THE GUARDIAN GUIDE TO BURNING MAN: Burner designers move beyond disposable fashion
In a previous incarnation, Caroligne was a physical therapist. When she began her fashion career, she did so with an eye toward her clothing's effect on individual body dynamics. She created weighted coats that swung appealing when their owner strode across dusty Black Rock streets, sexy dresses made of cozy fabric that could be doubled around the face for warmth or privacy. At times, her clothing can even reflect the party philosophy of the wearer– she often asks customers whether they'd like the softest fabric of their new wardrobe item on the inside or outside. "Do you want to feel it or do you want other people to feel it?"
She believes what one wears at Burning Man can be empowering. "We're finding your superhero self. What does your superhero look like?" is a common topic of discussion in initial consultations.
Judging from the length of her in-process dress' skirt, Long's superhero is sultry — but also here to get some work done. An intact overall strap has been left to speak for itself on the right shoulder, and below, grease-stained Carhart pieces have been left whole so that Long's customary wrench loop will continue to ride comfortably on her right hip. Caroligne is attempting to create an outfit that expresses the wearer.
"During my 12 years at Burning Man, I've seen the change from self-made to high fashion," says Hulva, whose Tamo Design clothes "originate from ideas about making my wardrobe more functional and fashionable on the playa.
Hulva makes luxe faux fur that doesn't shed M.O.O.P. like the cheaper stuff you'll find at many a mall store. Her popular "Baroness" jacket is late-night-early-morning playa crawl dream wear, with a hood to hide in, fabric that gives, deep pockets to store party essentials — and you don't have to be so glum about covering up your LED tube top: it's sexy, to boot.
When pumped about hot playa trends for 2011, Caroligne and Hulva were loathe to cite anything too specific (though Caroligne expressed her enthusiasm for "playful 1980s revival styles"), rooting instead for individuality.
Burning Man fashion is about "a platform for self-expression," according to Caroligne. Clothes, she says, "are the primary way that people can express themselves," accessible even to those that specialize in other forms of playa magic, like Long.
But they did note a general trend arch over the festival's history. The past of Burning Man lay in DIY clothes, self-made everything. The present has brought professionally-made garb, and the mass accessibility of a certain playa "look." The future? Hulva hopes it holds "a trend to be more sustainable and practical — in addition to keeping things light and fun."
She's working on it. On Sunday, Aug. 7, Hulva is organizing the Haute Pool Show, a gathering at the Phoenix Hotel of 20 local, independent designers selling their high quality, playa-ready belts, vests, and accessories. It's a follow up to her last event — July's Beyond the Fence at Mighty — and both cater to those preparing for their journey to Black Rock City.
Only these aren't clothes you'll be reserving for the desert. Sure, they're whimsical, but Burning Man fashion — particularly here in the Bay Area — really is stepping beyond the playa fence. The festival's recent sell-out of tickets and an expected crowd of around 52,000 underline the fact that its impact is growing, and style cues picked up from the playa may just be finding their way into year-round usage.
"Versatile styles are hot this year," says Hulva. "Burning Man fashion has really migrated into the everyday self expression, so people are buying things they can wear on the playa and back home."
HAUTE POOL SHOW
Sun/7 2-8 p.m., free
601 Eddy, SF
Facebook: Haute Pool Show