Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Conversations with Fashion Innovators: Hamish Bowles

Several weeks ago, Daniela and I attended the De Young Museum’s Symposium on Yves Saint Laurent where we met the very charming Hamish Bowles. He was part of a fashion panel that included Florence Müller, Farid Chenoune, and Pierre Bergé. The panel was moderated by De Young curator of textiles, Jill D’Alessandro.

Mr. Bowles, educated at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, is considered to be one of the most respected authorities on fashion and design and is currently the European Editor-at-Large for The American Vogue. As editor he is responsible for all lifestyle and interior design features, select celebrity profiles and event coverage, and is Vogue’s liaison to the international fashion markets.

Mr. Bowles is like a walking Encyclopedia of fashion. I remember when I asked a question about Yves Saint Laurent during the Symposium — Mr. Bowles responded politely to my question, but later approached me to further elaborate on his response. This is a man who takes fashion seriously and examines it with deep interest and respect. I was pleasantly surprised when Mr. Bowles agreed to be interviewed for IFCSF.

So I invite you to sit back and enjoy our exclusive interview with the stylishly dapper Mr. Bowles about his personal fashion collection, the world of Vogue and its formidable editor Anna Wintour, sustainable fashion, and his most recent visit to San Francisco. It was a true pleasure for us to interview him. Thank you again Mr. Bowles.

- Yetunde Schuhmann is President and Founder of The Innovative Fashion Council San Francisco

DP: How did you become involved with the current YSL exhibit at the De Young, as well as contributing to the exhibition book and participating in the recent YSL Symposium?

HB: I have a relationship with The Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent Foundation. I wrote the catalog essay for the exhibition they did on Nan Kempner, which obviously came to San Francisco, but I wasn’t able to come to that opening. I have a historic relationship with the House going back from when I first started going to couture shows which I think was ’83 and it’s a House that’s always been run as a family in a way. I had a relationship there and they had asked me to contribute an essay to the catalog. And the exhibition was jointly curated as I understand by Montreal and San Francisco. I saw the selection of garments that the Montreal curator made, but I wasn’t involved in that selection.

YS: What was the difference between the selection of gowns in Montreal and the gowns chosen for San Francisco?

HB: It was the same exhibition, no difference. The pieces came from the Foundation’s own collection and not from private collections from the De Young or Montreal. I think the reason for that is Pierre Bergé wanted to stay very true to Saint Laurent’s vision. You know when you’re dealing with couture, obviously, garment has been adapted in some way to suit the client and I think he just wanted to show the clothes as Saint Laurent wanted to show them, so drawn from the runway sample as it were.

DP: I found it interesting how Yves Saint Laurent didn’t like to travel very much and that many of his collections were based on his own imagination and inspiration from what those places were in his mind. Do you think designers today have a harder time tapping into their own imagination or dreams because we have so much more access to places, people and information?

HB: Um, no. I think Saint Laurent pretty much just traveled between his residences. So he spent a lot of time in Morocco of course, where he had houses in Marrakesh and eventually in Tangiers, as well as the houses in Normandy and Paris, and Pierre Bergé had a house in the South of France as well, and that was really their access. And I’m sure for YSL that Marrakech kind of evoked memories of the Algeria of his childhood which then by the 1960’s after Algerian Independence, was probably not a place he might have happily settled.

But I think that you look at a designer like Christian Lacroix, who also never travels – I don’t think he’s ever been to India or Morocco, which is two hours from Paris, but you know, you look at his work and they’re so full of references, that you would imagine he’s the most traveled person on the planet, but he’s traveling in his mind and in his imagination. I think very much there are designers who do that, but someone like John Galliano will go with his team to Berlin, Tokyo or Shanghai and they’ll go to the flea markets and museums and saturate themselves with the physical experiences of being in that place. But some designers just travel in their imaginations.

YS: And why the flea market as a source?

HB: Well, I think Galliano was particularly inspired by the flea market in Shanghai and thought it was the most inspiring part of the city. I think it’s to find objects or textiles to have some resonance for them or inspire some kind of design.

YS: How do you think technology has affected fashion today? We come from a very technological kind of place here in the Bay Area.

HB: Well, I think it’s just completely transformed our world, hasn’t it? On every level and it has certainly transformed the fashion world I think. First of all, it’s the nature of communication being so instant. I mean you look at the late 1950’s in Paris when Balenciaga and Givenchy were exasperated that the press coverage of their collections would come out before their personal couture clients had made their own choices. So they banned the press for two months so the press had to go back, especially for their collections, and in the meantime the private clients had made their own selections and they prioritized them over the press.

But I mean now, someone could be doing sort of a “cam-cast” from the collection itself as it’s happening. And goodness knows there could be a factory somewhere on the other side of the globe making patterns as the show progresses. And there are great “fast fashion” resources that have literally workrooms on the boat that are bringing the stuff from Asia to Europe and they’re creating the garments as the show unfolds. They can get their interpretation into the store before the designer can possibly make pieces or get them in the store. So I think that’s changed things. I think designers have to think about all these things in a very different way. I think it’s opened up the world in a very exciting way, and it’s made things globally accessible. It’s brought fashion into the lives of people who might not be immediately engaged by it or who have had an opportunity to be engaged by it.

DP: Definitely, with Vogue having all the show podcasts on Style.com, which I think are great for people to watch.

HB: Yes, I think the whole Vogue.com and Style.com have been incredibly potent — Style.com is definitely the go-to reference- even designers will say “It’s Look 17 on Style.com” when it might actually have been Look 23 in their Lookbook, but referencing Style.com has become this universal language.

YS: Do you think technology has had any effect on the actual textiles?

HB: Yes, very much so. Absolutely. I think that’s probably the most incredible transformation is this idea of the textiles. I think that the fact someone like Miuccia Prada can create a look, that to the eye, looks very 1960s, late 1950’s - but if you had that original garment in your hand, it would be this very heavy thing with a lot of infrastructure and the body of the fabric itself this weight. Whereas you know, she can create the illusion of that fabric now so that basically it seems the same, but actually it has all these different properties and its own body, but it’s totally light and has kind of heat/cold resistant or absorbent qualities that would have been unimaginable 40 years ago.

YS: Our organization (IFCSF) is based in San Francisco and is focused on creating this vibrant fashion community and creating a green fashion district with a focus on sustainable design. And today we think innovation in design is about sustainability. What do you think about the future of sustainable design and do you think that people see it as only a trend?

