Hot Couture 

The fashion seen in downtown Oaktown.

Hey, you! Up there in the Tribune tower, the lady executive. Yes, you. Did you get paid last week? What are you doing after work? How'd you like to spend some of that white-collar lucre on something more upscale than the pantyhose at Sears? Have we got the disposable-income opportunity for you.

"Commonly, we have to go to San Francisco for shows," says Larisa Flint Snydal of Offhand Designs. "And we thought, there are a whole lot of wonderful people who come to work in downtown Oakland that don't know that many people are creating amazing things right here within blocks of where they work." Snydal makes her scrumptious, colorful handbags (above) in a studio at 1633 Broadway she shares with Sharon Olson's Glad Rags to Gowns and Raquel Lopez's Costumes by Raquel. The three, plus two other designers, will be showing and selling this week at the first of what they hope will be a quarterly schedule of Broadway Design Studios Spring Open Studios. "Each show we plan to have an interesting variety of guests here in our space," Snydal says, "a diversity of design."

Along with the Offhand purses, this first event will feature custom-made couture, career, and special occasion wear by Olson (who also makes costumes for the SF Ballet); Lopez' flamenco costumes; the drapey, casually classy designs in jersey knits and rayon stretch by Jessie Jaeger's Toast; and Ashley Rogers' jewelry designs, created under the Green Halo Designs moniker. The designers have one thing in common -- they all live and create in Oakland. "We're all dedicated to living and working in our local community," Snydal says, "and I feel like we've all chosen Oakland because we felt like it was a place that we could do our work, not just financially, but we like the neighborhoods we're living in. Even though we plan to grow bigger, we are grounded in Oakland. This is where we like to be."

You can meet the designers, enjoy some wine, and flex your credit rating this Thursday, March 25, from 5 to 8 p.m.


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