Monday, December 21, 2009

Fifth Annual Gorgeous & Green Eco Fashion Show

A recent event held by Global Green in San Francisco distilled the pre-conceived notion that eco fashion and the City By the Bay lack the style and glamour of high fashion.

Global Green’s 5th annual fundraiser held last week at San Francisco’s W Hotel proved that sustainable clothing and its Bay Area-based design community can be just as inspiring and directional as what you may find in the latest issue of Vogue or Vanity Fair. The W is the 7th hotel in the nation to receive LEED certification. Event co-chair Nadine Weil was delighted she didn’t have to worry about the trash being properly sorted for recycling afterwards.

The evening’s event brought out San Francisco’s eco-heavyweights, society luvies and dedicated followers of fashion to support both green styles and the designers dedicated to producing them in the Bay Area. The handpicked group of designers, who highlighted two or three looks from their recent collections, couldn’t have asked for a more receptive audience. The ongoing sustainable design story has, up to now, been about the composition of elements—organic cottons, silks, natural dyes, a mind for preventing waste and local construction—but what really made this show exciting (my feelings echoed by the visceral buzz amongst the audience) were the fresh proportions, cutting-edge artistry and undeniable design values of the dynamic looks coming down the runway.

Co-chair Zem Joaquin green lit the fast–paced runway show with a simple directive: “Think about what you are wearing and be conscious.” The opening looks included a succession of alternatively ruched and flowing washed silk gowns from Robin Brouillete and Leila Hafzi. The dresses were exquisite and fitting for an evening reception, but what eco-fashion really needs is to feel essential. To my mind, separates are the smart women’s response to the economic fallout of the last year. Clothes women can wear to get things done! Right on cue, Nina Skarra’s jaunty, sustainably-sourced sweaters came down the catwalk, providing a nice break in the sea of gowns.

Local favorite, Carja Borja wowed the crowd as her scarlet plaid ensemble came down the runway. The voluminous skirt and jacket (did I just see the outline of a totally wearable bustle go by AMAZING!) skillfully cut to flatter the body contrasted perfectly with the black silk tank awash with tiny ruffles.

Two of the night’s standout looks came from Casey Larkin’s dynamite Mr. Larkin line. The white Chloe jacket with cutouts and delicately molded shoulder pads is a wearable and (less expensive!) take on those beloved by Balmain. The other piece, an organic knit lace dress appeared off runway, worn with requisite rock-star aplomb by guest Josie Maran, model and creator of epononymous eco-cosmetic collection.

The jewelry and accessory pairings were particularly inspiring. A sartorial match made in heaven was Litter’s punk-edged jewelry, its sultry pieces proving themselves a siren call to Sara Shepherd’s lady-like tailoring and immaculate seams.

While the pneumatic models showing Yves Behar’s PACT underwear came dangerously close to undermining the evening’s achievements, the interjection of levity served as a reminder of the work ahead necessary to develop the Bay Area as a destination for all things eco-fashion. The sense of lightness—of not taking things too seriously—is an element to embrace rather than reject if we want to see change in terms of S.F. having a strengthened fashion identity.

The universe’s ironic ways of directing things, a.k.a those delicious instances of life imitating art, were illuminated as Zem introduced the work of artist Sage Vaughn. His delicately rendered images of butterflies are the perfect motif for eco fashion’s current metamorphosis. Only now is everything falling into place: better fabrics, greater interest by designers and increased consumer awareness. It indicates that this is an idea whose time has come to an industry newly challenged by a more value-orientated consumer and the plaintive wail of Mother Nature.

Lighter in celeb quotient than previous years, the event’s focus was on celebrating the achievements of our green fashion community and seemed to highlight that 2009 was the year when Bay Area eco-designers, like Mr. Vaughn’s fragile yet transcendent butterflies, emerged from their cocoons.

It was great to see 10AK designers Priscilla Guimarais, Kumiko Haruyama, Nui Tanapornwattana, Audrey Wang and Tramaine Tillman enjoying themselves. One of the dresses created this summer by the band of Academy of Arts students was fashioned out of hospital scrubs and worn by actress Ginnifer Goodwin at the 20th Anniversary Environmental Media Awards in Los Angleles.

It was a pleasure to speak to Rachel Mann and Mackenzie Burdick of hot body jewelry line Litter at the event. Their line, which artfully decorated Sara Shepherds runway pieces, is made from re-salvaged second-hand and flea market finds. They hit fashion editorial paydirt this year when Wintour it-girl, Lauren Santo Domingo spotted their designs on a trip to San Francisco and asked them to collaborate with one of her new favorite designers, Christian Cota for his New York Fashion Week show. The rumor is NYC fashion peeps plan to steal them away--we hope they stay…

One player the SF fashion scene will loose to NYC is dapper stylist, Lo’renzo Hill White, who also does double duty championing local fashion talent. “It’s great to see society step up for the green cause, and it’s nice to see them in cocktail attire,” he enthused. He’ll be leaving for NYC this spring, but we both agreed, he’d need to watch this space!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Why Brand the Man?

A couple weeks ago, IFCSF Advisory Board Member and Global Brand Consultant Bertrand Pellegrin spoke before a receptive audience of fashion students and enthusiasts at the Academy of Art University to discuss his new book: Branding the Man: Why Men are the Next Frontier in Fashion. San Francisco Chronicle columnist and fashionable man-about-town Aaron Britt led a lively discussion about the uniqueness of a man’s shopping experience and how retailers need to wake up and tap into this very powerful and discerning consumer.

When Pellegrin was asked why he felt the need to research and report on men and their shopping habits he said “I saw that the marketplace wasn’t growing to meet their needs. I didn’t feel the retailer was really able to communicate with that customer in the right way. I think they were missing out on an opportunity.” Pellegrin went on to say that marketing to the male shopper involves more than just the product assortment – it’s in the way they communicate and how they make him feel in the store. For example, a shop like Best Buy attracts men not only because of its technological gadgets, but he can feel like smart about products while he’s there and even teach something to his female counterpart.

On the other side of the spectrum, Britt and Pellegrin discussed the stagnation of most men’s sections in major department stores. Pellegrin said, “The boutique has a distinct advantage over department stores…the men’s department has not changed since our father or grandfather’s generation.” Britt brought up the prime example of the Macy’s Men Store on Stockton, which I admit, has become a real shopping destination for my semi-retired father on his visits here, but then that kind of makes their point, doesn’t it? The men lamented that in many of these old-school stores, the salesman isn’t even someone you’d feel inclined to trust with your fashion sense, given they’re often wearing an ill-fitting suit or dirty shoes.

