I have a confession to make.
I didn't think Friday night's exquisite shows could be topped.
Lesson learned? Never underestimate San Diego design talent.
La Jolla's Wall Street locale evoked a more zen, relaxed vibe for the Fashion Week San Diego (FWSD) Saturday runway finale, which would reveal to guests a spread of striking, glitzy and beautiful collections.
When I arrived, guests were toasting the weekend -- and some cooler La Jolla evening weather. Even the music, courtesy of DJ Eric Love of Sleeping Giant, leaned more toward a bubbly pop vibe, with a side of reggae and some 90’s favorites (can you say Technotronic?). Yes, now we all have “Pump Up The Jam” in our head. You’re welcome.
With a glass of Bon Affair Sauvignon Blanc White Spritzer in hand, I took my seat and watched the puppy preface to the night's designers. Puppies from the Rancho Coastal Humane Society made their way down the runway for the "Haute Dog Fashion Show" -- cuteness overload, anyone? Precious pooches had us all wanting to take them home -- and hopefully some very lucky new owners did, as all the dogs shown were available for on-the-spot adoption.
FWSD Founder Allison Andrews presented the final darling puppy – in a dye-sublimated dress by Scott Rich, featuring a print of her own three canine friends – and then remained on stage. Thanking this year’s sponsors and partners, she encouraged attendees to continue to support emerging designers, reiterating that this is such a key avenue in getting their start.
Speaking of careers taking off, I noticed a familiar face making her way through the crowd: the richly hued lavender hair was a sure tipoff. A number of years ago, I saw San Diego native Ashley Tipton present a piece at the Timken Museum's "Art of Fashion" event, and I can still remember the meticulous detail that went into her creation. When she walked me through all the steps she had taken to form a most dramatic element of the gown, I knew she had big things ahead.
So you can imagine how excited I was to hear she'd been invited to join the current season of "Project Runway." I shared with her on Instagram that 2011 photo of her creation, and was thrilled I could congratulate her in person last night. It's these kind of stories that ring true and provide such inspiration to the rest of us working toward the future, especially during Fashion Week.
Co-MCs Jeff Krapf and NBC 7’s Jodi Kodesh opened the second night of style runway shows – showcasing collections from 11 emerging designers – by introducing Candy Bee Swimwear. Taught by her mother, a seamstress, Candy Bee Champa’s line features swimwear designs both playful and sexy in bold and eye-grabbing colors. I had the chance to talk with Candy Bee about the FWSD designer experience for a moment on Friday evening and asked her what she was most excited about.
“I’m just so ready for it to be here, and eager to have all the designers in one place. We’ve become this community in our time together, and I’m really excited to see them all in person again,” she said.
Sasha Bravo – a jewelry designer working with organic and natural elements – then presented her earthy-yet-sophisticated collection. I particularly loved the common marine blue palette, on which her earrings, necklaces and rings really popped. The accompanying ethereal soundtrack really gave the show a lovely, otherworldly-type feel.
Speaking of a blue palette, I was totally digging the makeup concept from Makeup State of Mind for last night’s show. Allison reminded guests in her opening welcome, they not only were we seeing the latest in style trends, but also seeing forward-thinking beauty perspectives. With gold so currently en vogue, the team from Gila Rut incorporated the style trend by adding both gold flakes and hair paint on show models.
MC Jodi Kodesh added a personal note when introducing the next designer, Territa Torres. After seeing her designs pass by during a FWSD planning meeting, she knew she had to wear a Torres original to present at the Emmys in June. What drew her in was the immaculate pleating she saw on Territa’s pieces, and we all could see why when Torres' models walked down the runway.
Her pleated accents, minimalist vibe and use of muted army green, navy and gray came together in a sublime and completely contemporary way. To say she understands the “day-to-night” workdress would be an understatement. I had so many pieces picked out that could seamlessly go from 9:00 a.m. suit jacket to 6:00 p.m. glass of syrah.