HB: Obviously there are designers who are far more engaged with that thought process – Stella McCartney for instance. It’s one of those things that are becoming more and more sophisticated. Right now, it’s like a T-shirt, a basic white shirt and maybe some kids clothes in the mainstream of what is available. I think it’s going to get more and more sophisticated. At the moment it’s very difficult to think of a brand, you know whomever it might be, like a Gucci or Dolce and Gabbana or Yves Saint Laurent transforming their infrastructure to that degree. But, that’s not to say it can’t happen. It’s the way you think of the automotive industry. I think that looking at the automotive industry you realize that it’s essential to be very proactive about these developments. And I think the fashion industry eventually needs to take it on board, and I think it needs to be an essential part of our lives.

YS: How do you think fashion editors can educate consumers on sustainable fashion while keeping it chic, and is it even possible with what’s around today and how do you think for an organization like ours we can try to begin this process of getting the large fashion houses to change and become more sustainable? Is there a way to make eco-fashion relevant to the masses outside of the wealthy? In my impression, outside of Wal-Mart and Target, it seems that to be sustainable and eco seems to be more for the wealthy or upper middle classes of America.

HB: Well yes, it’s the irony isn’t it? Like organic food, it costs so much more to produce that it becomes like a luxury product, but that’s something one hopes will evolve as more people take it on board and work out ways to make sustainable fashion sustainable.

YS: Do you think there’s anything an organization like ours can do to help tip the scale for big fashion houses to become sustainable?

HB: Fashion is all about creating desire and certainly at a time like this with the economy in such shambles, there is a sense of guilt about spending money on what might be perceived as luxury items. I think it’s even more about creating desire, and ultimately the only way to seduce a customer is to create products that are desirable and irresistible, and that’s what’s going to educate the customer. It needs to be something people want and that they feel is not a substitute or a compromise, but a wonderful thing in its own right. So that’s the challenge – to make it as desirable as possible.

DP: The magazine industry has been hit so hard recently by the economy – there are daily layoffs and advertisers are cutting pages – have you felt that effect at Vogue yet or do you feel it’s still the magazine that will keep going strong through this time?

HB: I think it’s fair to say we’re going through a challenging time and obviously it affects everyone on every level. Happily, Vogue is in the preeminent market position so I think if advertisers are cutting back across the board this is the one place they’re going to continue to make their investment. But you know, I think it’s so dramatic what’s happening that it’s impossible not to feel it on some level. And I think also it’s key for Vogue, and I think it’s something Anna and all our editors are aware of, to address it in practical ways and to make sure that whilst we still have the element of fantasy and aspiration, there is a great deal of realistically priced fashion in the magazine at the same time.

DP: In your personal and professional life, you get to meet and mingle with an incredible group of people from society and all over the world. How do you find yourself able to stay “neutral” or an observer as a journalist when going to these events and do you ever feel intimidated by it all?

HB: I don’t think there’s anything neutral about it. I think if you’re putting something in Vogue it’s because you want to celebrate and endorse it. By the same token, if you’re excluding something from Vogue, well we’re not about doing negative things, and I would say we criticize by exclusion. I think what is overwhelming is not the experience of being in these things, although sometimes I do pinch myself, but I think what is more overwhelming is just the fact that I am doing so much and keeping it all in, and sorting everything out in my mind.

YS: In reading more about you, we heard about your love for design. Have you ever though about going back to designing? I also wanted to know how many couture pieces you have, and do you think you’ll ever have an exhibit of your own archives?

HB: Yes, I would love to do that. The collection is near about 2,000 now, and we’re just finishing up cataloging. I think that I would certainly love to have an exhibition and that is a long-term plan. And also just the nature of the way one collects things, is that you buy one thing as a pendant to another or as a consummate to something – I’m always thinking in terms of the exhibition in my head and what would look good with what, how pieces are complimentary from different periods even when you think of a Lacroix from the late 1980’s that references a Jacques Fath from the 1940’s. And so I know what I have when I’m looking at auctions or going to dealers that I might find something that will trigger a reference to another piece or a complimentary piece to another designer.

DP: Do you have a favorite museum where you’d like to have the exhibit?

HB: Well it’d be fun to have it at the De Young Museum.

YS: And do you ever think you’ll go back to designing?

HB: It’s such a difficult life. I have so many designer friends and I see what they have to go through, so you have to be careful for what you wish for. But I think it would be fun to have some creative input in an existing house, yes.

YS: This is outside the fashion questions – obviously we met you here in San Francisco recently. Do you come to San Francisco often?

HB: That was my second visit.

YS: In the last two times you’ve been here, what were your favorite places to go and was there anything that hit you about the energy of the city, maybe from a fashion perspective?

HB: I think the city’s museum culture is incredibly dynamic and exciting, I went to the SFMOMA, the De Young obviously, the extraordinary new Renzo Piano museum (Academy of Sciences), and The Legion of Honor. I think there are so many sophisticated collectors through the generations, and obviously the city’s museums have been and continue to be extraordinarily enriched by the vision of those people. It’s a very exciting experience for me in that it’s so ongoing, and even the new Academy of Sciences evokes a sort of childlike delight, it’s like one’s childhood memories of going to a natural history museum and discovering the revelations of the planet. And then the absolutely exquisite and sublime things at The Legion of Honor.

YS: Were you able to venture into any of the neighborhoods in San Francisco? I know you were here for a very short time this past visit.

HB: The time before I was able to venture into the Napa Valley, but more immediate neighborhoods I haven’t explored. But the one exciting thing about the city is that it really has an incredible spell, and I very much want to come back and explore it in greater depth and detail. I just think physically it’s so peaceful with those turn of the century houses, tumbling hills and views of the Bay. It’s a magically situated city. I love the climate – coming from England and spending time in Ireland I can relate to the mist.

YS: I wanted to ask you a question about the recent Italian Vogue – filled entirely with black models that was sold out everywhere. I was curious about this idea of first whether they’ll do another one, and as an African-American women, I was in Paris with local designer Colleen Quen and we went and visited all of these modeling agencies looking for women of color, and only 10% of their models were of color. People were saying a lot of the individuals who choose the layouts tend to veer away from women of color. When I look at these US magazines I don’t see a lot of woman of color. Why don’t we see a lot of diversity in American fashion magazines and do you think with our new president and first lady we’ll see this start to change?

HB: I think that American Vogue has specifically (and I can only speak to that) always been very keen to and conscious of diversity. In our December issue, we have our accessories story which features the models of the moment — just there you have six exciting new models coming up and three are women of color which is an exciting statement in itself. That’s certainly something Vogue has always been very conscious of and we’re aware that’s what our society is, and that it’s important to reflect. And I think André Leon Talley has been a forceful and potent element in that. He is not shy about the reigning designers who do not reflect diversity on the runway and I think Vogue has helped to change that. I think it’s something Vogue has been very historically conscious of, as it should, and it’s a part of what we do. And to address the second part of your question, I think obviously this extraordinarily dynamic and exciting first family will have an impact.

