By Molly Freedenberg
Oh, how I love me some fire. Which is how I found myself at The Crucible in Oakland on Friday night, home of fire arts and metal sculpture and non-profity goodness. And, on this particular night, fun and funky fashion. It seemed fitting that the theme of the show, Industrial Chic, was all about using recycled materials, as we've been working on our Green Issue all week. But that wasn't why I was there. No, I was there for fire and the clothes that fire lovers would make. Which, it turned out, was a good reason indeed.
The thing is, mainstream fashion can be so awful - all conformity and constriction and making you feel less than you are. But fashion can be fun. In reality, clothes are all costumes. They're expression and imagination and outward manifestation of an inward feeling or belief. The people behind this fashion show know this, and the clothes were all made for real people with real bodies and real interests. Sexy,
raw, comfy, dangerous, dainty, romantic, innovative, playful, wacky, personal. Ornate corsets layered over striped pantsuits. Girls in toe shoes wearing gauzy dresses and girls in black leather carrying post-apocalyptic flame throwers. A chain mail vest worn by a chained male. A dress made of knives. Red latex. Bathroom tile. Rope. Straps. Ribbons.
It helped that the show had good stage direction, good lighting, and models who looked like they actually knew what they were supposed to do. And you really can't go wrong with a flaming runway. But the reason Industrial Chic worked was really the designers and their vision -- not just for the clothes, but for presenting them. Each collection had its own theme song and its own theatricality - from S&M sexiness to heroin chic...well...sexiness. Fire dancers and belly dancers, simple runway walkers and a piece revolving around exchanging flowers.
It would be an oversight not to mention that the whole thing was rather Burning Man centric - most of the fashions displayed would be more at home on the playa than on Polk Street. But it's the part of Burning Man I love most - the part that's irreverent and imaginative, multi-faceted and inclusive, crazy, creative, and, above all, playful.
Bree Hylkema’s neon party dresses reimagined in latex, particularly one with a gathered, bustle-like back.
Everything Jamielyn Duggan of Eimaj Design presented, from wide-legged plaid pants and a matching halter to flowy fabric dance costumes, and from a pin-striped wedding dress to S&M-chic fire-dance wear.
The dancers in Urban Point Evocation (and whoever choreographed them), who exhibited Duggan’s work while dancing with fire and en pointe, successfully blending movement and modeling without sacrificing the purpose of either.
The badass, take-no-prisoners (or take only prisoners) work of Eric Pennella and Bonnie Heras.
Darina Drapkin's jacket made out of old license plates. Though this one is also by Darina Drapkin, it was so fantastic it deserves its own mention. (This wins the “How in the hell do you make that work?” Award. Well, this and the linoleum tile chest armor by Eric Pennella and Bonnie Heras.)
More than the clothes themselves, which are mostly vintage and found pieces put together in interesting ways, Spygirl Friday’s collection deserves mention for its clever, theatrical presentation. Think Marla in “Fight Club” meets the way you’d imagine Winona Ryder to actually look in her personal life. Or “I’m cute, I love fishnets, and I’m way too tired from my punk-themed three-day Jim Beam and cocaine binge to put on pants.”