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!

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