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Photographs by Dina Scoppettone

Style Confidential

When things get tough, the tough go shopping

By Traci Vogel

IN UNCERTAIN times, fashion often exper-iences a creative and aesthetic renaissance. This is not as superficial a correlation as it might first appear: aside from the fact that we feel more secure when we look better, fashion can also be an individual expression of political ideologies. Spring 2002's "I ♥ NY" shirt morphs into this summer's "I ♥ Paris" shirt; last year's Indian prints become this year's Middle Eastern (or "Moroccan," as it's being billed) jewelry. Fashion, through not-so-subtle means, can help place people in the world, can help them feel connected.

Maybe this explains why two seemingly disparate looks are so popular for summer this year: all-white and the military look.

The impulse behind the military look needs no explanation. What better way to process/deconstruct/declaw war than to turn it into fodder for haute couture? At the Diesel store in Santana Row, a variety of shirts comes adorned with striped bars like military insignias--as if to say, you too can be an armchair general. A hospital-blue woman's jacket resembles the uniform worn by medical officers on M*A*S*H, and, curiously, many items feature an Arabic-looking script.

In almost every store, Army-green caps like the one that gave Fidel Castro such a jaunty look are popular also. The Cuban cigar is not included.

Cargo pants, those coy profferers of utilitarianism, are hot once again--but this year with the added appeal of zip-up or elasticized pant legs, even for men (as seen at Ted Baker). These are cargo-cum-parachute pants. If you prefer actual parachute pants, the designer behind the Toast label can oblige. Check out her new store in downtown Campbell, opening in mid-May.

The all-white look is a little more difficult to deconstruct. Crisp, pristine, ever-elegant, white evokes both leisure and surrender, innocence and asceticism, Tom Wolfe and wet T-shirt contests. Maybe its renewed popularity signals our desire to be the good guy. Maybe it arises from a desire for peace, a la John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Or maybe it just resurfaced to complement the ever-evolving chemical tan.

At Mison, in downtown Los Gatos, a nurse-style white dress even comes decorated with fetishlike straps, so that the dress can be altered out in the field as conditions require. From Red Cross to red-light district in the twinkling of an eye.

Whatever the white renaissance means, if fashion employed risk-management analysis, white would be its top recommendation. It's the new black, the sure bet of summer, as mod and versatile as the martini. Just don't pair it with marinara sauce.

If all of this reminds you vaguely of Duran Duran and the '80s, you are not alone. Designers are looking back to the last era of big hair, Bright Lights, Big City and big arms-deal scandals for inspiration. The miniskirted power suit is back. Asymmetry is in, with shirts continuing to dive off shoulders. Zippers in unusual places are making a reappearance. Hey, even Jazzercize is bouncing up again. Can leg warmers be far behind?

Can it be coincidence that the first time the flamboyant '80s style came around, we were also in denial about the economy, also saddled with a cowboy president and also suckers for military glamour? Politics and fashion, being continually remarried bedfellows, are again producing progeny that promise to make light of serious issues.

Also in the spirit of politics and fashion, in the midst of a recession Silicon Valley appears to be reinventing its aesthetic image. While the valley has not traditionally been a fashion bastion--cast your memory back to all those jokes about geeks in software-logo T-shirts--with the arrival of the little piece of Italy known as Santana Row, the valley totes a whole new name-brand bag. Suddenly, it looks like a great place for small designers to set up shop, for exclusive stores like Ted Baker and Taryn Rose to open rare West Coast outlets, and, with the opening of a new round of places-to-be-seen like Straits and Zoë, for fashionistas to strut their stuff.

Does all this mean that, with admittedly strange timing, Silicon Valley is developing an actual fashion sense? Metro's Style Council opens a dossier on two test subjects, Victor and Lara, to find out.

And remember: In a world of uncertainty, image is everything.


When it comes to fashion, you've got to police yourself. Victor tries to duck his duty with the duct tape by looking all chill in an Italian suede jacket in camel with hand-finished edging, from Mulholland Brothers. What's he covering up? That would be his own cheapo shirt, underneath. Victor's utilitarian look passes detail check with some Tarnish/Gold metal Adidas Superstar FTR shoes and a Stussy Army hat, both at Circle A. Meanwhile, Lara sports a look that could disarm any fresh recruit, with a zip-front Mison Army dress, standard-issue fishnets, and Bran Van boots in black from Fornarina. She wears her brass at the top, pairing a Isabel Marant Oui Mon Commandant necklace with Isabel Marant Oui Mon Commandant earrings, from the Cou Paris collection.

