Michelle Tea hits Sewdown


By Michelle Tea

Last Saturday night I went to Sewdown, a fashion party that billed itself as an alternative to San Francisco’s fashion week.

Yes, San Francisco has a fashion week, and it’s OK that you didn’t know that.


Sewdown took place at the Temple Nightclub, a place that does indeed look like a temple, for a religious sect worshipful of art galleries: the place is all white with high-ceilings and cold columns on the inside. The perfect place for a fashion show!

Me and my partner in finery, writer/filmmaker Tara Jepsen, grabbed some Cokes (no Diet Cokes? at a fashion show?) and started posing. Tara had raided the closet of an employee of Danielle Steel who gets to go on shopping jaunts to Paris, and as a result was wearing a Behnaz Sarafpour dress of silkscreened black lace and a mesh heart that framed her cleavage in a sweetly pornographic style. She also scored a knit Dolce & Gabbana purse, which we entertained ourselves with by speculating on its original price. Tara confirmed that yes undeed it does make you feel like a better person to wear amazingly fancy clothes, and I believe her because I felt like a better person just standing next to her. But this is not about me and Tara, this is about Sewdown.

Because we were press we each had little seats reserved for us right in front of the runway! This was wicked exciting and fulfilled many dreams born during viewings of Project Runway. And not only did we have cool seats, we had gift bags waiting for us. We both grumbled that they better be not like those shitty gift bags you get at the Frameline Film Festival — year-old gay magazines, dried-up highlighters, and a coffee coupon — and they weren’t! The 7x7 magazine was the current issue! There were tons of Redken hair products, and though I won’t use the Benefit Jiffy Tan sunless tanner because I fear looking like an Oompa-Loompa, I will use the coupon for a free brow makeover. Look and learn, Frameline!

Not being part of SF’s fashion world — though I try, oh, how I try — and not having gone to the official fashion week, it is hard to know what to say about Sewdown. Does one go to an open mic and get angry at the fumbling poets for not being Sylvia Plath? One does not. One congratulates them on how far they’ve come and wishes them continued growth and success into the future, and that is how I feel about Sewdown.

I will offer one critique — lingerie designers, please do not put a seam in the center of the crotch. Do you want us to all have camel toe? In the words of Tara Jepsen, "I fucking can’t believe that any woman sews underwear that way." She was mad!

I will offer one bit of sincere praise -- jewelry designer Maducca is amazing, creating earrings, necklaces and bracelets from wood, with gold charms stuck to them, like black wooden earrings with owl faces, or a thin gold chain hung with polished wooden balls. Not for sale was a pair of mussel shells painted gold with a pearl caught in the hinge, and though this may sound like the sort of kitschy stuff one would buy in a tacky beach town souvenir shop, they really worked. I’d wear them. But then, I collect shell art.

And finally, a suggestion: cast a wider net. Seek out more designers. A bigger variety of styles would have made the event feel like a true alternative to fashion week, not an event happening in its shadow. I’m psyched to check it out again next year and cheer its evolution.

Michelle Tea's anthology It's So You: 35 Women Write About Personal Expression Through Fashion and Style, will be published October 2007 by Seal Press.

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