Seattle Fashion Week has an international flavor in 2010

Forget New York, Milan and Paris: The designers of Seattle Fashion Week come from India, Somalia, Dubai, Romania, China, Iran — and, of course, Seattle — and they don't feel obligated to follow trends started by the big-name fashion houses. In fact, they feel those houses would be wise to look to the West Coast for inspiration.

Designs hitting the catwalk will include the usual casual urban streetwear, outerwear and couture gowns, plus colorful saris and other designs influenced by Asia and Africa.

"Our big twist this year is international designers who want to showcase in Seattle," said Janet Tinsay, one of the show's organizers. The expanded lineup is part of an effort to broaden the event's influence and celebrate the cultural diversity of Seattle's designers and the city in general.

"These are all very established designers," Tinsay said.

The event has also moved to a bigger venue, WaMu Theater at Qwest Field, which will house a daytime Beauty and Lifestyle Fashion Expo where fashion fans can wander among displays and shop before attending one of the runway shows.

The international designers' work will be on display and for sale at the expo, as will items from Seattle-area vendors.

Runway-show admission prices have gone up this year, but ticket holders will get free admission to the expo (admission to the expo without a show ticket is $10, with half the proceeds going to the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk).

Three days of runway shows start on May 13 with an opener dedicated to emerging and independent Seattle designers. They include Banchong Douangphrachanh, one of whose designs was worn by singer Lady Gaga in her "Pokerface" music video.

Tinsay notes that a number of designers from the Pacific Northwest have done well in recent "Project Runway" TV-show contests (Seth Aaron Henderson, the most recent season's winner, is from Vancouver, Wash.; during Season 5, winner Leanne Marshall was from Portland; and Seattle's Blayne Walsh also made a good showing), so the emerging designers might offer a taste of what's to come in the fashion world.

Bigger names and more mainstream designers will show their latest work on May 14, and established and international designers will showcase theirs on May 15. Olympic speedskating champion and "Dancing with the Stars" celebrity Apolo Anton Ohno will walk the runway in designer clothing on May 15.

While some talent agencies provide models for the shows, many of the models will be amateurs who answered an open casting call. The shows will also feature entertainment by local performing artists. Tinsay says in previous years, both models and performers have gotten contracts with agents who saw them at fashion week.

She says the show will allow anyone, fashionista or not, a chance to see cutting-edge design. "This show will bring them the experience of the best of couture," she said.



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