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The Elements of Style
Photographs by Dina Scoppettone
So, how do we look?
It's a question worth asking for Silicon Valley, which we are constantly reminded is still growing into its identity as an urban center. San Jose has made the U.S. city Top 10 list, and the whole country still looks to this valley for high-tech leadership and innovation. We're built up, we're plugged in ... but we're still dressed down.
It's true—if this area has an image problem, it starts in the wardrobe department. Where's the leadership there? Where's the eye-popping fashion that lends an urban mecca its street credibility?
True, no one is expected to dress like they do on the runway, but we don't even have a runway. We had to put the Project Runway chick in the Quilt Museum, that's how hip we are when it comes to fashion.
That's why the Elements Fashion Show on May 20 was such a big deal. Finally putting the City Hall rotunda to a use we can support. Those who consider matters of style a bit frivolous should note that the show benefited Next Door Solutions and the Salvation Army. And those who are as intrigued as we are with cutting-edge fashions should study these pages for a taste of things to come.
This year's event was a showcase for designer Colleen Quen's 2006 collection, "Empresses' New Clothes," and that's also the focus of our spread. Perhaps nothing here captures the idea of "elemental" fashion quite like "Golden Luxury" (pic 3). Made of 1,000 capese shells from the Philippines sprayed with 24-karat gold and hand-sewn into silk, Quen considers this her collaboration with Mother Earth, with the mermaid angle adding a touch of the sea. No, you can't sit down in it, but remember, we're talking about stepping onto the cutting edge, where it is better to look good than to feel good. And the sound it makes when you walk is incredible.
Two other key Quen creations in this collection are the China yellow minidress and jacket (pic 4) and the Apple Green Empress Nagako (pic 1). Both capture Quen's penchant for melding architectural landscapes into fashion concepts—and what could be more appropriate for our push into big-city style? The Empress Nagako, a green evening coat made from Duchess silk, blends European and Asian influences, much like Silicon Valley does every day. It has a French cut but several Asian touches: a fan shape at the cuffs, black ornate silk fasteners in the shape of frogs, and a signature collar with a flower shape.
Quen's Princess Diana dress (pic 5) attempts to balance the architectural elements with a human touch, which parallels the Elements show's attempt to temper all the fashion flair with a refreshing lack of snobbery. The Princess Diana gets bounce from the boning around the edges of the tiers, and an organic feel from the addition of handmade yarn flowers.
Whatever the focus on Quen's work, we'd be remiss not to include the work of designers Ted Baker (the sharp-dressed-man suit in pic 2), and Fornarina of Italy (pic 6), who were also featured in the show. With the added elements of musical performances and a buzz that should push it into further expansion next year, it seems obvious that Silicon Valley's fashion future is elemental.
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