Fashion Week for the fierce, pt I: Yao-za!

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Fab intern K. Tighe went to Thursday's Fashion Week emerging designers extravaganza, here's the take:

What to wear? The big question. When I decided to attend the 3rd Annual San Francisco Fashion Week, I didn't really think it through. You see, I'm not what one might call a "fashionable" person. Oh, I've got style for miles and miles -- but trendy I am not. I've been wearing a uniform of jeans, cowboy boots and free band swag t-shirts for years -- and the thought of dressing up for such an event frankly turns my stomach a little. So I did what any self-respecting journalist does in dicey situations such as these -- I put on a sweater. I figure at the very least I can start a trend -- the "dude ranch rocker on the slopes" look is gonna be all over the Milan runways next year, you watch.

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Makeup!!!

I head to the Galleria -- roughly 15th & Kansas, that highly fashionable district located just between the Mission and Potrero Hill -- hoping the walk will open my mind a little. SF's Fashion Week is not modeled after the stuff of New York and Paris events -- tonight will focus on emerging local designers, and that is a cause I can get behind. I hope.

The Galleria entrance comes into sight, and I am relieved to see more people wearing jeans -- though I'm still the only champ sporting shit-kickers. Before I can get to press registration, two guys with clipboards intercept me, stuff an Atkins bar in my hand, and making me pose for a picture. A moment of panic sets in. First of all, how the hell am I going to write non-snarky things about Fashion Week if they are handing out ATKINS bars? It's just too easy to be harsh. Secondly, if I ever intend to run for office, that picture will probably resurface as the center of a smear campaign trumpeting my tendency to buy into senseless fads and possibly, my affection for bacon. Oh well, at least I have a snack for later.

Press Registration is a relief. Nothing pulls an ensemble together like a black laminate media badge.

Inside, I head directly to the bar. Soon juggling a suitcase-sized bag of press releases and a $9 glass of wine, I decide to head to the backstage areas and pirate other people's pictures. My trusty digital camera and I are fantastic about standing behind photographers and swiping their poses (and a little of their flash if timed just right). The back stage is actually accessible to anyone walking by (it is conveniently located next to the elevators, therefore anyone changing floors must weave through a buzzing hall of make-up artists, hair stylists, and models clamoring about).

I encounter a group of models having a smoke-break. They are probably being paid to smoke here, because the photographers are lapping it up. Joe Camel eat your heart out. A male model for Gypsy and Loic--the only all-menswear line that will show tonight--gives me the skinny on his designers (they want him to get a buzz on before going down the runway) on the scene (Janice Dickinson has been spotted in the house) and insight into the modeling world ("Uh, I don't know. I just do this to pay the bills").

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Smokin' hottt

Janice Dickinson? This is probably the only chance I'll ever get to be paparazzi. I run back into the building and almost run smack into an impossibly tall, waspishly-dressed regal rail of a women being loaded onto an elevator. Ms. Dickinson! The self-proclaimed world's first supermodel was wearing a dress made by a designer from the opening night of Fashion Week. What generous spirit! I hightail it for the stairs and manage to catch a glimpse of her getting off on the 4th floor -- which is the VIP lounge. She looks ready to settle in for a while, so I hold off on the photos and blend.

Blending at Fashion Week in my boots and sweater? Not so much.

Raw fish is spotted making it's rounds on a tray, so I follow and pluck a sashimi slice topped with caviar off and pop it into my mouth. VIP. I can totally get used to this. The bar up here is free, which would have been nice to know before I dropped a small fortune downstairs. I get a refill on my wine and grab some passing truffles. I see my good friend Janice perched on a white ottoman thing -- the kind they only have in swanky VIP lounges. She doesn't see me. Here's my shot. I hide behind a cocktail waitress. Janice is looking the other way. I take the picture. Janice is looking the other way. I look down at the screen on my camera and realize that Ms. Dickinson has shot me a smile and a wicked pose. How the hell did she do that?

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Janice!!!

I tote my new respect for models back down to the main floor. I have a great seat, in the center of the runway, between two stylish women and directly across from my good friend Janice. Perfect! Gauging other people's reactions is a huge part of my attack strategy. I hear Janice is here in support of her models--a few of the girls from the Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency are in the show tonight.

The best part about my seat is the goody bag waiting for me. All the thigh-exfoliants, eye-creams, rinse-out conditioner and super hydrating serums I'll ever need. Also included: a one-week guest pass to the gym I already pay $70 a month for— and haven't gone to in the last three months. I knew Fashion Week would slap me in the face somehow.

