After a 29-year hiatus, “Fashion of the Pines” returns to Fire Island on August 20.
Around 200 people are expected for “A Day in the Pines” at the Whyte Hall and Albert Lepage Pavilion event which will feature a nod to the past with a current spin. While many famous designers have ties to the island, the show will spotlight young up-and-coming queer minority entrepreneurs, designers and artists.
The show is a production orchestrated in collaboration with the Fire Island Pines Arts Project, an organization that has been organizing events and shows on the island for the past 35 years. JD Winston, a board member, 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 parts. “We don’t sell 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 put on a headband, maybe a pair of designer shorts, and the rest will be makeup eventually,” Espinosa said. “If you’ve spent a lot of time out here, you know what can happen in a very free, safe space. The rules remain [behind] when you get off the ferry.”
“Fashion of the Pines” dates back to the 70s and 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 poolside at The Botel.
The “Day in the Pines” theme was first used in the late 80’s by Russell Graham. Andy Baker and Ward Auerbach helped plant the seed to revive the event, which would become the spying through the Denizen. Winston said he and Espinosa started talking about the Fashion of the Pines events that were held from the ’80s to the early ’90s and the prospect of holding one again. The event was started in the 70s, but the outbreak of AIDS caused it to be suspended.
The duo brought the idea of some of the people who experienced the original shows, such as Bob Howard and Scott Bromley, and came up with some ideas. Some people from the Fire Island community have been enlisted to act as models. They will be sporting fashion related to the Pines, including a few styles from past Fashion of the Pines events.
An open bar with DJ 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 past. As soon as the audience moves indoors, Luis Villabon will perform “My Strongest Suit” from the musical “Aida” in drag, and Hal Rubenstein and Espinosa will lead the event.
Noting how Fire Island first became a popular retreat for many gay artists, designers and celebrities in the ’70s, Winston said it was known as a haven to escape to, feel safe and be yourself, “when it wasn’t the easiest thing to do” at the time.