DP: You work very closely with Anna Wintour and I’m fascinated by her mystique. What do you think it is about her that has kept her at the top of the industry and in such a powerful role for so long? Is there a certain quality that stands out?

HB: She has an extraordinary instinct and is an editor that works in an incredibly instinctive way. She is very, very, very hands-on. She looks at every image that comes into the magazine, she reads every caption, every piece of text. Nothing is left to chance and I think that incredible focus reflects on the magazine because you see the magazine itself has an extraordinary focus and I think that she is an extremely loyal person and she surrounds herself with a great team she really trusts, but I think she has a sort of uncanny instinct. It’s very difficult to articulate but I think that’s essentially the way she works and I think that she’s also extremely direct. There is never any grey area, she knows what she likes and vice versa. She’s just extraordinarily hard-working, focused, and very, very direct and that is the sort of person who is incredibly easy to work for because there is no grey area. You know what she likes and she’ll let you know. It makes an editor’s job much easier because you can focus your work.

DP: So do you think if she decides to ever leave Vogue, she’ll stay engaged in the industry? Obviously she does a lot outside of Vogue already.

HB: I wouldn’t want to speculate on that, but it’s incredible to me how I struggle to get my two to three stories a month done, and it’s incredible to me how she manages to juggle all these things. Of course she’s tremendously involved and focused in her philanthropic and charity work, whether for the museum or for the Seventh on Sale initiative, breast cancer, charities, or research programs. So I think that Anna is an essential part of the global fashion community.

YS: I read an article recently in The New York Times about finding the next “it” designer and we wanted to know where you think this next genius designer might come from? Social communities seem to play a big role today, whereas in the past you came directly from fashion houses.

HB: I think that in today’s environment it’s pretty important for any designer to have some kind of mentoring and apprenticeship because it’s so tough and so competitive. I think that you need so many qualities now to be a successful designer above and beyond pure inspiration and vision, and the ability to create your own world, which is already an astonishing thing to do. You also need to be able to sell and promote yourself, and you need to have a world view, and you either need to have an uncanny instinct for business or be somehow allied to someone who does. It’s not enough just to have the vision, but that’s still an essential part of it. It’s vitally important for anyone seriously considering this world to really have experienced life in a design house and to understand the challenges that designers face every day and the level of infrastructure that is required, and so on.

But you know, this person can come from anywhere around the globe, and that is so exciting. You look at the great fashion schools like Central St. Martin’s in London and the Antwerp Academy and they’re filled with students who really come from around the world and in fashion - anyone can have access to Style.com or FashionTV – it’s globally available, so I think that’s also exciting and that is what has made fashion so thrilling for me even from the time I’ve been going to shows, which started when I was a student myself at Saint Martin’s in the early 1980s. Suddenly you had Rei Kawakubo, Issey Miyake and Yoji Yamamoto coming from Japan and totally challenging the status quo. They were coming into a world of Thierry Mugler, Claude Montana, Azzedine Alaia and a certain vision of fashion, and they came with a completely different vision that was rooted in what they had been exposed to aesthetically in their lives and environments and it was so radical and exciting. It’s thrilling to think that those waves of influence can still happen and totally transform the way we think about dressing.

YS: The last question I have is kind of a Californian question. What sign are you?

HB: I’m a Leo. My rising sign is Taurus.

Photography: Francois Halard

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Elite of the Eco-Chic Come Together for Gorgeous & Green

San Francisco’s pristine Bently Reserve Building was lit up with high-fashion and good intentions at Global Green USA’s 4th Annual Gorgeous & Green gala on Tuesday, December 2nd. Event Chairs Zem Joaquin, Nadine Weil and Global Green President & CEO Matt Petersen, with Vice-Chairs Christopher & Amber Marie Bently, created a dazzling evening filled with everything luxurious about green – a high-end eco-fashion show featuring well-known eco-designers like Linda Loudermilk and Edun mixed with local rising stars Sara Shepherd, Cari Borja, Lily Achatz and Thomas-Ray Eccles. Organic cocktails, wines and hors d’oeuvres were also in abundance, and if you were lucky enough to go away with the VIP gift bag - a treat of natural beauty products by the likes of Jurlique and Juice Beauty, gift certificates for Epi Center Med Spa and more.

And did I mention the celebrity quotient? The “official” Celebrity Host for the evening was Kate Bosworth, wearing a slip of a 3.1 philip lim black zipper dress from his Spring 2009 collection made of all-natural fibers and zippers recycled from remnants. Also in attendance were Daphne Zuniga, Sebastian Siegel, and giving a pre-party performance for patrons, Elliot Yamin. Gavin and Jennifer Siebel Newsom also stopped by the press conference given earlier to show their support for the group’s work in the Bay Area.

Los Angeles based Global Green USA (the American affiliate of Green Cross International) has consistently received support from the celebrity community. Their biggest endeavor, the Holy Cross Project is in partnership with Brad Pitt, and through it they are committed to rebuilding green and affordable housing in New Orleans. They are also working to advance the Green Schools Initiative in California, completing SOLARA (the first apartment community in California 100% powered by the sun), helping to green schools in New Orleans and surrounding Gulf Coast communities, and publishing the Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing.

While access to the $5,000 a ticket VIP Patron Pre-Reception was restricted, we had a chance to mingle with Bosworth, Petersen and crew in the VIP Lounge before the main event fashion show and also chat with other notable supporters of the cause – we briefly spoke to Vice-Chair Amber Marie Bently whose new line of sustainable couture jewelry was featured in the show, View from the Bay’s Janelle Wang, and Splendora’s Gina Pell (also a media partner for the event). Once the crowd assembled themselves for the runway show, Kate Bosworth jumped on stage to introduce Petersen, who spoke briefly about the opportunity we now have as a country to continue our call to action for environmental change and awareness. He then played a short video of the progress Global Green USA has achieved in rebuilding sustainable housing for New Orleans. Event Chair and founder of Ecofabulous Zem Joaquin gave thanks to the sponsors and especially to the Bentlys for their dedication to the sustainability and their leadership in the transformation of the Bently Reserve to a LEED certified events and conference center.