Both agreed that men like to share knowledge, and shopping is more than just about the stuff – they crave an experience or community, and they like to know more about what they’re buying. “There’s never enough signage in a store that explains the product,” Pellegrin said, “… if you notice even in J.Crew, they’re putting more information on the product in their catalogs, perhaps on the heritage or manufacturing. I think people do want to know, what are the telltale signs of quality. Think about Mollusk - it’s a surf shop and really struck me as a fantastic men’s environment. It felt like a really cool place to hang out…there was no pressure to buy, the place is very organic and it just feels very real. There were a lot of little stories attached to things.”

A discussion about men’s fashion wouldn’t be complete without mentioning San Francisco’s Wilkes Bashford, on the brink of closing during this discussion (and later rescued by Mitchells/Richards/Marshs) Britt wondered what kind of strategy they’d need to follow to attract new customers and stay open. Pellegrin said, “Wilkes is a brilliant man and a personal friend of mine. I think he was the vanguard of people who brought new designers over to the U.S. over 40 years ago. He’s the first to bring Armani to the U.S…The problem is he hadn’t diversified his offering enough, and his price points are still all equally high. He hadn’t grown his customer base. We all know Willie Brown is Wilke’s most famous customer, but we all know Willie Brown doesn’t need any more suits.” Ah, the harsh reality of old age and what many classic brands are facing as their core customer base grows older, and they haven’t successfully attracted a new generation. “He still has tremendous clout and is recognized all over the world. There’s still an opportunity to renew and refresh how the brand is positioned in this market. People aren’t buying Brioni suits right now but there will be interest again.” Let’s hope.

In conclusion, Pellegrin offered retailers the idea of creating learning events around their products – for instance, brew your own beer while getting styling tips. Even better, learn the difference between a shirt that’s been custom-made for you in comparison to an off the rack piece. Finally, there’s nothing more important to a man than how he’s perceived by his peers especially when it comes to his sexuality – understand this piece of the puzzle and use this to design your tactics.

For more about Pellegrin and how to order his book, click here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

THREAD On the Bay

Thread San Francisco, a 2-day holiday shopping event featuring local designers and artisans, recently took over the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason on the 21st and 22nd. The event featured 100 independent fashion designers and artists showing their wares, from bags to brooches, tees to tartans. In the midst there was a live DJ and a hosted bar, plus a live runway show each day. This year’s event also featured a new Eco-design zone, fitting for a fashion festival in San Francisco.

I had the chance to stop by on the second day and saw a few familiar favorites including comfy eco knitwear by JulesElin and picks from Secession Art & Design. I was happy to see Erica Varize , designer of Evarize, with a selection from her bold, form-fitting collection. Varize was part of the recent APAture runway show at SOMarts a few months ago and her collection was one of the stand-outs of the evening. She’s recently partnered with Project (RED) to fight the AIDS epidemic by designing the Measu(RED) line with proceeds going to the AIDS Global fund and Project Uganda 07.

A number of interesting jewelry designers were also featured at the show. Twinkle Studio by Sara Vaccarielli caught my eye with its table of sparkly vintage gems. Vaccarielli reclaims older pieces and remakes them into modern vintage. I walked away with a bracelet for $30 that was not only unique, but could have been passed off by J.Crew for $100 or more. On the flip side, the delicate handmade metal pieces by Meghan Patrice Riley were modern elegance meets industrial chic. Her lightweight pieces could be worn piled on with a little black dress or worn as a single statement piece. I found her work to be one of the more high-end collections represented at the show.

Thread hosts events nationally and is based in Los Angeles. Their next event is in San Diego December 5-6. If you missed it and want to do some holiday shopping from local designers, Appel and Frank are hosting their Stocking and Stilettos holiday shopping event on Thursday, December 10th at the Regency Center. For more information, click here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Conversations with Fashion Innovators: Sally Singer

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down for an intimate lunch with Fashion News and Features Director for American Vogue, Sally Singer. Sally was in town to interview Google’s Marissa Mayer and graciously accepted my invitation to chat about fashion, the recession, and of course the role that sustainability plays for the industry.

During the course of the interview I was captivated by Sally’s passion for the industry, as well her keen dedication to being socially and environmentally responsible in fashion. As she recently stated in her [November 2009] Vogue story, “Salad Days”: “ I love my Deep Green Living directory-where to buy toys, cat supplies, eco-friendly lunchboxes, nontoxic pest care toys)’oh, no; groans my husband)- and I love feeling that little bit more empowered. I may not be living with houseplants but I’m that much closer to the Emerald City.”

Sally is not your typical fashionista.

In fact she made of point of noting to me, “I feel like I’m very, very lucky. A friend of mine, who is an editor, said something like, ‘for girls, getting to go to the Paris shows is like getting to play for the NFL’, and that’s pretty good! I certainly have a job that links up with my things that I care about. I never thought anyone would pay me to care about those things.

Educated at UC Berkeley and later Yale, Singer was originally on a career path in academia but somehow found herself in the world of fashion and magazines. Over a good hearty meal with the best-made Arnold Palmer in town (no salads for these two fashion gals) we began our conversation.

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

YS: How do you think fashion will weather the recession?

SS: I think that fashion and style is relevant regardless of the economy. Style is almost more relevant now as it’s something that people can do for themselves as a pick-me-up. It’s something that helps them imagine a more interesting world; it helps people think differently about their culture and their time. All sorts of examples of the best style have come out of stricken times.

Within the industry it’s been a tough year and will continue to be for some time. I’ve read that there are some good signs ahead. People will have to think and work a little differently, but that’s not always a bad thing. The hard truth is that people who are very talented might be shuttered this year. It’s a real shame to see Christian Lacroix going into bankruptcy proceedings in Paris, and almost on the same day see Veronique Branquinho shutting her business. These are two immensely talented people with enormous conviction who shouldn’t have done anything any differently, but the system hasn’t worked for them at this moment. So in that sense, I don’t think the shake out is a great thing because it means that only the best will survive. I think a lot of really great people are having a really hard year and people who I don’t necessarily think have a lesson to learn from it. The same as people who are suffering from personal setbacks, they weren’t necessarily over-spending or living a false life, they were just trying to get by and a whole lot of things conspired against them.

I do think that fashion designers and companies will come out of this year with a different perspective on how they operate, how they control their production, how they control their wholesale network and hopefully the industry will be stronger for it.

