“Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say,
more important offices than to merely keep us warm.
They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.”
~ Virginia Woolf, Orlando
“Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.” –Coco Chanel
There are so many sayings when it comes to clothes and style and fashion and our bodies that we adorn with those things we buy, or design or make. We are what we eat has always been one of those little phrases that i would throw out towards both my kids when they were little. We are what we do, who we know, how we dress… these other ones are a bit more controversial as we don’t want to admit to our careers and jobs, our friends, and especially something as “seemingly” frivolous (to many) as fashion, could or would define in any way our identity ~ who we are and how we see ourselves. But what is the relationship between what we wear and how we feel? If it’s all in the details, those details matter, particularly when we go out into the world, assessed by the interrogating eyes that look upon us ~ at any age, but especially as teenagers.
I’ve been making clothes for 16 years and before that I was a trained anthropologist, and the leap from academia to clothesmaker was a huge perplexing jump to many ~ not just the what and the how’s, but why? I think over the years and the collections and the philosophy of vision, people know and can feel the why, but I need not look in the mirror, but at my little mini-me, the 13 year daughter Royal who I once was, and whom i can now see myself in ~ to know how important what we wear and how we feel go hand in hand with our daily moods and people’s interpretations of who we are.
This is just to say that putting together the upcoming runway show for WorldWideWomen’s GIRLS FESTIVAL October 15th at Fort Mason, has made me reflect on the role of style and fashion and dressing one’s self throughout childhood and those crazy important self-determining years before adulthood…Below is a little peek into the minds and reasoning of some of the students who will be exhibiting their work on the runway, and the amazing and inspiring teacher who has showed them how.
Q & A with JENNIFER SERR / owner, The Sewing Room, in Alameda…
me / talk a bit about your background in fashion and style. how did you come to it and love it so much?
Jennifer / “I have always loved sewing and fashion. When I was five, my grandmother would pretend to be my patron. I would design gowns for her (small drawings) and she would “buy” them from me. Being a former model and aspiring designer in the 1920’s, she really inspired me to start designing. I spent my youth making my own clothes and eventually went to design school, FIDM, where I got my degree in Fashion Design. Right out of college I was making HATS and selling them to shops all around SF. It was loads of fun and hard work, but I ended up needing a higher paying job. You see, I was creative but not so business minded (or business educated). For the following decades or so, I worked in the pattern making world of Gap Inc., I taught in the Fashion Dept. at CCA and also made couture wedding gowns. In 2008, I met and started working with a very young (8 years old) budding designer, who had been watching runway, learning how to drape on a dress form and sewing by hand. My working relationship with Maya has spanned the last 8 years and started the core concept behind my current business which is teaching Sewing and Fashion to Kids. Once Maya started sewing, her friends wanted to join in the fun. Word spread and we soon grew out of my house. Now I have a shop where I teach sewing and Fashion to Bay Area Sewists of all ages. It’s really fun and fulfilling sharing all that I’ve learned over the years.”
me / why girls? teens? what is your philosophy to teaching them?
Jennifer / “Young people, kids and teens, are FEARLESS and eager to learn. Like little sponges, kids and teens take in the information and process it quickly. They haven’t quite acquired the baggage that we adults bring to the process. Unencumbered by fear of failure, kids just face what’s in front of them. They also get excited about making bobbins. That whole attitude is really refreshing. I try and make it really FUN. We make mistakes, but we learn from them, come up with creative solutions and then move on. My philosophy is that each new project brings new skills and that process is really a PRACTICE. Much like meditation or learning your times tables or even practicing your sport, sewing as a regular PRACTICE is the key to muscle memory. Once you have the muscle memory, you can move forward with ease and CONFIDENCE, advancing your skills further and further, wherever you want to take it. My dream is for these kids to take that philosophy and use it in other areas of their lives, and at the very least to find a PRACTICE that gives them joy and makes them feel good about themselves.”
me / who are some of your favorite designers or artists that inspire you?
Jennifer / “Christian Dior, Chanel are my classic go-to styles. I also love the work of Alexander McQueen and I’m really inspired by Daphne Guinness, Iris Apfel and the women in the book/film Advanced Style by Ari Seth Cohen. The world of couture is so fascinating to me and filled with so much amazing hand work and thought. The whole process, behind the scenes and how it gets made, thrills me to no end.”
Jennifer / “Clothing is simply a necessity, for most of us, and can be a catalyst for self expression as well. Girls are interested in Fashion, Beauty, Makeup, Style, etc. Making it Art and giving them control over these things gives them personal power. When they make things themselves, their confidence grows even more. I think it’s important to provide a platform where kids and teens have the opportunity to feel good about themselves. It’s important to give Value to the things they are interested in and also show them how they can use those interests in positive, nurturing ways.”
* why sewing?
Presley / “From when I was 2 years old – I picked out my own outfits. My auntie told me about Jennifer’s Sewing camps when I was just 6 years old. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to be old enough to go. I waited two years until I turned 8 years old.”
* “do you want to become a fashion designer and who/what are your favorite designers or inspirations?”
Presley / “Yes. Coco Chanel. Looking at photos from New York’s Fashion Week.”
* what were you inspired by for the upcoming show?
Presley / “Looking at fashion magazines. Coco Chanel.”
* “do you watch Project Runway and if so, who’s your favorite?”
Presley / “Yes, I watch project runway. I like Kini cause his clothes are polished. I also liked Sean because his clothes were fun.”