The runway show kicked off in high style with women’s fashions by Mika Machida, Loyale, Platinum Dirt, Edun, Larsen Gray, Lara Miller, John Patrick Organic and more. Designer Jenny Hwa of New York-based Loyale showed a luxurious vegan faux-fur jacket – Hwa has incidentally received a lot of good press lately à la Oprah, for winning a spot in her White House Leadership Project which coaches top women leaders in the country. Men’s looks were dominated by Same Underneath with preppier looks including an argyle sweater vest and a sharp blazer out of organic cotton. Thomas-Ray Eccles - recent Academy of Art University graduate and noted by San Francisco Chronicle’s Sylvia Rubin as “one to watch” showed a refined collection which included vests out of reclaimed wool, a coat out of reclaimed shearling and a dress shirt/hoodie for when the occasion allows flexibility. Womenswear took the stage again with a silk dress by Linda Loudermilk (seen also on Jennifer Siebel Newsom), a series of Victorian-inspired sustainable silk dresses and waistcoats by British transplant and San Francisco designer Sara Shepherd, and a standout wrap dress, halter gown and Poiret inspired coat/gown by Berkeley designer Cari Borja. Event co-producer and local designer Lily Achatz closed the show with a wedding gown designed especially for the eco-forward bride made in an organic silk and hemp blend satin and reclaimed chiffon. Paired with every look where appropriate was Bently’s glittering line of eco-jewelry of which we’ll have a larger spotlight on in coming weeks.

If you’re interested in discovering more eco-friendly and chic designers, the full line-up featured at the show and hand-picked by savvy eco-fashionistas included: Bahar Shahpar, Cari Borja, Del Forte Denim, Eco Citizen Boutique, Edun, John Patrick Organic, Juleselin, Lara Miller, Larsen Gray, Linda Loudermilk, Loomstate, Loyale, Mika Machida, Platinum Dirt, Rain Tees by Andira, Same Underneath, Sara Shepherd, Stewart + Brown, Thomas-Ray Eccles and footwear by Charmone Shoes, Cri de Coeur, and Olsen Haus.

The night closed with a musical performance by Bag of Toys with the crowd going strong for a Tuesday night. One thing about the evening that really struck was that with the right people on board, there is no reason that an eco-friendly event or cause has to make any sacrifice to luxury, beauty, or just being fabulous. We already look forward to next year’s celebration and uncovering how San Francisco can stay engaged in Global Green’s initiatives.

And to get another glimpse at some of the designs shown at Gorgeous & Green, Eco Citizen are hosting a very special "Glamour & Green" trunk show this Wednesday, December 17th from 5-8PM featuring designs by Amber Marie Bently and Sara Shepherd, who will preview her 2009 Spring collection. 10% of all sale proceeds will go to Global Green USA and the rebuilding of New Orleans. Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres will be served. The event is also hosted by Zem Joaquin, Ecofabulous, Thread Communications, Nadine Weil, Clarissa Nicosia, Lily Achatz, Joslin Van Arsdale, CRPR, Heidi Petit and Deidre Holbrook. RSVP to heidi@threadcommunications.com. Eco Citizen is at 1488 Vallejo Street in San Francisco.

For more pictures of the runway show, please visit the IFCSF on Facebook.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Coming Up: Eco Holiday Events

With so many holiday parties and sales popping up everywhere it's hard to keep track of the best finds. Here's quick glance at some great eco-holiday shopping events happening this weekend:

Eco-Citizen Holiday Party & Sale
Sip champagne and feast on tasty hors d'oeuvres while enjoying 20-50% off all clothing and accessories from now until Christmas. Saturday, December 13th from 11AM-7PM, 1488 Vallejo Street

Mission Statement Holiday Sidewalk Sale
Support local designers and enjoy discounts from co-op members for one weekend only.
Saturday & Sunday, December 13-14th, Noon-7PM, 3458-A 18th Street

Eco Holiday SF
Over 80 vendors offering green gifts will take over the Galleria in the San Francisco Design Center. The event will also feature DIY workshops, live performances, and organic treats. Sponsored by the Urban Alliance for Sustainability.
Sunday, December 14th from 11AM-8PM; Admission $5, 101 Henry Adams Street

And if you're weary from the shopping and need a high-fashion pause, the De Young Museum will feature fashions by local couture designer Colleen Quen on Saturday, December 13th from 3-5PM at the Opening Reception for December Artist-in-Residence Corrine Okada Takara. Models will also wear eco-friendly shoes by Kailia Italian Footwear - IFCSF member and also featured at our recent networking event.

Coming up later this week we'll have our exclusive interview with Hamish Bowles and post-event coverage from Global Green USA's Gorgeous & Green Gala.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Coming Up: Style Lounge San Francisco Fashion Show & Shopping Event

It might seem a little quiet here this past week, but we've got lots coming up! If you're interested in shopping locally for the holidays this year, Style Lounge San Francisco is hosting a fashion show and shopping event on Wednesday, December 10th at the pristine and LEED certified Bently Reserve from 5-10pm. I went to one of their events earlier this year at the W Hotel and all I can say is get there early! This promises to be a big blowout of local designers and a great way to enjoy the splendid San Francisco glamour of the Bently Reserve, not to mention free beauty treatments and healthy cocktails if you purchase tickets to the VIP Lounge.

Tickets are $10 for General Admission and $40 for VIP Tickets. To purchase, click here. Check back soon for our full report on the fabulous Gorgeous & Green Gala for Global Green USA that the IFCSF attended this week!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Fashion & Media Come Together at the IFCSF Mixer

The Innovative Fashion Council brought together members of local fashion media and the design community last Wednesday night at the W Hotel San Francisco for a night of networking, discussion and a fashion show. The mixer was an opportunity for the fashion community to mix and mingle while hitting on a big topic - "Does Eco-Fashion Matter in a Down Economy? Retail and branding strategist Bertrand Pellegrin from Gensler (and author of upcoming book Branding the Man) moderated a panel of fashion insiders which included: Samantha Durbin - Editor, Fabsugar.com; Nerissa Pacio - Associate Editor, Fashion & Beauty, 7x7 Magazine; Dino Ray Ramos - Fashion & Entertainment Contributor for AsianWeek Magazine, 944 and Stylehive.com; Melissa Davis - Founder of Ruby PR and Past Contributing Editor for Lucky magazine; Riley John-Donnell - Founder and Publisher of Surface magazine; and Audrey Mansfield - Style Contributor for The View from the Bay (ABC-7).

Pellegrin opened the panel by saying that while the evening’s topic was originally focused on the relevance of eco-fashion, he was interested in hearing whether fashion itself still matters, and are people even thinking about fashion today? He shared with the group some staggering numbers on the industry - retail sales were down 2.8% in October from September and 4.1% from this time last year, quite a substantial decline. Online sales are down at a rate of 5% every month, Neiman Marcus is down 28%, Abercrombie & Fitch is down 20%, and every week we hear of another large chain closing or falling into bankruptcy. So with prices for high fashion not dropping anytime soon and magazines losing more advertising pages and condensing their editorial spreads, how can fashion survive the impending recession? And finally, how to keep the importance of sustainable and eco-fashion alive when shoppers are drastically cutting their budgets to allow only for the basics? The good news is that fashion is indeed still very relevant and more meaningful than ever.