YS: Do you think that because of the financial distress, it will affect the way designers will market themselves?

SS: Well advertising has taken a hit. Designers are not advertising the way they used to. Were those gorgeous campaigns and the number of them necessary? Shot by just a few photographers… It made fashion really exciting to people and made fashion a fun industry to be in. And a fun industry for the public to engage in. There’s not a designer out there right now, who’s not re-evaluating the way they market and merchandise their collections and how they put their message out there. The interesting thing is that because of there’s such knowledge of fashion. Before you didn’t have to work every day to have people be aware of your work.

When I started at Vogue, you kind of had to figure out how you were going to do it. Maybe there was a cable show that showed a bit of a runway show… The idea that you could know the name of a model that wore Look 12 at Prada was impossible, unless you were in the business. Now anyone can go online and see a show, and know that Natalia was opening the show, and get the details and see the bag up close. So there’s an incredible knowledge of fashion right now. So a lot of marketing just has to build on that. So I imagine things will be done differently in the way that people will position themselves.

Right now there’s so much emphasis in the industry on the pre-Fall. Right now, we’re starting to see Resort in New York and those collections are the real money-spinners for companies. They hit the stores in November and stay full price much longer than the traditional Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter collections. In the past these were seen as the ”real” clothes collections, not the catwalk ”follies.“ And I think there is more direction in them now than ever before. Because there is more scrutiny. They also, go into stores at the moment that people who are in the mood to spend, spend. So I think in the last few years there’s been a greater emphasis on pre-fall or pre-spring or resort and I think that will continue. And more companies doing that if they can, delivering into the stores four times and therefore not staking it all on two seasons. And if two seasons go drastically on sale they have double the opportunity to sell.

YS: The ultimate goal of the Innovative Fashion Council is to support more sustainable fashion design and practices. Do you think it is still only seen as a trend?

SS: I would hope it’s not just a trend, and that the economic crisis wouldn’t be a reversal and we’re still moving forward. There have been other trends in the fashion industry that challenged issues of sustainability. Those too were valid concepts.

Many, many other people have been heartened by the fast-fashion, the explosion of really directional, fun retail environments where clothes are extremely on target, on trend and affordable, and often designed by real luminaries in that market. I mean, I hear Jil Sander is doing clothes for Uniqlo and I hear the clothes are amazing. That said, the whole notion of fast-fashion is not exactly at one with the issues of sustainability. Do we need all those things for clothes we buy on Friday, to wear out at a club on Saturday and toss out by the next Friday? And where are they going? Those clothes may start to be made with organic fibers, made in different factories and made in line with ecological goals and a more conscious set of parameters. We’ve just seen this with Target and their collaboration with Loomstate. Rogan Gregory really pushed to have Target source differently.

I want people to buy the right things at the right price for the right reasons. But I understand designer fashion that is fairly priced, and made artisanally and directional and exciting. Designers like Rodarte, the Mulleavy sisters, and Isabel Toledo are making these amazingly beautiful clothes and these clothes are not inexpensive. And to many people it doesn’t make sense to wear a dress that costs $1,900. But on the other hand, she’s doing something incredibly sustainable. She’s wearing someone who sourced the fabrics properly, made it beautifully, worked on it by hand and paid her workers fairly. I want to encourage people not to spend more than they can afford, but to spend the right amount of money and wear it a lot. And when you’re done wearing it pass it down, rework it, figure out how to integrate it into the next thing they want to do, chop it up, even make it into pillows! I don’t know, but I want people to figure out how to work with their clothes in a more sustained way—whatever their clothes are, it may be the Loomstate Target collection—whatever! I just want them to love it beyond the moment they bought it.

YS: What about educating the designers in sustainable design concepts like William McDonough’s book “Cradle to Cradle?”

SS: We are seeing biodegradable shoes, not just Nike, where if you drop off your shoes, they’ll remake it into something else. So we’re seeing that. And designers, such as Stefano Pilati at YSL doing collections out of old fabrics he found around. He just launched that collection at Barneys New York. I think it’s a fantastic model for how luxury goods should be working right now. But I also think designers are receiving an enormous pressure from retailers and consumers to make things at a less expensive price point, to broaden their price points, to offer entry level price points. And often what that means is to go overseas and China’s environmental standards are not necessarily the best. It’s not necessarily the quality; the real issue is that a designer is trying to work to a sensitive way to their customer and to the world. And it’s an awful lot of balls in the air.

Some will say they’ll use an organic fabric, but if you don’t produce in an up-to-date factory with environmental standards, does it matter if it’s an organic fabric if you’re using chemicals to process it? Kind of, I don’t know but it’s like the set of decisions that we’re all facing in our everyday and I just think that the more everyone is conscious of those choices the better off we’ll be. And every designer out there is thinking that way. They know the customer understands the value of conscious production. It’s not yet at the same place as food, where people will buy the ugly but organic apple. Fashion people still want the nice looking thing. But they know that an ethical back-story adds value for consumers. Whether they can take all their impulses and put out a product that the consumer can afford remains to be seen. But, they’re all trying to. They think endlessly about sourcing, and they have to know fabrics are so expensive now.

And partly because a number of people working now are working at the top of their game are young people. They are part of a generation that grew up with an environmental consciousness. People such as Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough of Proenza Schouler, Phillip Lim and Derek Lam - these guys don’t stand apart from their generation. So, no I don’t think
it’s a trend; it’s just going to take some time to sort itself out. Luckily there are a lot of people right now who know a lot about sourcing and the issues who are working in the industry right now, such as Rogan. As long as people continue to talk about it, it will be okay.

YS: Do you think that hosting a sustainability conference would be a good idea?

SS: It’s hard to get people to come. Designers are very busy these days, going to stores and connecting with the customers. Everyone knows the more designers are out in the stores, the better the sales are. I don’t think there has been a time where designers have worked more frenetically here in New York or in Europe. I know I did a panel for UCLA's Hammer Museum, where I brought together Rodarte's Kate Mulleavy, Adriano Goldschmied, Christina Kim and Tom Binns. They’re all artisanal designers. They found it was very useful for them to talk about the choices they have to make everyday.

YS: It seems as if there is a disconnect, people wanting to be sustainable and not knowing what to do?

