After a nine-year hiatus, “Fashion of the Pines” is returning to Fire Island on Aug. 20.
About 200 people are expected at the “A Day in the Pines” at the event at Whyte Hall and Albert Lepage Pavilion that will feature a nod to the past with a current-day spin. While many well-known designers have ties to the island, the show will spotlight young up-and-coming queer minority founders, designers and artists.
The show is a production that is being orchestrated in association with the Fire Island Arts Project, an organization that has been staging events and shows on the island for the past 35 years. J.D. Winston, a member of the board, a producer and former multidisciplinary performer, and Ryan Espinosa, another FIPAP board member and the owner of the Denizen store on the island, are overseeing the revival of the event.
The runway will feature items from the store and from other stores, as well as some donated pieces. “We’re not selling one particular brand. Essentially, it’s a celebration of where we are as an island in this really expressive moment of individuality. The island is very DIY. People will throw on a headband, maybe a pair of designer shorts and the rest is made up as they go along,” Espinosa said. “If you have spent much time out here, you know what can happen in a very free, safe space. The rules get left [behind] when you get off the ferry.”
Dating back to the ’70s, “Fashion of the Pines” was an annual celebration of the local style. The late Fire Island developer and former model John Whyte was instrumental in creating the show and held the festivities at the swimming pool at The Botel.
The “Day in the Pines” theme was first used in the late’80s by Russell Graham. Andy Baker and Ward Auerbach helped to plant the seed for reviving the event, which is being touted through Denizen. Winston said he and Espinosa got to talking about the Fashion of the Pines events that were held from the ’80s through the early ’90s, and the prospect of holding one again. The event was started in the ’70s but the onset of AIDS led to it being suspended.
The duo floated the idea by some of the people who experienced the original shows, like Bob Howard and Scott Bromley, and gleaned some ideas. Some people from the Fire Island community have been enlisted to act as models. They will be sporting fashion connected to the Pines including a few styles from previous Fashion of the Pines events.
A DJed open bar and silent auction will be held during the first hour of this month’s first hour. Guests will also find nostalgic ephemera from Fashion of the Pines events from years gone by. Once the crowd moves indoors Luis Villabon will perform “My Strongest Suit” from the musical “Aida” in drag and Hal Rubenstein and Espinosa will emcee the event.
Noting how Fire Island first became a popular getaway for a lot of gay artists, designers and celebrities in the ’70s, Winston said it was known as a haven to escape to, feel safe and be themselves, “when that wasn’t the easiest thing to do” at that time.
In the ’80s, profits from the annual show benefited the Pines Conservation Society. In recognition of that, profits from the 2022 edition will go to that organization and the FIPAP.