News, music, movies & restaurants from the editors of the Silicon Valley's #1 weekly newspaper.
Serving San Jose, Palo Alto, Los Gatos, Campbell, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Fremont & nearby cities.

News and Features
August 23-29, 2006

home | metro silicon valley index | features | silicon valley | feature story

Amy Doan

Dressy Bessy: Dress designer Amy Doan prefers 'Desperate Housewives' to 'Project Runway.'

Girlie Fabulous

Cutting-edge clothier Shrinkle transforms Blank Club into fashion central

By Todd Inoue

AMY DOAN's warning that the inside of her new Japantown digs looks like "a Vietnamese sweatshop threw up all over it" is only partially correct. Rolls of fabric lie in corners; a bathing suit from the '40s lies buried under messy lumps of unsorted sheets and clothing from indeterminate origins; a sewing machine sits ready to rock on a large work table. This interview and photo shoot forced the shock-blue-haired Doan to clean up her dojo, even change out of the Target sweats that she normally tools around the house in. But for the feng shui faux pas, on two dummies and a hanger hang the results of the condo chaos—fashionable, dainty nightclub wear that blurs the line between "girlie fabulous" and "I'll whip your ass, and you'll like it."

"It's gotten a lot girlier," Doan corrects. "I used to make it all punkish, but now I'm going all out with the frills, the lace, the pink and the bows." Shrinkle's one-woman operation began four years ago as a hobby for the Milpitas High and CSU-Hayward graduate. She fiddled with a sewing machine to satisfy her fashion whims and didn't stop—making outrageous outfits out of reassembled T-shirts and dresses copped from thrift stores. She started an eBay hustle out of her old condo, where she sewed one-of-a-kind items in the kitchen.

Today, despite her protestations, there is more order than chaos and her creations reflect this. The clothes elicit more stares of envy than shock. She creates high-tension nightclub wear for the electroclash set. Shocking pinks, red hearts and polka dots are kitted out in satin and lace with subtle tough touches. On one piece, a dainty bow is held in place by a minilock. "It's how I always dressed, but a few years ago, I was making things I thought were popular or what everybody liked. But now I'm like, fuck it, I'm making my dream clothes—things that I wish there were more of."

That means losing the thrift store, though she says she couldn't resist a tacky relaxo-wear number torn from the back of an Arizona retiree. "I couldn't resist. I thought I could make a cute tank top out of it," she says, examining the shirt decorated with boats. This vision—taking something ordinary (even tackily banal) and making it extraordinary—is what makes Doan and her Shrinkle clothing line special.

On Aug. 26, Shrinkle presents Dollhaus, its first fashion show at the Blank Club. Models draped in the latest Shrinkle creations will strut down a catwalk while DJs Sleazemore and Cinderaura spin electro, indie, punk and New Wave. Doan originally made items one at a time, but she plans to create dozens in different sizes for select consumers. As a result, she is stressed from the pressure of having just two weeks to create seven more pieces for the fashion show (one dress takes a week from concept to finished garment, she says). There is hope that Dollhaus will expand Shrinkle's awareness, but there's also a wish for Silicon Valley women to lose the Bratz low-rider jeans and get in touch with their inner Barbie.

"I want people to get drunk and have fun," she says. "There's nowhere in San Jose where people can dress up. Every time I go out, I'm always the most overdressed person. So that's why we wanted to have a fashion-themed club; I just want people to get dressed up."

Shrinkle's Dollhaus fashion show with DJs Sleazemore and Cinderaura happens Saturday, Aug. 26, at the Blank Club (44 S. Almaden Ave., San Jose). Tickets are $2 before 10pm, $8 after. Fashion show begins at 11pm. Visit or for more info.

Send a letter to the editor about this story.