SS: Certain questions can be answered by others, such as “I need a source in Peru” but how you choose to go about imagining who you are as a designer has to come from you. I think there’s great value in knowing what your signature is, what your point of view is, how to render it, who is going to appreciate it, how far you can take it and being content with that and scaling it to that. And making great choices that allow you to do it in a way that it’s good for you. In the Bay Area, for instance a company that I think is fantastic is a ceramic company from Sausalito called Heath. Everything that Robin and Cathy have done makes sense. And they’ve just opened a huge store in L.A. in the midst of a recession, but it’s the right store. They truck things down twice a month so they always know exactly what is selling and what to produce. They manufacture locally, they partner with Chez Panisse and Blue Bottle, and other artisanal lifestyle choice businesses that they are part of. They opened at Opening Ceremony in Japan. They are the height of the fashion life, as uber-fashion as you can get without necessarily being a fashion business.

YS: What do you think of the San Francisco emerging designer scene?

SS: When I come here I usually go to Modern Appealing Clothing and see what they carry. I think there’s no reason to do Paris in San Francisco, or Fifth Avenue in San Francisco. You have to do something that connects to San Francisco. I don’t think San Francisco needs a fashion week, I don’t even think L.A. needs a fashion week. You have to do something that makes sense here. I think it’s probably true that if you want a larger audience you’ll probably have to go to New York or even L.A.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Coming Up – Branding the Man Launch

Bertrand Pellegrin, IFCSF board member and author of Branding the Man will discuss his new book and the future of fashion with San Francisco Chronicle columnist Aaron Britt this Thursday at the Academy of Art University. Pellegrin will also be available to sign copies of his book after the presentation. This is a great opportunity to learn about the current state of the retail industry and where it’s heading, during this challenging time in the fashion industry.

Where: Academy of Art University, Main Auditorium; 79 New Montgomery Street
When: Thursday, November 12th; 7-8:30PM

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Coming Up - Local 415 at Eco Citizen

Eco Citizen, local purveyor of some of the most high-end and chic designs in eco-fashion, will host an opening reception on Thursday, November 5th for a new exhibition featuring local designers and artists, including Juleselin,Kris Nations, mr. Larkin, Molly M designs, PACT, Josh Podoll, Sara Shepherd, SUST, Turk & Taylor and Yellow Owl Workshop.

Where: Eco Citizen Boutique, 1488 Vallejo Street, 415.614.0100
When: Thursday, November 5th from 5-8PM

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Possessing Inspiration.

The latest IFCSF event featured a panel discussion of the Design Piracy Prohibition Act, a bill currently pending in the U.S. Congress. Currently undergoing its third attempt at passage, the bill would provide intellectual property protection rights to a fashion design for a period of 3 years.

Zuzna Ikels and Karen Frank, partners at law firm of Coblentz, Patch, Duffy and Bass, graciously explained the nuances of the pending bill. While expressing their appreciation for fashions creative process, they failed to reassure the concerns of IFCSF’s members that include emerging fashion designers and production talent. The diehard fashionistas who remain in San Francisco have precious little resources and support as it is, let alone the ability to navigate a complex new legal regime. The skeptical mood of the audience attested to the impracticality and potential perils of enacting this law. Competing against the big guys for recognition has always been part of their struggle for success but hasn’t dampened their desire to continue within the cutthroat, yet quixotic fashion industry.

What is good for the goose is usually good for the gander; however, the specious argument in favor of the bill began by contending that since European intellectual property laws do extend to including fashion copyright our country’s should as well. It’s crucial to recognize how different the cultures are and how those cultures impact business practices. Europeans are simply not as litigious as we are! For example, minimal medical malpractice insurance costs paid by European doctors ensure that patient costs are kept reasonable. It doesn’t necessary occur to European designers to follow through and to sue. In our sue-happy culture, any amateur designer’s oversight in integrity would quickly be complicated and buried by self-interest and greed.

Illustrating that the integrity of a fashion design brand may be easier to maintain than recover, Ikels showed exhibit number one for the case for the Design Piracy Act, virtually identical images of an original and copied version of a striped cardigan. The designs were used in a recent lawsuit filed by fashion house Travota against Forever 21. While the audience agreed visual differences were hard to distinguish, they challenged that it would be easy to tell the difference in quality in-person, and that the Travota brand was not harmed by the cheaper copy.

Which underscores my next point. It’s an uncertain assumption that fast-fashion chains targeting a more mass market, like H&M, Zara, and Forever 21, truly hurt the fashion business on the high end. In fact, these chains democratize fashion and allow a youthful market with lower means to begin developing a sense for silhouette proportions while adapting high-end trends to create a personal signature look.

Next, it’s the inherent nature of fashion as an art form that makes attempting to incorporate copyright protection so problematic. Like any other medium, the tools available —every stitch, seam, dart, hem, pleat, cut, and combination of, have been utilized before at some point in fashion’s history. The process of creating a design—essentially crafting a piece of 3d fabric architecture—is achieved, not by separating out those tools and identifying them in their unformed state, but by imagining their potential and arranging their composition to suit the designers taste or intuition.

The bottom line comes down to the company’s bottom line. Consumer choice and liberty is wiped out when a broad encompassing competitive market is. While I certainly am grateful for the additional H and M top to my wardrobe that suggests (in my budget-addled imagination) the avant- garde simplicity of Dries Van Noten, it doesn’t make me want to not save up for the real thing either. It makes dressing how I want a reality I can embrace, rather than a desire I have to simply shutdown for the sake of my own sanity!

While couturier, Colleen Quen spoke gracefully about how her work “isn’t inspired by trends,” the truth is most designers are paying close attention to their customers needs. They know that women tend to dress for one another and want to show they are somewhat cognizant of the current fashions. A successful designers genius rests in reinventing the wheel again and again within this season’s fabric and color trends. Ultimately, I subscribe to Voltaire’s conclusion on the subject “Originality is nothing but judicious imitation“

The act has been in the works for years but failed to pass. Why is it coming up again now? Spearheaded by Diane Von Furstenberg, who has finally encouraged enough support for what looks like a 50-50 fight. Meaning that enough big business labels are able to afford the copious legal fees associated with their proposed legislation. However, just viewing those in opposition tells you a lot. Headed by the American Apparel and Footwear Association, the opposition is a workers union. They know that getting lawyers involved, drags in hardworking employees such as pattern drafters and production workers. They estimate the new law could eliminate 90% of the national fashion industry. And the price of clothes will surge—in this economy that can’t be a good thing!