* “favorite designer?
Ty / “One of my favorite fashion labels is Valentino due to their elegant silhouettes, clean design and attention to detail.”
* “do you see yourself designing as a career?”
Ty / “I do have hopes one day to take my design to the next level, I often draw inspiration from the past and re-vamp it with current style.”
* “what inspired your collection?”
Ty / “For my mini collection I was inspired by 70s mod.”
* “Why sewing?”
Lily / “I’ve always been a tiny person. That means that whenever I go shopping I have to shop in the section for younger kids. I was sick of this because everything there was covered in glitter and puppies and I thought “Well, if I can sew, I can make whatever I want and I can make it fit me.”
* “Do you want to become a fashion designer? Who/what are your favorite inspirations?”
Lily / “Yes. I want to go to college/design school in New York. I’m inspired mostly by designers who regularly use unconventional materials to make something that looks beautiful.”
*“For the show, what were you inspired by?”
Lily / “My favorite looks are ones that are inspired by nature. I remember one piece in particular that made me gasp when I saw it. It was a gown inspired by sea foam made with a beautiful black and white sheer fabric. The next time I went to the ocean, I decided I wanted to get inspiration from something there. I looked around and saw that all over the beach, there were rocks. But these rocks were different because they were gray with white lines in different patterns running across them. I picked out eight of them and that’s what inspired my collection.”
* “Are you a project runway viewer? Favorite designers?”
Lily / “Two of my favorite designers on Project Runway are Mondo and Emily. I like Mondo because he loves prints. I’ve never been a print person but his work still inspires me to make my clothes more colorful. Emily(Payne) inspires me because we have a similar way of designing. It’s a kind of edgy street style, but still very feminine. I use a lot of denim because I feel that denim embodies that style perfectly.”
*“what made you take up sewing?
Katia / “I saw my friend do it and she’s a really good sewer and made her own dresses and clothes. I thought that was super-cool! A few years later I found out about a place close to my house called The Sewing Room and thought I should start sewing.”
* “do you want to become a fashion designer and what is your inspiration?”
Katia / “Yes I want to be a fashion designer. My inspirations came from very cool fashion magazines I saw. Also I’m an artist and have lots of ideas for clothes in my imagination and want to see what they look like in real life.”
* “for the show, what were you inspired?
Katia / “I was mainly inspired by things I just happened to find cool. For example there was a really cool pair of headphones and I thought to myself, “hey I think that would look good with this” and then I made a jacket inspired by it.”
* “do you watch Project Runway?”
Katia / “I haven’t seen it but I’ve heard of it and it sounds and looks really interesting.”
* “why fashion?”
Jasmine / “I took up design because i thought it would be cool to design my own clothes, make them look unique. I like making my own stuff and making it for me. I always saw high end fashion like Chanel and Gucci and said ” if they could make money doing what I love then why can’t I. I like making people happy and I love art. Designing is another way of art in clothing form. If you could make people happy provide them clothes that are also pieces of art then why not.”
* “is fashion something you want to continue on with?”
Jasmine / “I really want to become a fashion designer. it is my dream job. I am applying for OSA so they can help me with the career. I would love to have my own fashion line it is my dream. I love america’s next top model and I see all the designers they talk about. My inspirations are things I see Around me. I try to always carry my sketch book so if i see something that inspires me then I can sketch the idea and come back to it later. I love the brand Gucci I love their style. Another thing that inspires me is sponge bob. Sponge bob is my favorite TV show of all time. I love it when I say that sponge bob is my favorite people will say ” your so childish” or ” grow up”. Music is another thing that inspires me I can not get anything done with out it. If I hear something I like i put it down. I always wanted to do fashion since I was six years old. I would love to do couture.”
* “what was your inspiration for the show?”
Jasmine / “What inspired for the show is just causal outfits with a twist like I have a jean jumpsuit with paint splattered pockets. I like to make everything in life with a little twist. I love to and color to anything I do. I am a very colorful person. do not like pieces with only one color. that is so boring.”
* “Do you watch Project Runway?
Jasmine / “No. I would love to watch it but I never have the time.”
HOPE TO SEE YOU OCTOBER 15th, Fort Mason / SHOW TIME 2:15-2:45pm / TIX
This unique girl-power focused fashion presentation will feature collections that range from established Project Runway designers Jake Wall and Blake Patterson from Season 14 and Emily Payne from Season 13 to FIDM graduates, students from Oakland School of the Arts and from Jennifer Serr’s Alameda-based The Sewing Room. The show will also include looks from local designers Racheal Matthews, Emily Bodnar, a mini up-cycled collection from 13 year old Royal Borja Bernberg, and a mommy and me collection inspired by the upcoming elections. The show will include innovative new looks from casual ready-to-wear and Athleta’s new Girls Activewear collection to party dresses for prom, modeled by Bay Area girls aged 8-18. Choreographed by model coach and TV host Charleston Pierce, with styling by Mara Kolesas of GoodFitStyle and produced by highly regarded local fashion designer and anthropologist Cari Borja.
There will be a meet and greet after the runway show with the show participants and Project Runway designers Jake Wall and Blake Patterson from JAKE and Emily Payne from Devon Rose which will include some of their latest signature fashions straight from New York Fashion Week and the San Francisco Symphony and Opera Galas.
“If you really want to fly, just harness your power to your passion.” ~ Oprah.