Pride Fashion Show Draws Crowds at WNDR Museum
Updated: Jul 2
Bryce Rail walks arm in arm with closing model VanillaAíday Carter receiving a round of applause on June 15, 2023. (Photo/Enya Garcia)
Inside the WNDR Museum, people are packed together, shoulder-to-shoulder. The room is completely transfixed by the presence of the illuminated runway—all while lyrics to “My Hair Looks Fierce” by Amanda Lepore bounce off the walls—adding to the electric atmosphere.
This was the setting for the WNDR “After Dark x Pride Fashion Week,” an immersive fashion show held at the museum on June 15.
The WNDR Museum originated in Chicago back in 2018. Originally operating as a pop-up at the time, the museum rose to popularity in the aftermath of the pandemic. Not only did the museum become a permanent fixture in the windy city, it began traveling to other major cities as well, including Seattle.
Born during the pandemic, Pride Fashion Week is the brainchild of creative entrepreneur Bryce Rail. Rail saw the need for LGBTIA+ designers, models, makeup artists, and photographers to have a safe, welcoming place to showcase their work.
"There has been no official fashion week dedicated to this community-until now," said Rail.
The Pride Fashion Week show at the WNDR museum is opened up by a drag performance on June 15, 2023. (Photo/Enya Garcia)
Rail came to this realization after reflecting on his own experiences working as a model. He wanted things to change and was able to take the first step when the rare opportunity presented itself through the stimulus checks most Americans received during the pandemic.
“I had been thinking about this for years,” said Rail. “So with the stimulus money, I bought the business, the rights, the names, everything. And ever since, it's just been this growing, beautiful thing for our community to find that representation in.”
Pride Fashion Week’s first show took place back in 2021.
“And we were in a really small, cramped venue, but the amount of love and culture that was felt in that room was amazing because we were making history. We all knew it,” said Rail.
While uplifting queer fashion and art is at the heart of Pride Fashion Week, Rail’s ultimate goal is to give back to his community. During their first show in 2021, around $8,000 was raised for philanthropic organizations supporting LGBTIA+ youth.
Since its start, Pride Fashion Week has featured LGBTQIA+ designers from all over the globe, from Tanzania to Russia. But for this particular show at WNDR, the featured collection that took the spotlight on stage was Rail’s very own.
“It’s my last season’s collection, Élevé, which is elevated in French,” said Rail. “It’s a full collection of unfinished garments.
A model walks down the runway wearing a sequined mesh veiled face mask with matching arm sleeves on June 15, 2023. (Photo/Enya Garcia)
Rail explained that this collection was designed with two concepts in mind. The first concept was the element of unfinished pieces, with rough edges, lending the collection a ‘fringy’ look.
“Because the idea is to remind ourselves that aside from looking absolutely amazing in front of everything, we’re not perfect,” said Rail. “Yeah, we're all unfinished, and we're all gonna continue growing and working, but we’re all beautiful.”
The second concept behind Élevé is reimagining men's club fashion to express the idea of being comfortable in something that is “all glitz and glam or floral or chains.”
“Like, go have fun at the club, wear the colors, it’s okay. You don't have to wear black all the time,” said Rail.
The Élevé collection featured 14 designs, with a variety of looks, ranging from metallic silver cardigans to rose ruffled ponchos. To add, the show itself was opened and closed with two crowd-pleasing drag performances.
The setting of WNDR Museum brought a unique element to the show. The models became a part of the museum’s various exhibits—providing attendees with an unforgettable, immersive fashion experience.
With the show’s setting in mind, Rail paired each model and their perspective design to specifically compliment the museum’s displays—playing with the colors and lighting of exhibits.
A model showcasing a design from Bryce Rail's Élevé in the WNDR museum's "Light Room" on June 15, 2023. (Photo/Enya Garcia)
“I think my favorite choice has to be the immersive theater where I had my two main floral pieces. There's just something about that experience of being surrounded in a meadow and trees; it’s just pure beauty,” said Rail.
The idea to host Pride Fashion Week’s show at WNDR Museum came about after discussions on shifting the narrative of how Seattleites view our city during pride month.
“We really wanted to drive pride content, especially in this neighborhood where when folks think of pride, they think they're gonna go to Capitol Hill, right? Let's be real,” said WNDR Seattle Assistant Manager Sarah Tortora. “We wanted to try something [different] down here, and what better way to do that than to partner with someone who really embodies that mission.”
So together, WNDR Museum and Rail collaborated to bring this vision of pride alive in the expedited timeline of one month. Rail expressed the large role the local community played to pull this show together in time.
A model strikes a pose on the runway, wearing a rose tulled poncho on June 15, 2023. (Photo/Enya Garcia)
“Luckily, with social media, I was able to post like ‘hey, I need models,’ and we just went from there,” said Rail. “And I mean, I think we only picked the models in the last three days. It was really last minute, but I couldn’t have asked for a better group.”
For attendees, it might come as a surprise that of the group selected, some were first-time models, like Tarik McKenzie who also doubles as a WNDR Museum employee.
“I’ve never done anything like this, and I didn’t realize I would be walking with experienced models,” said McKenzie. “I thought it would just be other WNDR employees. So, when I realized we would be walking alongside people with actual modeling experience, it was a bit nerve-racking”.
Despite early jitters, McKenzie expressed how warm all the other models and Rail were. For McKenzie, this experience has opened up a door of possibilities to other creative opportunities.
“And so I'm excited for whatever comes in the future and other community collaborations in art because I think that's really powerful,” said McKenzie.”And even though I'm not involved in the fashion scene; if there's more stuff like this, I think it would help elevate the culture and the likelihood of living in Seattle.”
Ultimately, the spirit of collaboration is at the core of the decision to host Pride Fashion Week’s show at the WNDR Museum.
“We want to make sure we're being incredibly inclusive. We want everybody to feel welcomed and comfortable in our space,” said Tortora. “We want them to have opportunities to engage and explore in different ways. And so for us, pride is an essential part of the fabric of the city, and we should be celebrating that.”