photo: Alexander Erb
Romance was in the air in and around New York’s Bryant Park during this month’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week for Spring 2008. As American designers sent one feminine and flirty look after another down the runways, there was one show that chose to go in a different direction. In a daring departure from this season’s popular trends, the designers for the House of Paul showed an innovative collection of looks that can best be described as "caveman chic".
For those not familiar with the House of Paul, the show takes it name from Paul Soletys, the affable and easygoing leader of the IMG crew of workers who are responsible for some of the less glamorous jobs of Fashion Week. That includes everything from arriving two weeks early to set up the Bryant Park tents, to building runways, to shoveling snow when necessary during the cold winter weather.
One cannot help but be charmed by Mr. Soletys good-natured sense of humor. He describes the House of Paul Fashion Show as a chance to give everyone “a break from the real gig and make fashion fun again.” The models include members of his crew as well as people from every other crew responsible for Fashion Week (tech, security, etc…).
Paul Soletys is described by those who work with him as “a man with a heart of gold.” Each season he assembles his crew from a returning group of free-lance workers, some of whom rely upon Fashion Week to provide a reliable source of regular employment.
The “crew show”, as it is sometimes called, has long been a favorite with Fashion Week insiders. It takes place each season at a time when there is a break in the regular schedule of shows in the Tents. “We try not to plan it too much”, says Soletys, “Because then it seems too much like work.” Designers showing in the Tents often contribute their excess materials to the House of Paul. Sound and video crews help out as well.
This season the ‘crew show” took place on a sunny Monday afternoon. The location, as usual, was an outdoor stage set up on West 39th Street, just off Sixth Avenue. The House of Paul has been offered the opportunity to use one of the Bryant Park venues, for their popular, long running show, but Mr. Soletys has always declined. “I am already in the penthouse, why would I move into the ghetto?” he laughs. Seriously though, he believes, that holding the show on the street gives everyone a chance to attend, and “that’s what New York is about.”
The show was entitled, House of Paul Pre-Historic AC DC BC. The stage was elaborately decorated to look like a cave surrounded by dinosaurs and other pre-historic creatures. A large crowd assembled, both on the street, and in the windows of surrounding buildings.
The designer of the collection was Paul Laird. He stepped in this season, taking over the reigns from jewelry designer Isabelle Lirakis, who has worked with the show for several years and consulted on the caveman theme. Laird, who is known as P.L., was ably assisted in his designs by Juliette Burgess.
P.L., who works as the assistant warehouse manager for IMG, made excellent use of the raw materials available to him (excess carpeting, etc…). Models strutted the runway in Flintstones like attire as the audience responded with laughter and applause. Paul Soletys never models himself, but did make an appearance in the shows raucous finale.
So for those of you who wish that you could attend a Fashion Week show, but you can’t seem to get your hands on an invitation to the Tents, don’t despair. Next season just keep your eyes and ears open and keep a close watch on West 39th Street, and you too may experience the phenomenon that is the House of Paul. You will probably have to stand and I doubt that you will leave with a goody bag, but if you’re lucky, like me, you might leave with a piece of the set.