educational outreach efforts and captivating lecture series.

While Jacobs himself will not be attendance at the Jepson (the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art gala takes place the same evening), his spring collection will be in full effect: Silky pants and tunics printed with chevron-esque “radio waves,” woven pants with pinwheel flowers, sequined minidresses.

“The artists who inspired this collection are Bjork, David Bowie and Courtney Love,” reports Roz Rodriguez, manager of the Broughton Street store.

Mirroring the collection’s debut and Jacob’s trademark rebelliousness, the models—all locally sourced from Halo—will sport sneakers, no matter how formal or informal their look.

“I think he’s going for a casual but glam look, so you could go either way,” considers Rodriguez with a laugh.

No matter; as an unarguable icon, Jacobs can do whatever he likes. Celebrating its 15th anniversary, the Art of Great Fashion has earned the same kind of privilege—even if that means taking the show off the runway and into the crowd. cs

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