“Every day is a fashion show and the world is the runway.” – Coco Chanel
Let’s face it, costume designers often get treated like the ugly step children of the fashion world. The reality is that these designers are regularly the heralds of the next big trend as their creations get seen by millions. Be it on your favorite tv series like ‘Once Upon A Time’ or in iconic films like ‘Mad Max,’ it is their fashion that truly creates the visuals we all love to watch. It is only proper that there is finally a whole fashion week dedicated to honoring and showcasing their work. Eduardo Khawam is the founder of Metropolitan Fashion Week which aims to do just that, to profile the creative geniuses behind your favorite fashions from TV and Film. He just celebrated the fourth year of Metropolitan Fashion Week, which took place on the famous Warner Bros lot here in Hollywood. A location fitting for showcasing the amazing talents of the unspoken heroes of the film industry.
Eduardo Khawam – Metropolitan Fashion Week
Black Chalk – How did Metropolitan Fashion Week get started?
Eduardo Khawam – I used to live in Seattle. I would do a lot of corporate events for Microsoft, Boeing, and other big corporations in Seattle. In 2008 when the economy wasn’t doing so well, I was no longer receiving contracts to do private events for corporate clients. A friend of mine suggested throwing a fashion show. Personally I was convinced that it was best idea. That was in 2008. We decided to do a show with swimwear, lingerie and underwear. We called it the ‘Forbidden’ fashion show. It was very successful. It was a very high-end event with 150 people. People loved it. The second year we hosted this event, it took place at the most exclusive hotel in Seattle. We had over 700 guests in attendance. It was a black tie event. It was super successful and it was the same theme of ‘the forbidden’ fashion show. We had underwear on men, with swimwear and lingerie on the women.
In 2011, we did the show at the Seattle Arts Museum, and the theme was ‘James Bond.’ It was grand! We did this special element of doing projections on the swimwear models as they walked the runway.
A lot of people on my team kept asking me “Why don’t you start a fashion week?” I wasn’t sure I wanted to start a fashion week in Seattle. There was already one in the city, and I didn’t want to compete with it. So my team kept pushing me, and we created ‘Metropolitan Fashion Week.’
Why did I select ‘Metropolitan?’ Because honestly I just liked the name. When I think I of the word ‘Metropolitan’ I see a big city. What makes Metropolitan fashion week different then other fashion weeks is that while we do highlight designers, it’s really all about the locations. The location must be an iconic location, historical venue or museum. We do our best to stay away from tents, bar rooms or night clubs!
Our first big ‘Metropolitan Fashion Week’ was held at the Boeing Museum of Flight. We had 800 guests, and we had over 20 planes around us on the Boeing field. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a pilot and a designer. But I never went to school to be a designer or a pilot. So it was a dream come true because I was running a big runway show at Boeing Field with designers.
After the success we had in Seattle with Metropolitan Fashion Week, my team started saying “Let’s go to Los Angeles.” I was like, “There is no way I am going back to LA.” I had left ten years ago. Yet I found myself back in LA, doing research as there already are a couple LA fashion weeks here. After a year of doing research in LA, we decided to do a show in Los Angeles. But the designers we profiled were by invitation only and they have to truly be a ‘one of a kind.’ Staying with that ethos, we worked on involving costume designers as well. Usually when you go to a fashion week in LA, they don’t incorporate costume designers. Costume designers don’t create a collection, they create ‘art.’
Part of our mission is that we didn’t want to compete with the other fashion weeks in LA that are geared towards buyers. A designer wants to sell their collection to Macys, Nordstroms etc. We profile celebrity designers, stylists and costume designers who want to showcase their work for directors and producers – and this is the show to be at!
So what we do at our shows is that half the show consists of costume designers from all over the world and then we have evening gowns. Our evening gown designers are responsible for what you might see on the red carpet for the Golden Globes. We don’t have jeans, or casual wear. It has to be evening gowns, formal wear and costumes. Everything you see in Hollywood.
This year was our fourth year in Los Angeles. Our first year was at Los Angeles City Hall. We had to shut down the whole city hall, we took over three streets and that was the show. The second year was at the Greystone Mansion, and the last two years we have been at the Warner Bros lot.