House lights go down, blinding runway lights go up and we're off!

So no one gets auf'd—but no one sends a basket cap or shower curtain down the runway, either. The highlights for me are the beautifully tailored designs of Young K. Park, the rock-and-roll secretary stylings of Jeremy Parr and the goth-couture goodness by Emily Yao. Each designer shows three designs, and many are just a little too conceptual to stroke my fancy.

During the last showing my good friend Janice disappears, and I am a bit worried until Robert Verdi (From Fashion Police) takes the stage. "Back there it's like Zoolander and out here it's The Shawshank Redemption," Verdi quipps—making reference to the four gated stories of audience, "And I know. I have some prison fantasies." Verdi dives straight into a lengthy and obsequious Janice Dickinson introduction — explaining about her new modeling agency, her infamous charms, and her latest project — a reality show on the Oxygen network. "So it's television for women, but I watch it," admits Verdi to a chuckling room. "Are you heckling me? I'm gay — but I will kick the shit out of you!" Catty gay men are easily my favorite part of the fashion world. Except that blonde guy on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy — I am so glad he's not here.

So of course, my good friend Janice prances onto the runway, looking svelt and perfect before mock-stumbling a little. She explains how she coined the term supermodel and tells us that she's been in the business for 9 million years. Ms. Dickinson then officially proclaims that "San Francisco is now on the map with Fashion Week." to thunderous applause.

And the award for best Emerging Star goes to…

Student designer Emily Yao! I feel smug satisfaction for having recognized the fabulousness of Yao's futuristic latex eveningwear.

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Yao rules

So what's next for Ms. Yao? Project Runway Season Four? We can only hope—the Vidal-chic designer would be a far better rep for the hipster sect than the husky-voiced, paper-molding Alison from this season.

Before intermission (and some more free drinks and caviar) we have to sit through Wee Scotty. Designs for little kids. At least it will be cute right? So, so very wrong.

As the kids start parading down the runway, we realize that the idea is a kind of 'fashion through the ages' thing. This is not inspiration. These are straight-up costumes that will never see the light of day. Maybe some community theatre would be interested. The overwhelming theme for this show is adult. Way too adult for clothing modeled by little kids. It's not so horrible until we get to the 80s inspired stuff—at which point the savvy fashion lady sitting to the right of me flees in disgust and the savvy fashion lady to the left of me launches into commentary about the tastelessness of such a collection in the wake of the whole Jon Benet Ramsey thing.

I have a simpler take: I don't ever, ever, ever want to see a 12 year old in a mid-drift baring biker chick get-up. Ever.

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At this point the photographers stop taking pictures and I see them discussing things amongst themselves. I wonder if the subject is whether or not photos taken here would be legally considered child pornography. At the end of the show a woman and a man in a kilt come down the runway, amidst the flock of scantily clad children, smiling ear-to-ear at their achievement. Yuck.

Time for some liquor to wash those images out of my mind for good.

Upstairs I partake in some more wine, delicious truffles and churros. I assume the churros are to add a little bit of San Francisco flavor to the swanky environs.

The next part of the show features more established designers. The Gypsy and Loic show is fun—this is due to the parade of well-cut male models peeling off their shirts in response to my good friend Janice's cries of "Take it off!" I guess all that 'getting buzzed before the show' paid off, because the energy is high, the guys are having fun, and the whole crowd gets a much needed dose of post-jail-bait sexuality. The collection features a lot of polos, khakis, and cut-off hoodies that looked like they belong in an H&M catalogue.

Donna Lou's models keep the energy going, marching down the runway to a Faint medley. This is just like the medley on the LP soundtrack of Grease, only with the Faint instead of Olivia Newton John. Don't get confused. Lou's clothes were perfectly tailored and accented with adorable slips of polka-dot gauze peaking out.

Lastly, an unexpected addition to the program takes the form of Besnik. This collection features disappointing garment after disappointing garment. While Carrie Bradshaw may have been in heaven with these clothes, this writer thinks a designer should learn a woman's body before trying to dress it. Each piece is over-draped or looks vaguely like a sewing machine fuck-up. Way to end the evening, Besnik.

All in all, my Fashion Week experience was wonderful. I started the night with little more than boots, a sweater, and a dream. I ended up with a belly full of sashimi and wine, a bag full of goodies, a hard-earned Atkins bar, a good friend in the infamous Janice Dickinson* and the understanding that within our little city reside some very inspired, driven and sassy designers that have taken it upon themselves to put San Francisco on the fashion map.

***Janice Dickinson is not now, nor has she ever been a good friend of the writer's.

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