We can all appreciate that cheating is wrong. Rather than pointing the finger, as an industry let’s try to develop the consumer instead. With the advent of and the glut of celebrity style media, fashion knowledge has become more accessible than ever before. It’s important to build on that platform and educate the consumer about the cause and effect of their choices. Alongside the high/ low concept, the trend for sustainable clothing is the most important. We have to focus on more education—I propose we educate ourselves with intelligent journalism within our favorite magazine, than the sorry occurrences of chapter 11’s in the business pages.

Striking the balance between fashion as an art form, versus the grittiness of the rag trade, with its weakness for free exchange of inspiration, is the bane of the industry. You can’t separate the two. Fashion is both all at once; it’s the industry whose low cost entry transforms 3rd worlds into significant economic players (as the Cotton Mills did for the U.S. in the 1800’s) and the most transient of art forms, whose masterpieces are cataloged all-too-briefly in disposable glossy magazines. There’s simply too much at risk to jeopardize it with difficult to identify laws that are costly and may impede small player’s creativity and voracious passion. This is not an industry that needs to rest on its laurels by seeking timely credit recognition, but one that needs to be constantly innovating forward to stay ahead of the game.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Watch Out H&M – the CFDA Want Their Designs Back

On August 21st members of the San Francisco fashion and law community came together for the latest IFCSF event hosted by Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP at their beautiful offices in the Ferry Building. A panel of local designers and industry professionals moderated by Partner Zuzana Ikels shared their views on the Design Piracy Prohibition Act, a bill that is currently pending in Congress. Strongly supported by the Council of Fashion Designers of America and spearheaded by Council President Diane von Furstenberg, the bill provides protection for designers of their unique designs against fashion piracy. According to Ikels, the bill has about a 50/50 chance of being passed into law this fall because it is so controversial. Serving on the IFCSF panel were: Jennifer Evans, President and Founder of the Evans Group Inc.; Jeanne Feldkamp, Founder and Creative Director of the 615 Project ; Amy Fritz, President of Ecouture; Louisa Parris, Womenswear Designer & Visiting Tutor, Academy of Art ; Colleen Quen, Designer and Professor; Gus Harput, Co-owner of Harput’s Market, and Karen Frank, partner at the Coblentz law firm and President of the Copyright Society of the USA.

The Act is similar to anti-piracy laws in Europe, and essentially gives designers three years of copyright protection for "original" designs, if they register their designs within the first three months of the first time the design has been presented to the public. If infringement is found, designers can seek damages of the higher of up to $250,000 per infringement, or $5 per copy. The legislation, if passed, would apply to original designs created after bill becomes law.

As fashion is a $350 billion industry in America, supporters are not taking this lightly and are gearing up to do battle against the main offenders – fast fashion chains like H&M, Forever 21, and Zara. And these designers do have a right to be angry – too often their designs will barely float off the runway before a copycat version is sold at the local mall. Couture designer Quen, who is known for her stunning gowns and architectural shapes, spoke of being a victim to fashion piracy when a collar she had worked on for over a year showed up on someone else’s design. What becomes tricky is deciding what has enough originality to be protected, and how to distinguish between protectable originality, and unprotectable functional elements of design, or mere trends. Opponents of the bill say that it will become impossible for young designers to get started, and that the nature of fashion is copying and taking from other designs.

According to Quen and like-minded designers like Thakoon who are more established in the industry, too often their art is compromised. On the CFDA web site Thakoon says “…Many more young people are excited about the opportunities that America’s leadership in fashion provides, and like me, are trying to build a career here. All too often however, we find our ability to do so is undermined by pirates who, instead of laying out the money we do for research, pattern makers, to mount runway shows, etc, they just copy the end product of all our investments and, by virtue of having a cost free design, sell our design in the market place cheaper than we can". When asked by Ikels what role trends play in design, Quen said, “I don’t know if I’d call my work a trend, but it does come from my soul and I treat my work like a painting, so each piece has an inspiration whether it’s from an architect or artist, a person I met, or it could even be from an insect. Whatever is in my life at that time inspires me. I’m like the vessel and I start translating so I get inspired and it becomes sculpture. I don’t get inspired by trend.”

Ikels posed the example of a Marc Jacobs jacket with 80s-inspired elements. As the 80s are back in style, how would a designer stay on trend with a similar jacket without counterfeiting the design? Parris said, “You would hope that I’d take that on board, look at elements from the 80s, do the research, maybe study an 80s rock band, but the way I taught myself and learned through education, is that those elements are fundamental, but at the end of the day I have to put my fingerprints all over it and make it something original.” The audience was shown another example of a Trovata striped cardigan that had been copied exactly by Forever 21. It was such a blatant copy that Trovata filed a lawsuit. But can a striped cardigan really be considered an original design? According to supporters – yes, if there is something unique about it like the style of the buttons or the fit of the armhole.

If the legislation passes, a free searchable database would be provided of all designs with requests for protection, and I imagine large fashion houses expanding their employee rosters to welcome law librarians.

As split as the vote is around this new legislation, the opinions among the panelists and audience were split as well. I think the biggest benefactors of this legislation are the more established designers who have the time and funds to sue for copyright infringement. However, if laws like this already exist and work in Europe, why wouldn’t they work here? Perhaps this will allow for even more creativity in design. And for companies who have made a living copying others, they’ll either need to get original or get out. What if this were to open up a new era of fashion in America where we might even see, daresay, a new kind couture. With more freedom and time to design without the fear of knockoffs, think about what the design community could really do. The big question is whether anyone on a “real world” budget could afford to buy clothes anymore.

Thanks to all who sponsored the event: VehicleSF, Swan's Neck Vodka, LandrinUSA, Warren Difranco, and dj Melvin "j". For more photos of the event visit the IFCSF on Facebook. An opposing viewpoint of this controversial subject coming soon.

Photos courtesy of Warren Difranco and AfterFive Media.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Meeting of the Greens

Leaders and innovators in the San Francisco environmental community met and mingled at the Bently Reserve last Thursday for the first annual “Common Green” event. Sponsored by the Bently Reserve and Orchard Hotels, the IFCSF had a chance to meet with approximately 200 like-minded collaborators in the stunning LEED-certified space. The key speaker for the night was Wade Crowfoot, formerly the Director of Climate Protection under Mayor Newsom, and now the West Coast Political Director for the Environmental Defense Fund. Zem Joaquin, founder of and recipient of the 2009 Global Green Millenium Founder’s Award introduced the event’s hosts Chris and Amber-Marie Bently and Stefan Mühle from Orchard Hotels.

