The Rise of Slow Fashion 

The Bay Area fashion scene has long been outshined by New York and LA. Now, a group of independent fashion supporters is trying to take the lead in sustainable fashion. Can they succeed?

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It's also why the idea for a Fashion Week in Oakland was scrapped. Earlier this year, the idea was being tossed around between a group of East Bay designers and advocates, who envisioned it as a more indie-oriented alternative to San Francisco Fashion Week that would be sponsored by the city. But Deborah Acosta, who works in the city's community and economic development office, said she decided not to pursue it after learning of the issues with San Francisco's Fashion Week and realizing that it wouldn't be sustainable in Oakland either.

"I feel sometimes that there's so many different scenes within the fashion scene, we've now come [to] a time for the larger fashion community as a whole to have some place for cohesion," said Yerba Buena's Cicely Sweed. "I think really what it's going to take is for different people to step up and to create spaces that can be the foundation for people's businesses."


At least for one day, Sweed's vision recently came to fruition. On a blustery Saturday afternoon in October at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, dozens of vendors set up shop at the Bay Area Guide to Independent Fashion Festival, sort of a pre-launch for Ntofon's book. In addition to vendors, there were runway shows and a panel discussion on fashion and politics.

Though it wasn't billed as a "green" event, by default it pretty much was. There were socks made from regenerated cotton, handbags made out of candy wrappers by juvenile delinquents in Mexico, a vintage Björk T-shirt attached to a vintage dress bottom, an old beach mat made into a visor, and earrings out of fabric scraps.

Sweed and Ntofon's idea of sharing resources and getting the community together seemed to be happening, though the turnout was a bit scant — due no doubt to the $10 admission price.

At Jennifer Lynne's table, two women perused lace undies and tiny pouches designed like cat heads.

"Where did you get the fabric?" asked Lee Guichan, a San Francisco-based photographer and clothing designer, admiring the patterns.

Lynne explained she had made dresses out of them. "All of these wallets are made out of garments I made a long time ago," she says, proudly.

Guichan's friend, Nicole Eymard, a fashion student at CCA dressed in head-to-toe 1930s vintage, suggests that Lynne accessorize the pouch with a matching headband. "You could sell it for more money," she says.

Then she notices the undies. "You make underwear too?" Eymard asks.

"Yeah," says Lynne.

"It's pretty. Good job!" says Eymard.

The discussion moves toward Eymard's outfit: her turquoise blue flats, mustard-brown tights, matching lace dress, chevron-striped sweater cardigan, and green crocheted hat.

Lynne mentions her sleeping masks are made out of bamboo.

Guichan and Eymard don't buy anything, and decide to check out one of the spontaneous runway shows that have just started. Afterward, Guichan muses about how the Bay Area fashion scene has changed over the years. She says there's a lot more acceptance of creative work, and that she believes that people who make things on their own are contributing to society.

But still, there's clearly a long way to go in changing the public's opinions of consumption — even at an event celebrating indie fashion. On the other side of the room, a woman was admiring one vendor's jewelry when her daughter, dressed in jeans, a white T-shirt, and UGG boots, approached with a male friend, looking restless.

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