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Uncommon Sense

[whitespace] Bernie Ross
George Sakkestad

Winging True: 'Seventh Sense' designer Bernie Ross gives wings to a show model with this custom-made prop at this weekend's show.

This weekend's 'Seventh Sense: A Fashion Show' looks at fashion in its most artistic form

By Mary Spicuzza

NEARLY TIPPING OVER his chair at the downtown restaurant So Say We, Seventh Sense: A Fashion Show's artistic director, Randy Caruso, stops flipping through his massive book of portraits and excitedly grabs a page.

"That's it. That's what the show is about," Caruso exclaims.

I look down at an old photograph of five mustached men dressed exactly the same. The caption next to it reads, "Russian steelworkers, Pittsburgh, 1909."

Typical fashion shows rarely are inspired by steelworkers--or Pittsburgh for that matter. But Seventh Sense: A Fashion Show, a formal champagne evening taking place this weekend at the Santa Cruz Dance Gallery, has little in common with a typical parade of catwalking supermodels.

"The Real Story of this show is not about clothes. Few would care," the Seventh Sense flier explains.

It's more about what Caruso sees in the steelworkers' rich facial expressions as they look out from the page.

Caruso smiles, "It's about telling the truth."

Lucky Seven

THE MOMENT of truth. Finally someone realizes it isn't too shallow to admit that trying on a perfect outfit can feel like touching enlightenment. In the film Notebook on Cities and Clothes: A Film by Wim Wenders With Yohji Yamamoto, a major inspiration for the Seventh Sense fashion show creators, Wenders takes a break from his usual cinematic intellectualizing and confesses to the simple joy he gets from discovering a new shirt, one that suits him perfectly. Caruso deems this the seventh sense.

"The seventh sense is what you feel about who you are in any certain context," Caruso says. "It's [about] that new shirt, that feeling [you get wearing it]. It's expressing the truth about who you are."

Watching Notebook on Cities and Clothes rekindled earlier ideas Caruso had for putting on a fashion show. He had talked to Seventh Sense's now-show producer David Jackman, chef at So Say We, and Dance Gallery's Chip about putting together a fashion extravaganza the year before, but it didn't pan out. The film provided just the inspiration they needed.

Now in its second year, the Seventh Sense show will feature designs by 20 local artists. Each participant has created an original artistic piece, and many of the artists will be out on the stage at the performances, showing off their creative outputs themselves.

Unlike most runway shows, Seventh Sense encourages the use of props and sets, whatever can help develop a distinct atmosphere, as well as uses voice-overs from the artists themselves to help illuminate their pieces and tell their stories. Or tell their truths.

Few if any of the show's artists are professional models. But for everyone involved, that seems beyond the point.

"Some of the participants are amateur performers, green," Caruso says. "When the show means something is when an unpolished performer hits that moment ... you can actually witness people dropping the shields they usually wear."

Yohji Yamamoto, the Japanese designer in Notebook who played a big part in inspiring Caruso to follow through with the show, says he loves people not despite their flaws but because of them. Keeping with that same vein, the show emphasizes each performer's true identity, quirks and all. It's less about a polished product of fashion and more about the process of using it to find an identity.

A classic example from last year's show was performer Carrie Cox, who explained that she hates luggage, but loves to travel. She designed and modeled an outfit that could be transformed from day wear to a smart little cocktail dress to a sleeping bag, showing the audience that her ideal clothing meant allowing her the freedom to go anywhere.

"It's wonderful to see this happening again in Santa Cruz," show artist Judy Slattum says. Slattum, an active participant in local theater and arts for years, says the wearable-art event affords the Santa Cruz artistic community a unique outlet to show off its creativity.

More Than a Meatball

THE CREATORS of the show insist that Seventh Sense has completely no theme. "If anything, it's anti-theme," Caruso says.

While Caruso won't get specific about this year's show, he hints that highlights will include a holographic feature, "projected fashions" (an unexplained phenomenon we'll have to see to understand) and clothing made of tiny handmade roses.

As it did last year, the show will feature the artists' voices, once again encouraging the audience to eavesdrop on others' thoughts and daydreams.

So, what does it have to do with fashion?

According to the Seventh Sense creators, both nothing and everything.

"Fashion," Caruso says. "It's the tool that makes us into more than simple meat."


Seventh Sense takes place Fri-Sat (8pm) at the Santa Cruz Dance Gallery, 418 Front St., SC. Tickets cost $10. For more info, call 454-9547 or 423-6611.

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From the October 22-28, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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