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!