Stefan talked about the challenging, yet personally fulfilling feat of running a completely eco-friendly hotel. What I found most compelling was his idea of the “triple bottom line”, where you take care of the social, environmental and economical aspects. When these aspects are aligned your business can be a true powerhouse. The Orchard Garden Hotel is referred to as a “green boutique” hotel with eco-friendly guestrooms and restaurants featuring local and organic ingredients. Not a bad place to stay for a stylish eco-ista.

Crowfoot, whose leadership with Newsom helped to put San Francisco on the map as a leader in solving the global environmental crisis, was instrumental in the city’s invitation to participate in the upcoming Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Crowfoot framed his talk by asking us to think back through the last five years and how far we’ve come as a country in facing the crisis. He described his time working in the Mayor’s office as a “bright light in an otherwise dark space in the U.S. “ It’s truly the cities that need to play a key part in fixing the environment, and cities like San Francisco and the state of California are leading the way. He likened the great work accomplished here during the last administration to being inside a “bubble during a troubling time. “

Crowfoot spoke very strongly of the need to take advantage of the opportunity we have with the new administration to make a difference for the environment, and how crucial the next four months leading up to Copenhagen are in making lasting environmental change. Essentially, if the conference is going to come up with an agreement to reduce greenhouse gases to sustain life on this planet, the U.S. must step up prior to December. The way to do that is to legislate the Clean Energy and Security Act. Already passed by the House and endorsed by President Obama, the bill needs 60 affirmatives from the Senate. If the bill doesn’t pass during this session, Crowfoot said, “then all bets are off.” He encouraged us not only sign those email petitions, but to use our business voices to talk to undecided Senators. Want to find out more about this legislation? Click here.

Speaking with Amber-Marie Bently after the presentation, it sounds like Common Green will be back for another event in the near future. For news and updates, join A Common Green on Facebook.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Fashion On The Square Brings New York Couture to San Francisco

San Francisco is still struggling with putting on a fashion week event that rings true to the spirit of its local designers and community. The recent Fashion On The Square event held at the Intercontinental Hotel the weekend of July 25th was a valiant attempt at connecting the world of fashion with art at a local level. The daytime events included a series of seminars on fashion trends, red-carpet hair and makeup, and of great interest here to the IFCSF, the role of eco-design. On Sunday afternoon there was a children and teen runway show from local brand giants Gymboree, Old Navy, Gap and Janie and Jack.

The main event on Saturday night was a couture show featuring New York-based designer B Michael. While Mayor Gavin Newsom wrote a proclamation declaring July 25th B Michael Day” in the city, I was a bit perplexed with how this represented San Francisco fashion. That aside, the collection was beautiful and the event did raise money for local charities Wardrobe for Opportunity, K.I.D.S. and Fashion Delivers.

Fashion On the Square’s Founder & Creative Director Y’Anad Burrell led the night’s festivities with help from View from the Bay’s Janelle Wang and Denise Bradley (formerly of MoAD). The show opened with a presentation by fashion student Erik Stultz from three different collections, featuring menswear, lingerie and couture. Stultz gave a strong showing, especially with the corseted pieces from the second collection that were said to be inspired by the coral reefs for colors and textures and the circus for their silhouettes. Soon to graduate from the Art Institute of California, Stultz’s experience came across in the confidence of his designs.

Completely unexpected and magical, guests were treated to a brief interlude by two dancers (and later models) from the Alonzo King's LINES Ballet. I was dazzled with the way they glided across the runway and even more so when I later saw the female dancer modeling b.michael designs En pointe. This show of artistry was closer to the type of diversions one might expect at the major shows in New York and Paris. And a perfect introduction to B Michael – showing almost 30 looks from his Fall 2009 collection these clothes are for women headed to the big house – and I do mean the White House. One coat in Peridot green cashmere was created for a woman with connections to the Obamas– Poet Lauriat Elizabeth Alexander who was commissioned and read the poem at the Inauguration. Classic silhouettes in expensive fabrics never go out of style. But don’t think B Michael is all business. There is celebration in his work, whether in a fitted sheath dress with a seam of flirtatious fringe down the side or his finale piece, a robin’s egg blue trumpet gown with cashmere lace and a matching shrug framed with feathers.

Every piece featured luxurious fabrics and exquisite detailing. It’s not hard to believe that before fashion, B Michael was an account executive for a Wall Street firm where he must have catered to a clientele who demanded only the best for their money. The “ladies who lunch” have found their next designer and San Francisco’s social set is ready for him.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Coming Up - Shopping Events on Both Sides of the Bay

Enjoy Free Admission to Appel and Frank's Chic Summer Soiree

Summer's not over yet - Appel and Frank, the duo behind San Francisco's popular social shopping events are having their "Chic Summer Soiree" event on Thursday, August 13th. Find fabulous jewelry, handbags, apparel and more made by local designers. Shop while enjoying complimentary wine, beauty services, and the coveted gift bag. As a friend of the IFCSF, Appel and Frank are offering readers FREE tickets to the event! Just visit the ticket page here and enter discount code IFC. The event is from 5-9PM at The Regency Center, 1270 Sutter Street. Designers include Stella & Dot, Juleselin, and Rebecca Ciccio.

Style Lounge Takes Over the Oakland Museum of California
As part of the East Bay Express "Best of the East Bay" party on Friday, August 7th, Style Lounge will join the event at the museum with the ultimate shopping fest and fashion show. Shop clothing, jewelry, accessories, art, and home decor from independent designers and get a free makeover from the SF Institute of Esthetics and Cosmetology. The event is from 5pm to midnight with the fashion show starting at 10pm. Designers participating in the fashion show include Revelation by M.E., K.Antoinette Collection and Hearts Desire Jewelry. Admission is free. The Oakland Museum of California is at 1000 Oak Street, one block from the Lake Merritt BART station. Event sponsors include 7x7 Magazine, GenArt and the Innovative Fashion Council San Francisco. For more information, click here.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fashion Lights Up the UC Botanical Garden

An isolated garden at the top of the Berkeley Hills may not be the most obvious venue for a high-end eco-fashion fundraiser, but the organizer behind the recent Green Gala garden party is not your ordinary botanist. Deepa Natarajan, the mastermind behind this event had long thought about a way to join the world of fashion with that of the garden. Her vision was realized on a blistering hot Sunday afternoon in June inside the gentle shade of a towering redwood grove.