The first question addressed by the panel centered on the changes in consumer buying habits and how shoppers are thinking differently about fashion. In response, Davis pointed out that shoppers are looking for that one key piece to take them through the season - that "look for less." Shoppers are still paying attention, but they're choosier about what they decide to purchase. Ramos brought up the point that "sustainable fashion is essentially an oxymoron, because sustainable is all about longevity and fashion always changes." He went on to discuss the area of "fast fashion" which is essentially how stores like H&M and Zara operate - they see the collections for the next season, copy it, and have it on the racks before the original pieces even hit the stores. John-Donnell made the point that certain capsule collections like Stella McCartney or Comme des Garcons for H&M not only create a buying frenzy among all fashion devotees, they are also likely to last longer in someone's closet because of the unique nature and better quality of the clothes. In regards to the launch of the Comme des Garcons collection earlier this month, the almost entertainment value of shopping must continue to increase to keep shoppers engaged.

Pellegrin addressed that given eco-fashion is still on the fringe and seen as a trend (even with luxury retailers like Barney's promoting eco-design, it's still at a price point higher than what the average consumer can afford) how do we keep championing the idea of sustainable fashion as a movement and not just a short-lived fad? Pacio said that as a fashion editor she always tries to pull in pieces from local designers that are chic and sustainable, yet still mix well with high-fashion looks from mainstream designers. But as the magazine industry gets hit harder each day with loss of ad sales revenue, editors are forced to cut their pages and the amount of looks they can feature. In a similar sense, Durbin for her web site, always looks for the sustainable angle when reporting on mainstream brands like Banana Republic and the small eco-collection they launched earlier this year. The panel agreed that more importantly, people need to be educated about what is available today in sustainable fashion and shown that it has moved past the hippie factor. What is refreshing is that the media is very engaged with eco-fashion today and that price points for these items will come down as awareness increases.

For new designers, Pellegrin stated that many larger retail establishments are not bringing in new talent with the current economic client. So how can a new designer get out there and capture attention? It’s all about having an amazing press kit and beautiful photography. For someone like Durbin at Fabsugar, if she receives gorgeous, high-quality photos and excellent copy she can have a new post up the same day. Pacio and Mansfield, who both receive requests each day from designers for editorial coverage, feel that professionalism in the pitch is key. Mansfield also pointed out that on "View from the Bay" an eco-centric show never works for their ratings, so she must incorporate sustainable design as a "by-the-way" portion of a fashion segment. The rise of fashion blogs has also made it easier for new designers to get cheap and fast advertising - an advertisement in Vogue may be out of reach, but a banner ad on a fashion blog is an easy way to drive traffic to a new fashion start-up.

Another interesting point made about the changes in the industry and the place of sustainable fashion is the idea of fashion likening itself to the slow food movement. As we consume less we're more apt to find out more about what is we're buying, where our clothes are coming from, and what the story is behind them. Shoppers are looking for a meaningful experience rather than a quick buy. And so in this type of environment, new designers may be at a greater advantage. According to Mansfield, getting your designs in front of a stylist is key given the impact they have on the media. Pacio stated that in a market like San Francisco she has great relationships and partnerships with local stylists she trusts, but in a market like L.A. it's much more strategic and focused on product placement. John-Donnell pointed out that edgier designers like Rick Owens are coming to the forefront because the public is looking for a unique idea they can wear rather than something straight out of an editorial spread. This approach has already shaped European fashion - in a city like Paris it's always been about wearing what's different or unknown rather than flaunting a logo or big-name label.

Also discussed was how fashion editors are grappling with the task of balancing aspiration with reality. Readers still want to dive into the pages of their favorite magazines and fall into these beautiful and luxurious spreads, but editors need to be conscious of the fact that they must provide real options for real people at the same time. Durbin mentioned that there is a reverse trend going on in fashion consumption where she gets complimented for her vintage $5 T-shirt instead of a trendy, more expensive piece. However, all agreed that if you have a Chanel bag, by all means use it but mix it up with more casual pieces.

Pellegrin concluded with taking some questions from audience members interested in learning more about how to get their creations in front of the editors. Again, it all comes down to the designs, the photography, and professionalism. You might have the best pitch for your ideas but if the designs fall short they won't go any further. Other ideas for new designers that came out of the discussion are to treat your company like a start-up, avoid paying any overhead and consider showcasing your pieces on direct-to-designer sites like Etsy.com.

After a brief break, guests were invited back in to enjoy a special fashion show with IFCSF Members and featured designers including evening-wear appropriate vegan footwear from Kailia Italian Footwear, jet-setting eco-luxe travel bags from JenDarling, and jewelry from Hearts Desire in Oakland. Tho show also featured designer brands including Del Forte Denim and select looks from Sofie Ølgaard, Goorin Brothers and Carrots Boutique in San Francisco. Special thanks to everyone who helped put on the show: Charleston Pierce and Claudia Hutchins for fashion show production, Rowena Hutchinson Ritchie for PR, Show Stylists Velvet Valentine and Leslie Foley, and Advisory board and show stylist Yugala Priti. Finally, thanks to our event sponsors: The W Hotel San Francisco, The Cinta Aveda Institute, The Passport Modeling Agency, Come Hither Cupcakes, Veev Life, Phuket beer, Perkins Coie, VehicleSF, DJ Melvin “j”, and Warren Difranco / After5Media.com for Event Photography.

Thanks again to the more than 150 supporters of the Innovative Fashion Council who turned up for this great event – our next networking event will be sometime in January. Until then we have all kinds of great things coming up, including an interview with Vogue’s European Editor-at-Large Hamish Bowles.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Q & A with Nous Savons

While wandering around the Appel & Frank Eco-Chic Shopping event last month, I came across a designer who I had also spotted at Capsule. I wasn't the only one who took notice. Shoppers were busy peeling off their layers to try on the reconstructed and improved button-down shirts designed by Nous Savons designer and owner Jocelyn Nguyen. The beauty of what she does is reflected in the care she takes in turning around what was once a boring, secretary-style blouse and making it a unique and edgy wearable piece of art. I was intrigued by what motivated and inspired Jocelyn to first, work with these kinds of fabrics, and also to find out how she made the big break to start her own business.

What made you decide to pick these thrift store shirts and reconstruct them?

