The tapering off of a rainstorm made it a fitting afternoon for Jackie Kragel to take a walk in a denim jumpsuit. And leather chaps. And a few other outfits.
The Palmer resident — a striking figure at 6 feet, 2 inches tall — caught the eyes of plenty of peers and strangers by modeling clothes from five designers during the third annual Alaska Fashion Week’s outdoor runway show on Saturday in downtown Juneau. Appearing for the first time in any setting as a model, Kragel accessorized with jewelry she made at her own studio and displayed at a fashion marketplace after the show.
“I thought ‘what the heck — if I’m going to be a designer I might as well be a model,’” she said shortly before the show began while standing amidst racks of clothing in a nearby shop converted to a fitting space.
Kragel said she got some instruction in proper modeling techniques and a chance to rehearse them the day before the show.
“Mostly I just watched the facial expressions they made,” she said.
The runway show was the featured event of the three-day fashion week, which also included receptions and marketplaces at various locations in Juneau, plus a dinner and photo shoot at Taku Lodge on Friday.
A total of 26 models showcased attire from about 20 designers during the runway show — with some people fulfilling both of those descriptions — along the block-long Ferry Way across the street from Marine Park. The models were a roughly even mix of residents from Juneau, other parts of Alaska and outside the state, while the criteria for designers were ties with Alaska and sustainability.
Antique vehicles filled parking spaces along the closed-off street for ambiance, while a crowd of more than 100 residents, tourists and other observers watched the two-hour procession under skies that grew less cloudy until a few rays of sunlight broke through at the end.
The designers picked the models they wanted to display their fashions. Zia Boccaccio, CEO and creative designer for Alpaca International’s location in Juneau, said Kragel was an obvious choice to showcase a large fur-trimmed white cape that was among the store’s featured garments.
“It’s a very careful process in order to profile the collection, profile the color of hair, profile the body shape to show the design better,” Boccaccio said. “Having her is the perfect vehicle to showcase the garments.”
Kragel said her interest in Alaska Fashion Week was sparked in May of last year when she happened to meet Cordova Pleasants, the event’s founder.
“I fell in love with her mindset of sustainable fashion,” said Kragel, who works as an easement specialist for the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service. That includes “trying to eliminate ‘fast fashion’ where they spin out so much and it’s child labor, slave labor.”
Practicality and adaptability were also much in the mind of designers since organizers said the runway show was going to take place outdoors regardless of weather.
“It doesn’t matter what you wear‚ it’s how your wear it…it’s fashion as an Alaskan way of life,” said Sheryl DeBoard, who was showcasing fashions by Artbug Studio in Fairbanks. “Yesterday there’s a woman who stepped off that plane in six-inch heels. I mean, she was on a ship last week and dipnetting salmon, and today she’s in Juneau.”
But while the overall mentality is “anything goes,” it’s not an absolute rule in selecting fashions, DeBoard said.
“I wouldn’t do feathers — although actually people will say feathers are waterproof, down is not.”
Kragel, who said she’d be interested in taking home all of the fashions she exhibited — if not necessarily as everyday attire — said she agreed mindset is a key factor in whether wearables are fitting for the weather.
“You say ‘I’m a tough spirit’ and you can make anything work,” she said.
Which isn’t to say Alaskan expertise and practicality are cast to the wind. Pleasants told the crowd just before the show started — 30 minutes after its scheduled time — organizers were doing their best to coordinate the show’s splashiness with Mother Nature’s.
“We definitely talked to all the pilots we knew this morning and they said by two o’clock we’d be good to go,” she said, referring to the rain that by then had stopped falling.