Racky Freedom

Style-wise women of mystery understand that it's not what you show--it's what you hide. Lara camps out in a De Cre beaded lace and velvet top with organza straps, paired with De Cre's hand-painted silk skirt under beaded lace. Sea nymph-inspired Les Nereides La Bohème dangle earrings and matching bracelet in turquoise, both designed by Paris-based artistes Pascale and Enzo Amaddeo and featured at the fabulous Fiona, signal a whimsical side. Afya pushes the burka in a disco-rific fuschia Heirs dress from Ted Baker and Panther Black satin and rhinestone Candies brand cross-strap sandals. In the background, Doug Glovaski's Temple Painting (Blue for c. 2002) acrylic on canvas, at Palo Alto's Temple furnishings.

Clothes Call

Travel these days requires real style--style enough to impress the surliest of security guards. While Victor waits for his Visa to be approved he stays cool in the Mod suit with purple pinstripes and Stew shirt in Plum, both at Ted Baker. If it comes to a quick escape, sure footing is a sure thing with the Pyber Italian dress loafer in black, from Donald J. Pliner Shoes. An Aviator Bag in Lariat from Mulholland Brothers hides Victor's various tubes of hair gel.

Chic Happens

Lara will always know which way to turn in this ensemble that pairs the Avant Toi military top in pink, at Cou Paris, with the Toast drawstring skirt in red. Depending on the weather or the need to hail a taxicab, the Toast skirt adjusts up and down. Fornarina Blair Witch shoes in white and red with snap backstraps offer Lara some liftoff.

Peace Out

After a long day of protesting, it's time for a little flower power. Saturday in the park can be stylish with Fornarina's Supple denim, on Lara, paired comfortably with a limited edition, artist-designed Chow Brothers T-shirt from Anno Domini Gallery. Lara cinches the look with the Andrea D'Amico flower chain belt in python, at Cou Paris, and Jute Fleur slippers from Bonjour Fleurette. Victor, who can't stop looking at Lara, expresses his flowery-but-tough side in the Aloe shirt in blue, from Ted Baker, and Diesel jeans.

Resource Listings

Written by Traci Vogel and Todd Inoue

Anno Domini Gallery
Address: 150 S. Montgomery, Unit B, San Jose
Telephone: 408.271.5151
Web: www.galleryad.com/ADLTD

A.D.'s silk-screened t-shirts, which sell for $20-$25, feature original work by artists who have exhibited at the gallery. A.D.'s Cherri Lackey explains the concept: "If someone couldn't afford the artwork, they're still able to take something home that was original and unique." The gallery stocks 31 shirts from 40 artists (some collaborate with each other), each limited to a 250 run. Conspirators like Dalek, Spazz, Shepard Fairey, Barron Storey, EMEK, David Choe, Fosik, KGBE, Simon Chow and Man One let loose with images that range from intricate bombs to sashimi-style whales, all tweaked with the radical Anno Domini aesthetic. It's the art world equivalent of a concert shirt without the annoying tour dates.

Bonjour Fleurette
Telephone: 415.382.1603
Web: See www.flowerslippers.com for a retailer

This slipper line was created by Sausalito-based designers Judi Flowers and Greta Longmire, and includes spa slip-ons alongside dressier sandals. A portion of the proceeds goes to the National Hospice Foundation.

Candies Shoes
Address: 447 Great Mall Drive #212, Milpitas
Telephone: 408.262.0101

Remember those plastic gummy-looking shoes you wore with your painter pants in sixth grade? Yes, those were Candies, but Candies these days are all grown up.

Cou Paris
Address: 356 Santana Row, Suite 1025, San Jose
Telephone: 408.296.3606

Vive the French for their ability to combine cultural influences and create fantastic style. Sculptural jewelry tussles here with individually sewn and/or hand-printed designer clothing and bags for both men and women, some of them remarkably reasonably priced. Cou Paris is the uncontested winner of the undeclared contest for Perfect Place to find a Mother's Day present.