I've always been a thrift store shopper. I started out collecting vintage while I was in junior high school (who didn't?) I would come across amazing vintage pieces with just one horrible flaw (like a stain or hole), and couldn't resist buying them for the material. Eventually I started anthropomorphizing the clothing and feeling really sorry for the things that I didn't think anyone was buying-- mainly the "boring" stuff such as button-down shirts, blazers, pleated wool pants. So I bought a few shirts with no ideas in mind and just spent some time draping them. I actually have no idea what was going through my head when I initially cut the sleeves off and made the ruffle yoke with them. But this is how I work--just very instinctively.

When did you first start "playing with clothes?"

My mother is an amazing seamstress and made a lot of clothing for my sister and me while we were growing up, but I never exactly had sewing lessons from her. Even when I was a kid I was way more into hand-sewing and draping, or altering existing clothing. But the fact that my mother made clothing so frequently and nonchalantly made it all seem really accessible to me.

How did you end up starting your own business?

Even though I'd been making things all my life, I never thought my craft could be a business that could sustain me. Then early, early one morning, after staying up all night putting together a job application I got an email from Scott and Harris, the guys who put together the Hayes Valley Capsule Festival. It was a last-minute call for designers for their next show. In my totally sleep-deprived state I went ahead and applied for the show even though I wasn't making ANYTHING tangible at the time. So I spent the next month and a half filled with dread and panic, working every minute I had outside of my regular full-time job, making things for the fair. The response was amazing, and I got a lot of leads for boutiques and other shows out of it. I spent the next year or so doing shows and selling to stores while still working full time. Eventually I realized I had to either quit my job and go all out on the business, or I had to quit the business and find something that could be a career. Of course, I chose the business and I have no regrets.

You don't have a formal fashion design background - how do you find the tools to execute your vision?

I studied photography in college, which sometimes comes out in my design process. Reconstructed pieces are a lot like photography in that, to me, they are much more about editing than creating: you choose your materials from existing objects, and then you put them together or take them apart, but you don't work from scratch The end result is so much more than the sum of its parts.

What are your thoughts on sustainable fashion?

Creating sustainable clothing is really important to me. I actually do my own rounds of thrift stores, searching for and hand selecting everything that I reconstruct. It's much more time-consuming than just ordering exactly the amount of whatever material I need, and knowing that the quality and characteristics are going to be the same every time, but that is part of the fun. It makes me feel good to know that I am taking things that people discard and turning them into something extremely desirable. My clothing means more to me, piece by piece, than it would if I was just designing samples that would be reproduced by the thousands. I also love the unpredictable nature of the process, from searching out the materials, reconstructing them (and, though I do virtually the same alteration on all the shirts and vests, each piece really looks different depending on the original structure of the garment), and then eventually finding the right person for each piece.

What do you think about the state of eco-conscious design in San Francisco?

I think there are a lot of different ways to be an eco-conscious designer (whether it be rescue-and-reconstruction, or using green materials, or even running other aspects of your business sustainably) and there are many examples of each kind in San Francisco. We're lucky that being green is something that people are not only constantly thinking about in San Francisco, but actually practicing. I also have to add that there is a disproportionate amount of amazing smaller designers in San Francisco, and it has a lot to do with the support the indie design community gets from the public. It's a nice symbiotic relationship that really benefits everybody.

Finally, how did you come up with the name "Nous Savons?"

It came to me out of nowhere. It's a bit of a joke-- it popped into my head as the snottiest name possible for a clothing line before I even had a clothing line. It's funny to me to see (a) who knows what it means and (b) who understands that it's a joke. Sometimes people take it a lot more seriously than I do.

You can find Nous Savons at the new Etsy shop (clothes to come soon), and in San Francisco at Needles & Pens, The Mission Statement, Still Life, Arkay Workshop, and soon at Bell Jar.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Coming Up: Week of November 17th

This is the big week for the next Innovative Fashion Council Mixer! Please stop by the W Hotel on Wednesday, the 19th between 6:30-9:30pm for cocktails and networking with the San Francisco design community. Be sure to arrive early as we'll have a panel of media experts talking about the state of sustainable fashion in today's economy, plus fashion shows featuring local designers. For more information and to purchase a ticket, click here.

Fashion Group International host their Annual Scholarship Fundraiser to benefit young design students on Thursday, the 20th from 5:30-8pm at The Academy of Art University Art Gallery. There will be a silent auction and a video presentation of the Spring 2009 Ready-to-Wear collections. For more information, click here.

An Evening of Yves Saint Laurent with ArtPoint

ArtPoint, the young professionals arts organization of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco celebrated the new YSL exhibit at the de Young Museum on Thursday night with a sparkling cocktail party and private viewing of the exhibition. Almost 1,000 attendees showed off their best YSL-inspired fashions across the main floor and exhibit area, as well as the private lounge on the top floor Observation Deck. For this unseasonably warm and clear night in San Francisco, the view made it extremely hard for me to tear myself away from the party. But the drama of YSL below could wait no longer.

First, I must confess that when I think of YSL I always see the designer with his trademark glasses first - and after that, visions of black with Le Smoking and form-fitting vixen dresses to vamp up the night. Gliding across the top of the park in this magnificent building with the black of night reflecting against the champagne glasses and jewels of party dresses, I had to think of YSL and his feelings on the color black: “But for me, Black is a refuge because it expresses what I want. With it, everything becomes simpler, more linear, more dramatic.” The freedom to use black and not color as an expression for what you're wearing is so much bolder and has left such an imprint on the wardrobes of women. We always turn to basic black because it's the easiest way to convey professionalism, neatness and elegance at the same time. But do we think of it in relation to our environment and the places we go? YSL loved this idea, but when creating against the grey backdrop of Paris it makes sense that he consistently brought pops of color into his collections.

The retrospective at the de Young covers an enormous span of YSL's life and influences, including the very first pieces for Dior, still in the older style of trapeze dresses and swingy skirts. His take on Masculine-Feminine dressing is represented, including his pantsuit with YSL logo glittered on back and original sketches of Le Smoking. His color-blocked and still widely replicated Mondrian dresses were present, and his most far-reaching departure, the Morocco collections, where he discovered and experimented with a new color palette. Unexpected and exquisite were his Flora inspired gowns from his 1990 summer collection - a tribute to his childhood in Marrakech and Tangier. Adding even more whimsy, there is the wedding dress of roses carefully placed and originally worn by Laetitia Casta in the 1999 collection. The retrospective is worth a second trip alone just to absorb the many visions and inspirations. Never simply an outfit, YSL's designs were a manifestation of his dreams and memories - movement and elegance wrapped together in fabric and nostalgia.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

All About Yves

The flurry of fashion events stemming from the retrospective on the late Yves Saint Laurent at the De Young Museum this month has hit San Francisco on a large scale. Opening festivities might be past, but the exhibit is on view until April and is not to be missed.

