If you ask Abi McCannon and Alix Hadley where the fashion capitol of the world is they might answer… Oakland. It’s their capitol anyway, and it’s where their live/work studio is located. Both Alix (24) and Abi (25) are graduating seniors at The Academy of Art University, and their collections hit the runway on Wednesday night amid flashbulbs, paparazzi and rolling video cameras.
Abi McCannon hails from Iowa originally. She transferred to The Academy from the University of Iowa, and she realizes she’s a long way from home. Abi’s inspiration for her collection was Jazz from the 20’s through the 50’s. Abi loves to work with the contradictions between feminine and masculine looks. She used vintage handbags and shoes on the catwalk to enhance the period quality of her clothing.
Alix Hadley was born in Florida but has lived in both Virginia and Georgia. She transferred from SCAD (the Savannah College of Art and Design), because Savannah didn’t have the benefits of a big city like San Francisco. The concept for Alix’s collection was “Freedom Culture”. She tried to incorporate elements of many different cultures into her creations. Alix used antique kimono fabrics for linings, she attached sleeves with intricate beads, and used cashmere from 1940’s France. She likes to use old and new, and finds her treasures at flea markets, auctions, estate sales and second hand shops.
Alix and Abi met their second year at the Academy, and have been friends and collaborators ever since. Both women share a live/ work space in Oakland. Their studio is one of the largest rooms in the space. It is covered with fabric, a drafting table, sketches, irons, dress forms, and an industrial sewing machine. It is a jumble of creative energy, and it’s where Abi and Alix do their best work. Alix says “commuting time is sewing time, so a home studio really works for us”. They both agree that having their own work space makes the process a little easier, although you would never characterize this process as ‘easy’.
In order to have your collection shown at the graduation show, you have to commit to a year of intensity and sometimes, heartbreak. Being in the show starts with a concept rendered as sketches and honed to reflect the highest detail and workmanship. After the sketches, patterns have to be drafted for each piece. Draping comes next where you work all of the kinks out of your patterns and a prototype of sorts, made out of muslin (a thin unbleached cotton fabric), is crafted. Every detail has to work before you are able to cut and sew the collection out of your chosen fabrics. This process takes time and sheer determination, all for the glory of seeing your first official collection on the runway. After visiting Alix and Abi’s studio and seeing some of their pieces, I have no doubt they both have a promising career in fashion design. These are talented students, ready to take the leap into the uncertain world of fashion.
To further increase the stress level of these students, for the Wednesday night show, the men of Fashion were honored and given honorary doctorates by Elisa Stephens, the University’s president. The honorees included the bad boy of fashion, British designer Alexander McQueen, CEO of Macy’s West, Robert Mettler, Wilkes Bashford, purveyor of fine menswear, and Christophe Girard, the Deputy Mayor of Paris and Director of Fashion Strategy of the LVMH Fashion Group. With this list of luminaries, no wonder the students were a bundle of nerves!
One of the many highlights of the evening was when it was announced that Abi’s collection was chosen to be shown in the windows of the Wilkes Bashford store in San Francisco. This was a great honor for her, and a good start on her design career! The show was held at Morgan Auditorium, 491 Post Street (at Mason) in San Francisco. This is as close as many of us get to a true haute couture fashion show.
Another fashion note: As mentioned last month, fans of the Swedish cheap chic retailer, H & M are in for a treat as their first east bay location opened 2 weeks ago in the Sun Valley Mall in Concord. For those of you not wanting to make the pilgrimage into the city for a quick fashion fix, this is very good news indeed!