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Fashion Week Brings Underwater Fashion Show To Blacktip Island

underwater fashion show

Blacktip Island’s amateur fashion designers will show off their creations underwater this weekend in the island’s inaugural underwater fashion show. (photo courtesy of Slava Zaitsev)

Aspiring local underwater fashion designers will show off their creations this weekend on Jawfish Reef, off Blacktip Island’s west coast, as a run up to next month’s New York Fashion Week.

“There’s a lot of untapped design talent on Blacktip, and it’s time the world recognized that,” show organizer Sue Nami said. “We have people doing some really exciting things with color and texture. The way these garments billow like algae in the current is stunning.

“The goal is to create designs that simply wouldn’t work on land,” Nami said. “Anyone can create clothes topside. These pieces flow so naturally they could be seaweed or soft coral or discarded plastic bags. It takes extra-ordinary skill to do ‘diaphanous’ successfully underwater.”

Garments will be constructed in a variety of confined-water venues, then showcased in open water.

“Designers are using pools at the various resorts, mostly in the evenings when guests are eating dinner,” fashion critic Vinny Abalone said. “A few are using blow-up pools and cisterns. Lee Helm’s doing his work in the booby pond, though there’s some debate on how his garments will function in the viscously-different sea water.

“Models will be dive staff, since they’re the most experienced on scuba and use the least air,” Abalone said. “We’re working out what the tides will be doing Saturday and Sunday so we can time the show when there’s just the right water movement. We pick the wrong time, our models might have their garments just hang there, or they could get swept away in the current.”

Designers say the underwater aspect offers intriguing challenges.

“The temptation is to go old stodge and use lots of neoprene, but that defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?” designer Dusky Blenny said. “The beauty of this is we can make garments that will flutter like underwater life. We’re breaking new ground here. Or water, rather.”

Others echoed that enthusiasm.

“I’m patterning my collection on stoplight parrotfish phases,” Joey Pompano said. “I’m mimicking scales and colors of juvenile, male-and-female adults, and terminal phase to emphasize that while all these fish may look so different, they’re actually the same species at different stages of development. Like much of the island’s dive staff.”

Some dive professionals were concerned about safety during the show.

“It’s fine to talk about ‘diaphanous robes,’ but what happens when one wraps itself around a model’s head, or gets tangled in a regulator?” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “And if currents shift unexpectedly, folks could get blown over the wall.

“We’ll have rescue divers hovering over the catwalk, and a line of divers carabinered in down current to grab any flailing models as they fly past,” Latner said. “Can’t stop this nonsense, but we can try to control it. And create a new specialty course.”

The show will be streamed live to all island bars. The winner will receive an application to New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology.

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Scuba Fashion Week Comes to Blacktip Island

Designer wetsuits hang ready for Blacktip Island’s Underwater Fashion Week.

Designer wetsuits hang ready for Blacktip Island’s Underwater Fashion Week.

Underwater Fashion Week returns to Blacktip Island this weekend, with top local and international fashion designers showcasing their latest collections.

Underwater runway models have been chosen from local dive staffs following last year’s near-drownings.

“Blacktip has always been at the cutting edge of Caribbean dive fashion,” event organizer Georgio Pompano said. “This year’s designers have pushed that edge to put us at the absolute fringe of the submerged fashion map.”

“‘Retro, sassy and fun’ is the touchstone this season,” said local designer Kitty Smarr. “Your grandpa’s black is the new black. It contrasts phenomenally with our models’ sun-bleached hair”

“We’ve done some daring things with board shorts,” local designer and Sand Spit bartender Corry Anders said. “We’re using mole fur and alligator skin to enhance the sensory experience before, during and after the dive. And all our shorts are edible, of course.”

As ever, the wetsuit is at the heart of Blacktip’s sub-aquatic haute couture.

“We’ve re-imagined warmth protection to transform cliché into major pizzazz,” Pompano said. “Our suits are not your quotidian, urine-soaked farmer john-and-jackets.”

“Beaver tails are back, with a mid-60s retro vengeance,” Anders said. “And French-cut women’s shorties. It gives divers a definite ‘Dr. No’ vibe.

“Throwback dive knives are hip, too. We’ve taken the Sea Hunt-standard dive machete and updated it with a faux black coral handle, sheath and matching sunglasses.”

“The showstopper is our Chanel-inspired mid-thigh hooded vest with a chinchilla fur-rimmed hood and duct tape accents,” Pompano said. “When is a hooded vest not a hooded vest? When it expands into a hoodie-mini! Hello!”

“Makeup is the biggest challenge,” Kitty Smarr said. “All our divemaster models have brown noses and white eye sockets. We have to mask that. And the makeup has to hold up under water.

“This year we’re mixing all our bases and mascaras with a neutral-tinted axle grease to make sure they stay on during the grueling runway presentation and any backstage scuffles that may break out.”

The runway finale will be podcast live to Sand Spit bar during next Friday’s happy hour. Free hors d’oeuvres will be served.

“We’ll have all-you-can-eat popcorn and cocktail weenies,” Anders said. “Plus the full cash bar menu, of course.”

A second television will feature the first round of the NBA playoffs.

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