On November 1st, The Innovative Fashion Council had a chance to attend a very special symposium at the Koret Auditorium on the life and cultural influence of Yves Saint Laurent. The elite group of speakers included Hamish Bowles (European Editor-at-Large for Vogue), Florence Muller (Fashion Historian, Professor and Editor for Surface Magazine), and Farid Chenoune (Fashion Historian and Author) - each with a unique perspective on how YSL shaped modern fashion for women. Pierre Berge, longtime business partner of the late YSL, provided the opening remarks.

Hamish Bowles focused his presentation on the early years as a young apprentice to Christian Dior to "The Three Fates" that led to YSL taking over the couture house and his dramatic move to open his own atelier (with the help of Berge, his devoted clients and "muses", and loyal Dior staff). While critics declared his first collection "underwhelming," Coco Chanel named him her only true heir, and the rich hues influenced by his travels to Morocco were on the way. With his new muse Loulou de la Falaise, YSL united the aristocracy with bohemianism in his collections and became the designer of his time. When he moved his couture house to the grand Avenue Marceau, YSL declared "I need opulence as others need oceans or mountains."

Farid Chenoune focused on what might be the greatest revolution in women's fashion -the debut of "Le Smoking" in 1966. This elegant take on the tuxedo for evening wear essentially gave women the power they had lost in the feminine frills of the "Mad Men" world and trapeze dresses. YSL made it possible for women to have sex appeal without the vulgarity. Chenoune further pointed out the timeless appeal of this iconic look in the example of the French fashion chain La Redoute introducing Le Smoking in its 1995 catalog. So while "Chanel gave women freedom, YSL gave them the power." And the power of this outfit couldn't be conveyed any stronger than in the uber-chic style of famed YSL muse, Betty Catroux, who was also in San Francisco during the opening of the exhibit.

In the final presentation, Florence Muller gave her own interpretation of how YSL revolutionized the world of women through her own experiences in his pieces for YSL Rive Gauche. In her own YSL ensemble, she shared the secret of YSL, which is style to help you define your own personality - not make your personality. In his spirit for modern sportswear (begun by Chanel in the early 1900's) YSL stated, "My dream is to give women the basis for a classic wardrobe, which, escaping the fashion of the moment, will give them greater confidence in themselves." And what greater gift can a designer give a woman than confidence? Muller mused that it's increasingly harder for modern designers to make the same impact as YSL, because now that women have it all, what's next?

And what is next is the impact YSL will continue to have on style and elegance. While the presenters answered many questions on the mystery and delicacy of YSL and his talents, their insights opened the door to even more musings- who is the YSL of today and would he/she even have the means to make such an impact?

There's more to come on YSL in San Francisco. Thursday night ArtPoint host a VIP party and private viewing of the exhibit and coming soon, we'll have more from Florence Muller in Paris.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Innovative Fashion Council Mixer and Media Panel Event

The IFC is hosting another fashion-filled cocktail party/mixer event at The W Hotel on Wednesday, November 19th from 6:30-9:30pm. Bertrand Pellegrin (Retail Strategist, Gensler Design Worldwide and author of "Branding the Man: Why Men Are the Next Frontier in Fashion Retail" will moderate a panel discussion with local fashion and media professionals on fashion and sustainability - "Does Eco-Fashion Matter in a Down Economy?"

Panelists include: Samantha Durbin (Editor, FabSugar.com), Nerissa Pacio (Associate Editor, Fashion and Beauty, 7x7 Magazine), Melissa Davis (Founder, Ruby PR and Past Contributing Editor, Lucky Magazine), Dino Ray Ramos (Fashion and Entertainment Contributor, AsianWeek Magazine, 944, and StyleHive.com), Riley John-Donnell (Founder and publisher, Surface Magazine) and Audrey Mansfield (Style Contributor, The View from the Bay).

There will also be a fashion show featuring Eco-Designer brands Kailia Italian Footwear, Del Forte Denim, JenDarling Eco Lux bags, and select looks from Carrots Boutique in San Francisco and Hearts Desire Jewelry in Oakland.

Don't miss this opportunity to network with the San Francisco fashion community and learn more about the future of sustainable design from the experts in the industry.

For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Optimism Graces the Runway at Fresh Faces in Fashion

Local designers presenting their Spring 2009 collections at the Gen Art Fresh Faces in Fashion Show held Thursday at the Regency Center proved there is adequate space in fashion for vibrancy and lightness despite what the evening news might say. Following suit with trends seen at the major Spring collections shown in September, the designers presented a variety of views that show optimism still reigns supreme on the runway.

Christopher Collins opened the show with his collection of modern Elizabethan silhouettes in luxurious fabrics, incorporating ruffles, organza and chiffon in the tiny details. The show opened strong with a soft neutral ruffle collar sleeveless top paired with a pin stripe short and Elizabethan jacket. A champagne sleeveless cocktail dress with a folded tulle-lined collar was sweet and demure, while a palace blue and emerald floral chiffon/charmeuse dress with a rouched waistband presented a flirty modern take on a sheath. The show closed with my favorite look – a blue and green print on white full skirt with fuchsia tulle below the hemline and a silk organza top with shirred collar that just floated the model down the runway.

Serial Cultura, designed by Jennifer Jennings, provided a stark contrast to Collins with more close to the skin shapes and experiments in digitally printed silks and chiffon. It’s important to note that all of the prints and graphics incorporated into the clothing are designed from original photographs and inspired by abundant elements in the environment. A large percentage of the fabrics used are sustainable and produced in less environmentally hazardous methods. Particularly interesting looks from the collection included a digitally printed silk mini-dress in bold colors of the season – lemon, fuchsia and black - over a pale lavender canvas and a matching print pleated triangle top and skirt hand silk-screened on sophisticated hues of blue and lavender.

The only Menswear collection at Fresh Faces, üba was all about utility and function. The color palette didn’t stray far from khakis or army greens, but the focus was on the usefulness of the clothing, urban wear to the hilt. Models marched down the runway with iPod ear buds (I couldn’t help think of Project Runway’s Jay Carroll and his final “headphones” show), showcasing utility jackets with shoulder-strap pockets and detachable waist pockets, cargo pants with detachable cargo pockets, and finally eliciting the most attention from the crowd, short sleeve shirts with detachable chest, waist and sleeve pockets. Throughout each look, models sported “why-not-peace” T-shirts in different languages - a reflection of the company’s goals and a current project of üba’s designer Rajesh Ananda. According to the company’s web site, “over 50% of üba’s profits are channeled to non-profit organizations focused on the promotion and protection of peace and human security” with input from the company’s customers.