The event – a fundraiser for the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley – included a live and silent auction, an eco-fashion runway show, and wine and hors d’oeuvres by local artisans. The highlight of the afternoon was a fashion show in the Redwood Grove Amphitheatre, with over 10 local designers each showing 3-5 pieces from their collection. Many pieces were made with plant materials that can be found in the garden, and even the hair and makeup team used the garden for their creations.

Having to contend with Gay Pride weekend and a cab driver who drove me round and round the canyon, I was devastated to arrive right after the first designer, Casey Larkin showed her pieces. I have been reading about her and was eager to see everything up close. Luckily I was able to see the entire collection during the final walk-through at the end of the show. Her designs, under the name Mr. Larkin, are some of the most exquisite and wearable pieces I’ve seen in eco-fashion, and are in fact called “an eco project” on her web site. The “Elsa Dress” has been receiving some press lately as it’s made from 100% milk fiber and is dripping with recycled paillettes from the 1930’s – completely perfect for the red carpet. Not to mention her clothing has already been worn by a few celebrities. Her more casual jumpers and dresses are made of 100% Japanese organic cotton and happily mingle old Hollywood style in a modern fit. While this collection was shades of white, I hear her collection for the fall will have lots of navy, a la Comme des Garcons.

Of the designers represented on the Redwood Grove runway, my other favorites (besides Larkin) were from Cory Brown & Cassidy Wright (“The Moon”), Molly De Vries for Ambatalia partnered with Tierra Del Forte denim, and Jonathan Baker. The Moon experimented with weaving together scraps of silk shirts and scarves, handkerchiefs, tulle, doilies and even napkins. If it sounds like too much, the peachy blush gown out of vintage silk was fairly simple and elegant with many intricacies. De Vries repurposed an 80-year old Asian hand-felted vintage wool jacket and gentleman’s 70-year old wool vest and paired them with a denim pencil skirt from Tierra Del Forte and round-toe heels. The effect was cool and sweet. Finally, Baker closed the show with the most modern and sharply cut dresses made with seaweed and organic cotton. He stuck to black and white and it worked.

After the show, guests walked over to the terrace where items for the silent auction had been set out for bidding and the wine by Quivira was poured for the taking. Amiee Alan provided the catering and music was provided by Elias Reitz, Roger Reidlebaur, Jordan Glenn & Nate Brenner. Despite the heat, I suspect guests didn’t mind taking in the natural surroundings and breathtaking views. What other secrets the garden holds we don’t know, but someone like Deepa Natarajan will surely find a way to show us.

*Photos courtesy of Cara Gardner for Cara Mia Photography

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Vote for IFCSF in the 2009 Style Council Awards

7 x 7 Magazine asked their readers for nominations for this year's Style Council awards - unique and stylish tastemakers of the Bay Area. The IFCSF's Yetunde Schuhmann (pictured right) has been nominated! Here's your chance to help the Innovative Fashion Council receive some attention for its work in promoting sustainable design in San Francisco. To vote, simply click here and vote for Yetunde - Photo #85. Voting ends on Wednesday, July 15th.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Dress imaginatively—now more than ever. An evening with Vogue Features editor, Sally Singer.

Weeks have gone by and I can’t stop thinking about (okay, it’s become a full blown crush) Sally Singer, Vogue’s Features and Fashion News Director who appeared at the Commonwealth Club’s recent Inforum event.

As someone working at promoting San Francisco’s ever-fragile fashion community the forum’s title, “Why Fashion Still Maters,” seemed particularly in vogue. As I looked around at the fifty fashion-starved San Franciscan women listening with rapt attention, we were likely wondering what could the answer be? Like a congregation before its altar, I think we hoped this rare offering, a bona fide NY senior Vogue editor in San Francisco, could sustain our faith in fashion in a town where a catwalk show is generally overshadowed by events celebrating the achievements of technology, stem cell research or the environmental movement.

Weighing in on our fashion fascination, Singer rose to the challenge of both reigniting my commitment to the industry and defending Vogue’s relevance in a time where most Americans are worried about losing their jobs, their homes and perhaps even their way of life. After all, Vogue is a magazine that’s featured Balmain’s eleven thousand dollar exaggerated shoulder jacket every month since the spring/summer ‘09 collections.

Singer’s zigzag work history is a welcome departure from the more superficial stereotypes of the fashion industry. After dropping out of Berkeley she went to beauty school while living in the Tenderloin district. She headed east and graduated from Yale becoming an avant-garde, punk music-loving bohemian who now lives in the Chelsea Hotel, (yes, where Sid killed Nancy) and appreciates her “exacting” editor, Anna Wintour, for the rigorous work environment she creates.

Singer’s thoughtful, non-conformist persona reiterates fashion’s role as an art form, social and cultural barometer and a transformative power of reinvention often forgotten in these days of Lucky Magazine's shopping lists of must-haves and so-called stylish celebrities advertising head-to-toe outfits conceived by stylists.

Singer graciously described her outfit to former Wired magazine Editor-in-Chief Katrina Heron who questioned whether the average woman could afford or get access to the punk-platformed, cuffed, buckled and tassled booties (named “the Sally” for her), which effortlessly anchored her silk A –line Thakoon dress.

As someone with a fairly average clothing budget, I regularly roll my eyes at the elitism of some of the stories featuring Vogue’s pet socialites—grown-up women photographed lying lasciviously in their closets amongst a sea of shoes (puh-lease!) All my righteous indignation, feminist ideals (and, I’ll admit outright pea-greenish envy) fall away, however, at Singer’s insightful framing of the magazine as visual inspiration for the everyday woman. Creativity and imagination are a refuge in good times and in bad and Singer intimates taking Vogue’s visual cues to a place of creative enjoyment and to literally play around with how we present ourselves. Singer said “I’ve never understood why fashion is considered such an imposition on people’s lives, it should be considered a pleasurable thing to do.”

Singer spoke of her childhood passion for home sewing and how vital the craft was to her understanding of fabric, cut and proportions that guide the carefully honed silhouettes gracing her fashion news section. “Instead of trying to dress like everyone else, because to be honest my parents weren’t going to spend the money, I decided to make what I wanted to make depending on what I saw in the pages of Vogue and then I would start to alter it.”

