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E.C. Star's demure punk look, at 23 Skidoo.

Turning Fashion's Corner

Silicon Valley ventures out with its best foot forward

By Traci Vogel

AS COCO Chanel once declaimed, "Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury." Fall's fashions adhere to this aphorism with near religious fervor. Silk mixes with knits, dress-up tops with jeans, vintage with futuristic, feminine with tough, but everything comes out comfortable.

Even the runway designers this year seem to have bowed to the notion of wearability—but hardly at the expense of shock value. This year, the shock courses through the absolute novelty of jewel tones, or of velvet with metal; or the counterintuitiveness, after so many years of belly-button-baring, of Coco Chanel-style modesty.

The other good news this season is that the South Bay's fashion scene is bursting at the seams. There are more shops than ever, and a greater variety. Urban Outfitters opened its first South Bay location—finally—in Santana Row, alongside its sister store Anthropologie. Valley Fair got a Lacoste—perfect for those polo-pony functions you've been attending naked, out of necessity—and a Kenneth Cole.

And don't forget the many South Bay boutiques. Campbell's historic downtown is quick becoming a fashion hunter's oasis, and downtown Los Gatos is a little slice of Beverly Hills. This season, the boutique and the chain store can co-exist in gorgeous harmony, satisfying shoppers looking for basic items and for fun, individual accents. We called around to a whole shopping cart full of stores, seeking fashion wisdom and trend tips.

At Urban Outfitters, a plaid be-ribboned jacket...

... sheer mohair sweater...

... and appliquéd cardigan.

What's Hot For The Cool Season

"Eclectic. Original. Personal," is how Ashleigh Haynes, visual merchandiser at Santana Row's Urban Outfitters, describes fall's look. "Fashion in general is moving away from a cookie cutter look," she emphasizes. "Even the models nowadays have such an individual look. It's definitely about individuality and your own twist."

The twist is often found in the details: brooches, scarves, earrings. Sandi Feddema, owner of 23 Skidoo, a vintage clothing store in Campbell that also carries new lines such as E.C. Star and Rock Steady, has seen a trend toward wearing scarves as belts or as headbands to "personalize" outfits.

"It's about the details," agrees Ashleigh Haynes. "Little embellishments, like a metallic leather pin on a mohair sweater, or a scarf that has lurex running through it. There's a homemade feel to things, like your favorite sweater but tweaked a little bit."

"Craftlike" and "vintage-inspired" are terms many style experts use as shorthand for this season's look. Classic fabrics such as tweed, fur, cashmere, silk and velvet are everywhere, accented by dramatic, often metallic, embellishments (Keiki McKay, owner of Rouge boutique in Campbell, says they even have one piece that features bits of chain mail).

Haynes says fashion is "straying away from obvious sexiness for women. It's more about picking and choosing what you're going to show off—picking a deep V-neck but wearing long pants, or showing off one shoulder."

Feddema has also seen high school and college students buying more demure items, such as cardigan sweaters—"Things that will endure, things that won't go out of style so quickly," she says. She's also seen a run on '80s-era Jessica McClintock Gunne Sax shirts, which are plaid with poofy sleeves.

Keiki McKay of Rouge boutique calls this fall a "great season for a great coat." Rouge is carrying a Rebecca Taylor refined pea coat with a faux fur collar. "Kind of a Breakfast at Tiffany's look, but updated," she says.

Toastshop in Campbell is carrying tweed blazers. "Short jackets with ribbon belts," describes owner Laura Jaeger. Also, "one big trend is a three-quarter jacket," she says. The look is classic and feminine. Jaeger's store carries many pieces by her daughter Jessie, whose Toast line this season features a ruffle skirt made of burnout velvet, which Jaeger describes as a "very feminine, flowy, dancy kind of skirt."

Tempering the superfeminine, says Urban Outfitter's Ashleigh Haynes, are trends reworking menswear for women. "Instead of menswear being about pinstripes and a suit," she says, "it's more about your dad's button-up shirt and your boyfriend's jeans."

Everyone we talked to raved about the trend toward color this fall. Rouge boutique's Keiki McKay describes a move away from pastels toward jewel tones: aubergine, deep plum, emerald green, rich chocolate browns. Rouge has a variety of poncholike, slouchy, off-the-shoulder sweaters in chocolates, ivories and vibrant greens. A versatile sweater that can be dressy is a "key piece" this season, she says.

Urban Outfitters is bedecked in jewel tones as well. Haynes says one of her favorite pieces in the store right now is "a sheer mohair, off-the-shoulder, jewel-toned sweater with a thick neck. It's something you can wear during the day with a camisole underneath."

The colors go well with denim, which is still strong for fall. Jeans are paired with dressy, flirty tops. But, warns 23 Skidoo's Sandi Feddema, "Stay away from low-cut pants." Waistlines are rising along with necklines. You'll need an updated pair of jeans—which means, according to Haynes, "A little fuller-cut, not so tight. ... It's definitely moving away from low-rise, skin-tight, flare jeans. It's more about a fuller silhouette on the bottom and a skinnier silhouette on the top."

Overall, Keiki McKay says fall 2004 is about "a combination of edgy and feminine." Summer's simple, T-shirt driven look has faded. Lush is the push. "Fashion is moving away from a really sleek look," confirms Haynes, "and more toward a comfortable, homey, snuggly look. I think it has a lot to do with the environment of the world. Comfort clothes—like comfort food."

Rebecca Taylor's refined pea coat, at Rouge.

Do Your Own Thing

Janine Reimer, one of the fashion students whose work is featured in Metro Style 2004, thinks Silicon Valley may finally be finding its style identity. Silicon Valley, she submits, is "original but not trendy. It's where you do your own thing. San Jose is more focused on art. It's inspired by the different ethnicities here."

Urban Outfitters' Ashleigh Haynes agrees. "San Jose is really speaking its voice on fashion much more than before," she says. "There's the preconceived notion that Silicon Valley is about suits, or hanging out in your backyard in shorts. I think Santana Row opening and Silicon Valley becoming more fashion-forward go hand-in-hand. People come here looking for something different."

Coco Chanel—also famous for having said, "Innovation! One cannot be forever innovating. I want to create classics"—might have found Silicon Valley's urge toward something different bemusing. But it looks as if fashion may be Silicon Valley's latest startup.

23 Skidoo
342 E. Campbell Ave., Campbell, 408.370.2334

368 E. Campbell Ave., Suite 100, Campbell, 408.866.6525
110 Cooper St., Santa Cruz, 831.454.0675

381 E. Campbell Ave., Campbell, 408.378.8558

Urban Outfitters
355 Santana Row, San Jose, 408.244.3329

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From the August 25-31, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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