From streetwear to “sweetwear” next up was my personal favorite – OdileOdette - designed by Stephanie Bodnar and Nicole Kreglow. The collection was green and sustainable and completely chic – think Parisian café society meets the French Riviera. The range of fabrics used was astounding – the first looks showed an asymmetrical pencil skirt made from blue hemp/recycled polyester denim with red tagua nut (vegetable ivory) buttons going up the front of its high waist. Paired with a simple ivory gathered open-front top and wedge heels, I could be equally comfortable in this ensemble on the weekend and at work, paired with a dressier heel. Much of the collection had a summery feel with lots of bare legs and shoulders. Mixed in were high-waisted asymmetrical sailor pants in 100% hemp herringbone paired with a green and white striped sleeveless knit top of organic cotton; a beige chevron hooded jacket also in hemp herringbone with ivory tagua nut buttons and for the finale, a wedding gown made in ivory hemp/silk charmeuse and ivory cotton Chantilly lace.

Sofie Ølgaard presented a sophisticated and supremely wearable collection of mostly knits and silks in dusty purples and greys most likely inspired by her homeland of Denmark and the melancholic Scandinavian landscapes. A two-tone pink/taupe dress in silk/cotton with a belted waist could work equally well in summer or kept later for cool weather layered with a little cashmere. A knitted dusty purple silk dress with a detachable bow was daring and very bare, while a taupe empire waist pant paired with a black silk/cotton tie-back top was as crisp and breezy as a day in Copenhagen. And a cropped black jumpsuit with buttons along the front, hidden pockets and a detachable belt could be the outfit of the season for a girl and her bike in the city.

The final collection by Louisa Parris was a bonafide swirl of long flowing yet wispy dresses in saturated hues of pink, blue, green and orange. Every look was ripe with drama from the first blue, grey and black double silk georgette gown that billowed around the model’s legs to an almost completely open black and cream silk charmeuse gown with a silk chiffon underskirt. In addition to her bold use of color blocking, Parris showcased a tiny collection of delicate black hats that paired with a burnt orange, grey and black silk charmeuse might be a bit over the top, but worn to an intimate masked ball somewhere in a castle in the English countryside seem perfect.

Fresh Faces is known to be a springboard for fashion’s emerging design talent, including Zac Posen, Rebecca Taylor and Philip Lim. Here’s hoping that at least one or all of these local designers receives an opportunity to travel through wide-open doors while keeping the spirit of San Francisco alive in their practice and aesthetics.

To see more pictures of the show please visit The Innovative Fashion Council on Facebook.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Coming Up - Gen Art Fresh Faces in Fashion Show

Gen Art's biggest fashion event, Fresh Faces in Fashion, returns to San Francisco on Thursday, October 30th. The group's anchor event has been a showcase for some of fashion's biggest emerging talent - Zac Posen, Philip Lim and Rebecca Taylor have all shown their designs on the GenArt runway. This year's event features cutting-edge Womenswear, Menswear and Accessories designers who will have the opportunity to showcase their work on a 60-foot runway in front of key industry people. This promised to be a fashion-packed night with a VIP reception and an after-party with live music to celebrate the fashion ingenues.

The event is at the Regency Center at 1300 Van Ness @ Sutter and starts at 7pm with a runway show at 8:30. Advance tickets are no longer available on the web site, but can be purchased at the door in cash for $50. For more information on the event and other GenArt programs click here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Appel & Frank Eco-Chic Shopping Event This Thursday

Don't miss a chance to shop with friends, sip wine, and get a complimentary makeover at the Eco-Chic Shopping Event on Thursday, October 23rd from 5-9pm at the Regency Center. Over 65 eco-friendly designers will be there with their stylish goods and a portion of the ticket sales will go to Friends of the Urban Forest. Tickets are $10 per person at the door or 2 for $15 if you purchase online. And the first 300 guests receive a reusable goodie bag filled with all kinds of eco-friendly products. For tickets and more information click here

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Capsule Design Takes Over Hayes Valley

On a brisk and cold Sunday in San Francisco I decided to check out the Capsule Design Festival in Hayes Valley Park. Capsule puts on a number of design happenings throughout the year, but the autumn event spanned the length of almost five blocks and included fashion, jewelry and handbag designers plus a variety of other artists selling their handmade crafts. And with DJ's spinning music all day long, shoppers and design enthusiasts bundled up and came out in droves. It doesn't hurt that Hayes Valley is also the center of some of the most innovative boutiques in the city.

My favorites were from local jewelry designer Colleen Mauer and the fabulous wool coats from De Novo, designed by Elizabeth Holliday. Given the type of day we were having, I gravitated straight into the coat rack. Her coats are made of the most plushy warm fabrics from Europe that she gets through designer overstock. So you could be wearing the same wool as Burberry, but have a coat that is designed and manufactured in the Bay Area. If you're looking for a classic statement piece with a modern edge check out the De Novo collection.

Colleen Mauer's collection of delicate chain necklaces and stacked metal rings had an elegant simplicity and refinement that stood out among some of the more outlandish designs at the festival. Colleen spent a great deal of time traveling before she ventured out on her own with the business and it's clear that her travels gave her a broad scope of vision. If you missed her at the festival, her designs are sold in San Francisco at The Mission Statement, Secession Art and Design and The Chrissy Bee.

It must be getting close to the holidays because there is yet another eco-centric shopping event coming up this Thursday. Appel & Frank host an Eco-Chic Shopping Event at the Regency Center from 5-9PM at 1270 Sutter Street.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Eco-Fashion Epicenter of San Francisco

Welcome to the blog spot for The Innovative Fashion Council! We are a not for profit fashion trade organization in San Francisco dedicated to promoting sustainability and environmental awareness in fashion design. Our mission is to bring together like-minded designers and to create a fashion district in the center of San Francisco dedicated to eco-fashion. Call us the "slow food of fashion" if you like. Just don't call us boring. Our goal is to show you that sustainable fashion is not only chic, but also more meaningful than what you'd find in a mainstream store.

In addition to attending our monthly networking events, IFCSF supporters can connect via our Facebook page or at local events posted on this blog. We'll also be posting interviews with local San Francisco designers and information on who's doing what and where. As our group expands, so will this blog. We'd love to hear from you, even if you are based outside of the San Francisco Bay Area. And if you travel to faraway places let us know what's happening in those communities. It's time for San Francisco to take its place in the industry as a center for sustainable fashion.