October 24, 2014

On Edge: Meet Rising Designer Camelia Skikos

While some designers draw inspiration from the schoolgirl look to make preppy plaid skirts paired with chunky knitted cardigans, up-and-coming womenswear fashion designer Camelia Skikos instead turned to her school uniform from communist-era Romania to make bold, edgy pieces that would have surely gotten her sent home.

“I was really inspired by the first experience I had with fashion. I used to modify my school uniform in communist Romania and get in trouble. I want my clothes to make people feel special and escape from monotony and uniformity,” explains Skikos, who was recently named one of 7×7 magazine’s Top 20 Under 40.

Skikos hasn’t lost touch with her rebellious nature when it comes to fashion. Her last two collections featured body-skimming dresses with geometric shapes and cage-like leather cutouts influenced by architecture and sculptures from the likes of Yves Klein, Anish Kapoor and Alexander Calder.

Prior to launching her eponymous collection in 2010, the graduate of Romania’s University of Art designed for various brands in London before winning a lottery-based visa to come to the United States, where she has held positions as head designer for Levi Strauss, designer for Gap and fashion design instructor at the Academy of Art University.

Now, the Diamond Heights resident spends her days in front of an enviable skyscraper view of the city while behind her stands a tall bookshelf stocked with books devoted to fashion and illustration. Despite her glamorous view, Skikos may set her sights elsewhere.

“I’m just about to start my research for the next collection. I always need to travel a little bit before I start. I’m very inspired by the energy of different places and people,” says Skikos of her forthcoming spring/summer 2012 collection, which she expects to launch in the fall.

The designer herself may soon be abroad, but you can find her designs ($300 to $800) locally in the Mission at Wonderland Boutique and at Soma’s 440 Brannan.

Photography courtesy of Claudia Goetzelmann for Camelia Skikos

From Parris With Love: Meet Designer Louisa Parris

When it comes to the fast-paced and highly detailed world of fashion, one small mishap could potentially lead to a total collection meltdown. Such was not the case for rising womenswear fashion designer Louisa Parris, who admits the launch of her eponymous line was a bit of an accident.

“It wasn’t intentional, I never thought I’d quite be ready, but I just thought, ‘Well, you know, get those gowns that I’ve drawn off the page and make them into 3D pieces.’ Now I live and breathe it, ” said Parris in her charming English accent.

The designs would never have left the pages of Parris’s sketchbook had she not been selected as the eveningwear winner of the 2008 Gen Art’s Styles International Design Competition, something she decided to enter “on a whim.”

Originally from England, The Central St. Martin’s graduate started her design career with popular brands like Mulberry, DKNY and Ghost until settling in San Francisco soil in 2005, where she began teaching fashion design at the Academy of Art University. Parris has since left the corporate fashion scene and her teaching post to further develop her brand that has received some well-deserved recognition in publications such as The Collective, Elle, Latin American Vogue and Women’s Wear Daily.

The rave reviews admire Parris’s previous collections of clean-lined, long, flowing gowns that were generated by an array of inspirations, from abstract shapes and colors to cultural muses such as Amish quilts and Elizabeth Taylor á la the 1960s.

What’s next on her agenda?

“I’m working on some really unique accessories, [where] I get to put a real flair into the designs. It will be quite distinctive,” said an excited Parris.

As for her next collection, that’s between Parris and her drawing boards, as the designer is keeping her creations under wraps until their debut expected sometime later this year.

And even though Parris is a fan of San Francisco stores like Vintage à la Mode and Torso Vintages, don’t expect to find any of her draping ensembles on any local racks just yet. For now, you can scour the collections on the Louisa Parris website and contact the designer to have a gown made especially for you.

Photography courtesy of Michael O’Neal for Louisa Parris. Hats by Laela Barnard

Fair Enough? Fair Trade Fashion Still Faces Challenges

Last July, Oakland’s Fair Trade USA reached a significant landmark in the fair trade fashion industry with the development of the world’s first-ever certification for ethically manufactured apparel. But the battle hasn’t been won. At last Monday’s Global Action Through Fashion event, panelists of well-informed fair trade experts and activists highlighted challenges that still face the industry. Read on for more on what fashion labels need to overcome to improve apparel manufacturing conditions worldwide.

First established within the farming industry, the concept of fair trade was introduced to ensure producers receive fair premiums for their goods, an idea that may be lost on many consumers. But according to one panelist, understanding fair trade shouldn’t necessarily be the first step in educating consumers.

“Consumers don’t know how clothes are made in general. I took video of our factory and then put it on our Facebook page and it turned out to be the most-consumed piece of content. One person posted, ‘I had no idea, I thought my clothes were made by robots,’” said Jeff Denby of Berkeley-based organic underwear brand PACT, which hopes to become fair trade certified.

Why PACT isn’t yet is another fair trade challenge: certification is hard to come by. With strict rules and regulations that are about 20 pages long, certification has proven to be difficult for a company to follow. For PACT, achieving the distinction will mean switching its organic cotton source to another that is fair trade certified, a risky move in a fluctuating organic cotton market.

Guidelines notwithstanding, small businesses in particular face fair trade hurdles.

“For small businesses, they are often only a very small percentage of a factory’s production and so one challenge is actually convincing their factory to go through a very robust audit that is going to require them to make some changes with how they do their business,” explained Tierra Del Forte of Fair Trade USA.

So far, no factory has passed inspection on the first try, added Del Forte.

Despite these roadblocks, Santa Rosa apparel line Indigenous Designs, has managed to obtain the fair trade certification as not just a retailer of a few fair trade products, but as an entire company.

“For us, it’s just the right way to do things and how to be conscience about it, treating people with respect and dignity,” said Matt Reynolds, co-founder of Indigenous, who shows that fair trade certification is something that not only ought to be obtained, but can be.

Snap Judgement: Vintage ’70s Tiger Tunic

Our very-visual, (almost) chatter-free snap judgment of the day: the delightfully tacky sheer 70′s-era animal print tunic top, $15, from San Francisco-based vintage Etsy shop Lost Feather Vintage, a local source for notably affordable casual and trendy styles from the ’70s and ’80s.

More snap judgments

Snap Judgment: Linquist Geometric Body Chain

Our very-visual, (almost) chatter-free snap judgment of the day: a geometric body chain capable of turning a plain top into a bold fashion statement, $63, by San Francisco-based jewelry designer Linquist Jewelry. Intrigued? Peruse the additional offerings in the etsy shop to find matching earrings and gold-toned body armor accessories.

More snap judgments