Circle A
Address: 304 S. Third at San Carlos, San Jose
Telephone: 408.995.0677

Much more than a skate shop, Circle A carries brands that some people wear like religion, including Volcon and Stussy, for both men and women. The shop is about to skate a block from its current location, and that means big savings at the moving sale, from now until April 28.

Crossroads Trading Company
Address: 1959 W. San Carlos, San Jose
Telephone: 408.292.6616
Web: www.crossroadstrading.com

Crossroads now carries a mix of new and recycled men's and women's clothing, accessories, and shoes; stock changes regularly.

De Cre
Address: 355 Santana Row, Suite 1040 at Olin Avenue, San Jose
Telephone: 408.297.6570

Designer Leona Guidance creates a world at De Cre in which women may suit up for work, dress down for Saturday, or cinch up for evening, all while looking better than J.Lo. Hip, elegant, body-conscious clothing.

Address: 378 Santana Row, Suite 1000, San Jose
Telephone: 408.241.2355

The place to go for denim. What more can you say about a place that calls its sale day the "We Hate Sales" Day?

Donald J. Pliner Shoes
Address: 377 Santana Row, Suite 1025, San Jose
Telephone: 408.260.2500

Donald Pliner is a shoe god. He is also a luggage, handbag, and accessories god. Italy, meet Donald Pliner.

Address: 378 Santana Row, Suite 1005, San Jose
Telephone: 408.296.4026

Costume jewelry has never looked so good as at Fiona. A look to accompany nearly every style is elegantly displayed here, from crystal clusters, cameos, and enameled butterflies to mod silver geometrical necklaces to Fiona's Moroccan inspired line.

Address: 428 Great Mall Drive, Milpitas
Telephone: 408.945.8116

Shoes and clothing for the international female style spy.

Address: 22A S. Santa Cruz Ave, Los Gatos
Telephone: 408.354.9773

Mison is the name of the designer and the line at this small Los Gatos boutique. Born and raised in Korea, Mison moved to the U.S. as a teenager, then went on to study in Paris. This mix of influences gives her line of women's clothing a sexy European flair. Mison also carries clothing and jewelry complementary to her own line.

Mulholland Brothers
Address: 1005 Santana Row Suite 500, San Jose
Web: www.mulhollandbrothers.com

Men searching for that perfect fly-fishing rod case in leather need search no more. Started by three brothers who live in San Francsico, Mulholland's line of clothing, bags, furniture, and even accessories like brass pocket telescopes and stainless steel flasks exude timeless good taste.

Ted Baker
Address: 378 Santana Row, Suite 1010, San Jose
Telephone: 408.615.1552

Ted Baker started out as a humble shirt maker in Glasgow... or so the legend goes. These days, Ted Baker outlets grace Great Britain in tasteful numbers, but it wasn't until last month that you could check out the men's and women's merch stateside. For those of you who hate dress shirts that billow out at the bottom and have tails that hang two feet down, Ted Baker's The Perfect Shirt is the answer.

Temple Furniture Gallery
Address: 454 California Ave, Palo Alto
Telephone: 650.323.1001
Web: www.temple.it

Italian furniture so beautiful it makes you want to shave your pets.

Address: 1231 Franklin Mall, Santa Clara
Address after May 15: 381 E. Campbell Ave, Campbell
Telephone: 408.243.4848 ext. 229
Web: www.fabric8.com

Jessie Jaeger's clothing line, Toast, calls out to women who want to look great without feeling bound up in uncomfortable fabrics. Jaeger's genius for making jersey look both elegant and hip may be unsurpassed. Kimono-style shirts, cinch-up skirts, and assymmetrical blouses rule supreme. (Toast's Campbell location will have a grand opening party sometime in mid-May; their warehouse sale in Santa Clara goes on through June 1.)

Thank You
Metro thanks its army of fashion savvy assistants.

Lara and Victor

Dina Scoppettone

photographer's assistant
Miles Bruccelerri

hair stylist
Jenene of Glama-Rama, SF

master makeup artist
Kathy Obot of Kasé, Campbell

senior makeup artist
Niki Granfard of Kasé, Campbell

furniture editor
Paolo Preite of Temple, Palo Alto

Send a letter to the editor about this story to letters@metronews.com.

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From the April 24-30, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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