Next up was Bay Area designer Nikki Marie. Channeling images of a carefree Jackie Kennedy on vacation, her early 1960s-inspired shapes, beautifully washed in coral and sea blue, had us booking flights to the Amalfi Coast. Of particular note were the pinstriped strap elements seen on her pieces’ shoulders and waist.
The first half of the program concluded with the collection by Scott Rich. By employing a dye-sublimation method to print his fabrics, the crispness and color of the prints seen in his designs were beyond unreal. I felt magically surrounded by star jasmine in bloom, Hawaiian hibiscus and a white sandy beach at the same time. After spending more than a decade working in the marketing communications field, the printing geek in me was also going crazy.
Black Filigree Couture, who started the second half of the show, wowed us from the beginning with Elle Audra’s beyond-elaborate wirewrapped creations. The ornamental nature of her corseted designs immediately invoked a “Midsummer Night’s Dream” feel, striking a stunning balance between structured and romantic. During the final walk, there was a moment where I clearly saw the relationship a designer has with the models sharing their work with the world. There was a palpable sense of relief, as well as pride and gratitude, that was really touching.
Return designer Marcie Bain then shared her B.JASH.I collection, a highly glamorous take on the Native American medicine wheel. The masterful mix of sparkly tulle, feathers, leather and fringe, toned in bold yellow, red and black, had the crowd entranced -- and me, lusting all over it. Marcie’s designs also included the most gorgeous long-sleeved black jersey dress, which quite possibly could have been my favorite piece of all. It dripped with subtle sophistication.
From the initial gleam of her out-of-this-world costume jewelry, Gwen Bates had our eyes glued to the runway with her GFASH Couture line. You physically could not turn away from the ridiculous amounts of bling on display with every new model. I had to actually seek resuscitation from my neighbor, as the looks were increasingly more and more fabulous and I just couldn’t take it. I loved the smiles on the models as they did their final walk with Gwen, as it was quite obvious they all felt like a million bucks (and rightfully so).
Kristine Rodriguez of Responsive Textiles opened her show with a unique video introducing this line as her “Revival Series.” You have never seen knitwear like this, my friends. Modern, sexy, minimalist – and totally exquisite. Her knitting process results in complete and utter perfection. I really can’t gush enough. It also helps that I sat across the runway from her darling parents, who were over the moon with their pride.
I have to preface my coverage of this next designer with an extreme crush alert. I actually approached Timmithea before the show, noticing her citrine frock with petal sleeves and embroidered flower. When we started talking, I realized she was actually one of the night’s designers! She was exposed to fashion early on in Los Angeles by her mom-and-dad artists. Pulling from the past – particularly the 1970s and 1930s – in a most vibrant palette, she creates a beautiful style marriage that is universally flattering.
Let me tell you a few things about myself: I die for black-and-white, 99% of my wardrobe has a stripe, and I can’t resist a strong floral. So when Timmithea’s models started down the runway in black-and-white striped tops paired with skirts and bellbottoms in the boldest of hot pink blooms – well, you can imagine what happened next. I started hearing voices. Voices that said, “get in my closet.” I couldn’t sleep thinking about running to find her at the trunk show today like I’m competing on “The Amazing Race.”
Similar to Friday night, the show closed on an exceptionally high note with NaPóstol Couture. With forms that proudly celebrate the female figure, it’s no surprise that NaPóstol designs have already been seen on “Dancing With the Stars” and at the Grammys and Miss Universe Pageant. Set to the perfect mashup of Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” and Beyonce’s “Girls,” Nessa Apostol’s confident-yet-soft gowns had us feeling quite goddess-like ourselves, and they were stunning from the back, thanks to each design's dramatic train.
What an amazing experience to see this level of talent up-close, and a reminder of what an absolutely first-class production Allison Andrews and her FWSD team pull off. A huge thanks again to Fashion Week San Diego and NBC 7 San Diego, and I look forward to bringing you the scoop from Sunday’s trunk show at La Valencia.
My husband, however, is not looking forward to the impact on our bank account.