What I like about the Warner Bros venue is that during the rehearsals for our first show, which was at the Museum of Flight, every member of my team wore a superhero t-shirt. That day I was wearing a Batman t-shirt, someone else wore a Wonder Woman t-shirt. The discussion of the day was all about those superheroes and Superman as well. It came full circle as this year’s back drop is on the WB lot and is the museum where the original Batman costume is located. I was super excited in that less than three years, we on the WB lot doing our fashion show!
Black Chalk – You specialize in doing one-off gala type events in LA, where the guest list is exclusively ‘creative’ individuals…
Eduardo Khawam – We do an ‘opening ceremony’ event which has been held at the Farmers Market in LA. This event is for friends, family and is a free event open to the public. This year we had over 700 people in attendance. We had a costume contest where designers could create anything that was inspired by the Farmers Market. The top designers get to show off their creations at the Closing Gala on the WB lot! We do a lot of events, but it is the ‘Closing Gala’ that everyone wants to go to and designers want to showcase at.
Black Chalk – I like how you really work to keep your fashion week curated, how designers can only show by invitation.
Eduardo Khawam – For us it is all about the quality, not the quantity. We have people who keep approaching us, wanting to pay to showcase at the event. But I have to tell them, this show isn’t for buyers, it is for the ‘creative’ community in LA. We don’t show underwear and jeans. People can see that all the time. This is about one-of-a-kind costumes and evening gowns.
Black Chalk – You mentioned earlier when you were a kid, you wanted to be a designer or a pilot. What was the moment in your life when you decided to follow your love of fashion?
Eduardo Khawam – In 1979, that tells you how old I am. I was 7 years old and I was wanting the Miss Universe pageant. I am from Venezuela, and the pageant took place in Australia. When I saw Miss Venezuela coming down the runway in her evening gown, she won the pageant that year, in 1979. I thought to myself “Hmm, I like what she is wearing. I want to design.” Since then I love anything that has to do with design, be it evening gowns or costumes. I never went to school for it, my life went in another direction. But now my life is back to what I was wishing for.
Black Chalk – Let’s talk fashion… Describe your personal philosophy of fashion.
Eduardo Khawam – I was just talking about this yesterday as I was buying shoes. They are the shoes I will be wearing for the closing gala. A lot of people are into ‘names’ and ‘brands,’ for me it is what makes me feel comfortable and how I feel wearing it. I think everybody is different, and everybody should stick with what they feel comfortable in. Fashion is what determines the different eras. You can tell by just looking at someone that what they are wearing is from the 80s, the 90s etc. There are many things about fashion I could tell you! For regular wear, it is what makes me feel comfortable and good. It isn’t about the brand. When it comes to big events, like our Closing Gala or when I go to the opera, I want to wear the best of the best and I expect everyone to wear the same. For our Closing Gala, we tell our guests, it is a ‘Black Tie’ affair. So please don’t coming wearing jeans… You might not get in.
Black Chalk – Let’s talk about the designers you profile in your show.
Eduardo Khawam – I love to see the creativity, the way the pieces transform the runway. There is one designer who is from Mexico who lives in LA. Recently he created a ‘Blue Bird’ out of plastic water bottles. It was gorgeous!
Black Chalk – What do you want the audience to get out of watching the show?
Eduardo Khawam – I want to remind the audience that the Closing Gala of Metropolitan Fashion Week isn’t about celebrity or even about me. It is about the costume designers and the designers, and it is about us to honor them. Let me give you an example. When we went to see a concert by Lady Gaga, we fell in love with the costumes. But we, the public, never really get to know the person who is creating those costumes on stage. Perry Meek, who designed costumes for Lady Gaga’s tours, showed with us. I want everyone to know that the night isn’t about us, it is about the designers.
Black Chalk – What is your favorite piece of clothing right now?
Eduardo Khawam – I love my jackets. I love wearing it with jeans, with regular pants. I have two of them, one of them is bright blue and the other is black. It is a tuxedo cut. I love them both.
Black Chalk – After the Closing Gala, what other events do you have planned?
Eduardo Khawam – We are doing an ‘Oscars’ fashion event, then we are doing our big Seattle event as well. If I had to pick a venue for next year’s show here in LA, it would be at the Warner Bros lot again. Perhaps against a different backdrop. My ultimate dream, where I could die happy, is to do it at the Getty Museum. So if the people at the Getty are reading this, please hit me up!
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