Singer’s early attraction to the glossy fantasy of Vogue manifested during her time as a teenager living in Orange County during the 1970’s. “I so didn’t fit in,” she remembers. “I saw fashion magazines as a way of interacting with the world where I should be, because I really shouldn’t have been there.” Singer offered that most of her peers in the fashion world tended to recount similar feelings. “A lot of the top people in fashion… are people that were out of sync with the world, it is not the case that the beautiful people, the in-crowd, work in fashion. They don’t have any sense of what fashion can do for you. Fashion and personal style is not about excluding people, it’s about taking people who feel like they’re on the outside and giving them tools by which to project another self.”

She suggests fashion provides the opportunity to project another image, one that’s truer to ourselves. Speaking of the fashion designers she has come to know, the industry has “allowed them a fabulosity that the world was denying them. Fashion is about allowing you to be someone you can think you can create.”

Heron attempted to contradict, saying that Vogue was indeed elitist, “being intimidating and excluding to a lot of people.” Singer countered, “I sort of think it’s about how you read magazines and what you read them for. I never grew up reading Vogue because I was going to buy the things in Vogue, or anyone I knew would buy anything in Vogue. I grew up knowing that the ideas, the propositions about what you could look like, were interesting and were something I could play with.” Her comment, to me, echoed Vivienne Westwood’s statement "You have a much better life if you wear impressive clothes" and again her recent admonition "In these hard times, dress up, Do it yourself" in the notes to her Gold Label Spring/Summer 09 show.

Singer agrees we do the same. Take a visual cue from the magazine and pull something from our closets or an inexpensive mass retailer and put something together “that would get that vibe” and using our creativity, work out how “I could be that girl,“ pictured in the fashion spread.

Addressing the eco-conscious crowd in the room, Singer acknowledged that while the “fast fashion” trend has made fashion more democratized, she believes ultimately it just creates more stuff. The current economy’s silver lining, if there is such a thing, is that more and more we’re beginning to relate to resources in a different way and certainly the fashion industry desperately needs greening. Singer hopes people will figure out for themselves where value lies, and that they buy things that are right for them and the right for the world.

She surprised many in the room by cautioning against wasting money building our wardrobe with the classic basics, such as the perfect trench. Instead she recommended spending money on the one piece of quality design that we will love and will be meaningful for years to come. This concept of design having intrinsic “heirloom” quality echoes throughout all of today’s good product design briefs influenced by William McDonough’s inspiring book, “Cradle to Cradle.”

Ultimately, Singer provided us with the answer I was looking for as we sat down at the Commonwealth club. Great fashion isn’t about a kind of unattainable luxury or an exclusive endeavor for the rich and beautiful. Everyone needs great design to help us imagine a different and, hopefully, more flourishing future.

Lastly, I’m reminded of something I recently read about mid—masthead fashion editors who have been cut from runway shows due to economic downsizing. They needn’t worry about being cut from Lanvin, whose designer Alber Elbaz said “Now, everybody said, “Lets do a small show… Intimate, I believe in, but a small show—all the writers, the assistants lose the dream. This is the time to invite the people who dream.”

And on those words, I’ll get back to figuring out how to recreate those Balmain shoulder puffs in a long-abandoned jacket of mine!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Coming Up: Green Gala Garden Party

The UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley will host a fundraising Green Gala garden party this Sunday, the 28th with a fashion show featuring local designs made from fibers and dyes from the garden. Models will glide down the runway in the Redwood Grove Ampitheatre to live music and guests will enjoy seasonal and organic food from Devoted Catering by Amiee Alan and biodynamic wine from Quivira Vineyards. A silent auction will also help to raise funds to support the garden. Designers include Casey Larkin, Skye Schuchman, Savannah Knoop (of the J.T. Leroy fame) and Tierra del Forte (Del Forte Denim), among others.

The Botanical Garden is devoted to educating the public on the amazing relationship between plants and people - don't miss out on the chance to experience local design, food and wine in a very unique and beautiful setting. For tickets and more information, click here.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Coming Up - Vogue's Sally Singer plus Local Designers

Don't miss the opportunity to see Anna Wintour's right hand - Sally Singer, Features & Fashion Director of Vogue magazine. She'll be at the Commonwealth Club this Tuesday for "Why Fashion Still Matters" and will share how Vogue is responding and adapting to this unchartered, new era for the fashion industry. The event starts at 6:30pm with check-in at 6:00. For more information and tickets, click here.

From the creators of the popular Capsule Design Festival comes UNION - an independent design festival in Hayes Valley this Sunday. 130 designers, from fashion to crafts, will be out with their best. The festival runs from 11am-6pm on Hayes Street at Octavia. For more information, click here.

Monday, May 11, 2009

IFCSF Earth Month Mixer Points the Way Ahead

The Innovative Fashion Council recently hosted a networking event and cocktail party to celebrate April as Earth Month. The event was held at The Entertaining Space, a fantastic facility close to the San Francisco Design Centre that can also accommodate film screenings within the comfort of your own living room.

Flat screens on the walls were playing reruns of Project Runway, a show that proved to be inspiration for St. Vincent de Paul Society's annual Discarded to Divine event (coverage to be posted soon). Sally Rosen gave a brief talk about the evolution of the event, which raises money to help the poor and the homeless. As the event’s creator, she was looking for a creative way to use the piles of women's clothing that come into St. Vincent de Paul every week. After seeing an episode of Project Runway she decided to contact the local fashion schools in San Francisco and engage their students to transform these discarded items into one-of-a-kind couture ensembles. The idea worked, and the event is now in its fourth year of partnering with the De Young Museum. This year's event had 125 handmade pieces to be auctioned and included an appearance and gown designed by Project Runway’s Sweet P.

Deepa Natarajan, who is the Program & Tour Coordinator for the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, offered the second inspiration for the night. A lover of fashion and plants alike, Deepa has been working very hard to help people make the connection between fashion and plants, especially with her own colleagues. The 34-acre garden contains an array of fibers and dyes that are used in sustainable fashion, and she'll be hosting a Green Gala fundraiser on Sunday, June 28th where models will glide down a runway in a redwood grove. Local designers will show pieces made from materials found in the garden, and local wineries and caterers will provide seasonal and organic food and wine. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

The IFCSF continues to offer networking mixers and educational events as a resource for the local sustainable fashion community and enthusiasts. Be sure to join our Facebook page for updates and invitations to events. Also thanks to our sponsors for the night, which included The Entertaining Space, Swan's Neck Vodka, Perkins Coie, VehicleSF, DJ Melvin "J and Warren diFranco Photography. Also thanks to Art Point who offered IFCSF attendees a special discount to their fundraising 80's bash (ArtPoint Turns 21) later that night at Mezzanine.