Fashion for the People

I feel it is only fair to warn you, that I am in no way qualified to write about fashion. Don’t get me wrong, I like to think of myself as a stylish guy. I certainly know how to put a look together so that I don’t embarrass myself when I step out the front door. But everything I know about designers, couture, and underfed girls stalking down runways I learned by dating a model and his insistence that I join him on the couch for three seasons of America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway. So I was perhaps a little intimidated when I arrived at Archetype Fashion Show at the Public Works Friday the 11th, notebook in hand.

Duserock

I arrived for the trunk show promptly at eight, a small miracle considering my chronic tardiness and six compulsive wardrobe changes. It wouldn’t do to show up at the fashion party in a t-shirt and sneaks (even in San Francisco fashionistas are ruthless, don’t let the sleepy stoner smiles fool you,). I made a bee-line for the bar in order to secure my first cup of courage. While DJ Duserock provided playful, chill beats for the shopping pleasure of the extreamly well put together ladies and gentlemen in attendance. Drink in hand, I sauntered up to Behida Dolic (behidadolic.com), the first designer, and immediately proceeded to put my ignorance on display when I asked her “What made you choose a life of haberdashery?”

“Millinery,”

“Pardon me?”

“Haberdashers craft men’s clothing, I make hats. ‘Millinery,’”

The Milliner's Craft

Thus schooled I mentally swallowed my blush of embarrassment got about the business of learning a little bit more about ms. Dolic and her art. She is slender, calm, and graceful, and I quickly learned that we share a love of old Film Noir (particularly the films of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.) Her hats are sculpted felt and clearly inspired by the 20’s and 30’s. They are deceptively simple looking at first, but the care and skill that is poured into each hand crafted piece is self evident upon close inspection.

Next I had the privilege of speaking with jeweler Josie Adele (josieadele.com) who’s mother bought her a sea shell kit when she was seven years old, and says she has loved making jewelry ever since, though she  went to school for interior design. It wasn’t until the economy went south, and she was laid off, that she threw herself into metal and stone as a career. Her works are delicate and flowing. Movement captured in copper and silver. Pride shines in her voice when she tells me all the materials have been recycled from materials once used in San Francisco buildings. She builds her art from the very bines of the City.

The second hat maker I met had ‘Millinery’ right there on her business card (hehehe, oops). Jamin Zorlu (jasminzorlu.com) has eyes wiser than her years and a wry amusement pulling at the corner of her smile. She tells me she creates ‘Sculptural Headwear for Earthlings’ and her hats look organic, but alien; as if designed for safari beneath some foreign sun. She talks to me about her love for Deco architecture and and materials not often seen on American streets. I myself couldn’t get enough that hat she herself was wearing a beautiful pearlescent lilac number made from Nile Perchskin. I was heartbroken that nothing she had with her would fit on my bulbous head.

“I know just what you need,” she said, pressing her card into my hand. “A fedora with a brim just so; I’d love to make you one,”

I continued to mill about, pestering shoppers and designers alike with my inane questions and observations, until a sharply dressed young woman with famine eyes informed me it was time for the fashion show. There was already a pack of paparazzi clustered around the end of the catwalk, wielding flashbulbs and telephoto lenses and seriously stoking my camera-envy. I decided to take my camera-phone and stake out a spot where the runway meets the stage, figuring I could get pictures of the models coming and going, thus doubling my chances of capturing some not awful images (and saving you fine people the tragedy of having to rely on my words alone.).

My post brought me within spitting distance of the evening’s entertainment, the always glamorous Maki Noguchi. She walked out onto the stage dressed in a traditional, red silk, Japanese kimono. And immediately began to sooth the restless audience with haunting melody. I’ve known Maki socially for years, yet I never fail to be impressed with how she crams that larger than life opera singer’s voice into that tiny little body. Her first song trailed off and she was soon joined by percussionist Daniel Diaz-Tai, and the show began in earnest. My lack of experience with fashion photography must have been on my face for all to see because the young lady next to me leaned in and very sweetly said “Just keep clicking, you’ll be fine,” Thus armed, I braced myself for the onslaught.

the lovely Miss Noguchi

The first flock of models to glide into view were wearing the dresses and jewelry of Allysun Dutra (kittenhawk.com). I had earlier thought Ms. Durta might have been having a bit of fun with me had told me that her designs were inspired by ghosts, but when I saw them on the runway, I became a believer. There was something lonely and haunting about the dresses, and something cruel. Combined with the antler headdresses and severe make-up I could see these models as part of some modern day Wild Hunt.

The second batch of models, in Kucoon Designs (kucoondesigns.com), provided stark contrast. Slightly cool earth tones, high waists, and cottony fabrics seemed to pull equally from the raves of the early nineties as from the court of Emperor Napoleon.

Next up, Danielle Pettee (daniellethedressmaker.com) pulled us out of winter and into the springs cute looks in bright floral colors. The dresses seemed crisp and playful, and the patterns suggestive of gardens in bloom without actual blossom prints (which I almost always find a little boring, so kudos Danielle).

The fourth batch was men’s wear from Alley (alley-sf.com). Husband and wife team Laura Patnaude and John Roblee started to design clothes because John could never quite find shirts and coats that fit him the way he really wanted them too. It’s clear that they took a lot of inspiration from Mr. Roblee’s work as a firefighter (firefighter/fashion-designer? Only in San Francisco). Clean lines and sturdy fabrics dominate.

The time our fifth designer, Avery Bell, spent costuming for the movie industry shows through her work, some of the dresses looked designed for Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, others wouldn’t have looked out of place in Blade Runner. Her designs were some of my favorites, though the collection seemed (to my woefully untrained eye) to be the least coherent.

The show was rounded out by the designs of our host for the evening, Jared Garza (shopflick.com/stores/Ric-Rac-Clothing), the proprietor of Archetype (shoparchetype.com). Jared’s love of the female form and glamour from every era is manifest in all that he creates. There were big shouldered dresses inspired by the Powerful Business Ladies of the ‘80’s mixed with very elegant flowing frocks of the late 50’s. All unified by vibrant fabrics and a sense of fun. I’ve known Garza for years, but I realized as I was interviewing him that I didn’t really know him at all. He spoke with great affection about his shop in Pasadena, and his time with the circus (for real). I asked him why it he felt it so important to put this show together.

“All of these designers are independent, eco-conscious, and place high value in craft. This work deserves to be seen,”

Things after the show get a bit… hazy. Too many drink tickets, and too much glamour left me a bit giddy. But I as I shuffled home in the light San Francisco mist I couldn’t help but reflect on how lucky I am to be living in this place, at this time. Surrounded by some of the most talented artists any man could hope to know.