What Are You Doing? Fashion & Style Edition
The Stranger walks in on an underwear maker, a window dresser, a dressmaker, a stripper, some nightlife freaks, a satanic-apparel designer, a buyer at Crossroads, a dead-person's-junk salesman, and others.
Got an old band T-shirt that you refuse to give up, but also never wear? Maybe it's time to turn that sucker into a pair of red-hot hot pants. Maybe it's time you talk to Krista Kelly. Kelly makes cute-as-hell girl panties and boy shorts out of all sorts of recycled fabrics. Her one-woman undie operation, Shesho Designs (www.sheshodesigns.com), is over two years old now, with no signs of slowing. "It all started with a complete lack of satisfaction for the underwear selection available; I hate elastic, and underwear never fit right. Underwear is the foundation to any good outfit—if it's comfortable and awesome and special, you feel comfortable and awesome and special." Her designs are so awesome-special, I've seen people wearing Shesho Skivvies to the beach and on the outside of their clothes, usually layered over leggings or tights. In addition to being super colorful, Kelly also promises that Shesho designs are completely wedgie-proof. "I always use four-way stretch material for the back—super stretchy AND super soft!—so there's plenty of room for all sorts of booty shapes and sizes. Plus, the leg bands are wide enough that they don't give you pantie lines, which is always an added bonus." I asked her if she could make me undies out of a Slayer shirt of mine. She said she sure could—she's already made one pair of Slayer undies for someone else. KELLY O
The local electronic-music scene will lose its best-dressed player in late May. After 17 years of Seattle living and about a decade of gliding nattily around the city's clubs and after-hours spaces, tech-house DJ and promoter Michito Iwata is taking his svelte ass to Tokyo, where he foresees more opportunities.
Iwata—who DJs as M'chateau—used to look like one of Bugsy Siegel's accomplices, always suited up and behatted in retro splendor. But now his wardrobe's as minimal as the music he spins: He's down to five pairs of pants. Singled out by Vice as a fashion DO five years ago, Iwata works as a trademark-research agent. "I come up with trademark names for international marketing purposes—products, services, facilities," he says. He'll be doing the same thing in Japan, but while there he also hopes to elevate his DJing and music-production game.
Even in reduced circumstances, Iwata maintains his flair. "It's funny, because I just wear random scores and hand-me-downs," he says. "I wouldn't say I'm the most fashionably focused person. However, I am into themes and costumes, sometimes." Such as yakuza? "No," he laughs. Hesitant to reveal his style secrets, Iwata maintains a mystique in the Seattle music underground. One DJ friend called him a "stoic, mysterious party animal." The day after our interview, Iwata did a photo shoot as "the Asian Andy Warhol." He pulled it off. DAVE SEGAL
Michael Cepress is a fashion designer—which to him means being an artist and a historian. Ladies, the clean-cut, dandified clothing by this Wisconsin native is not for you: It's for and inspired by the underserved male body. The designs rest on centuries of European male fashion history, which often looks more "feminine" than modern wear. But they're also influenced by Cepress's own well-groomed classic Midwestern American background ("men with a comb in their pocket, who shower and shave every day, who tuck in") and, increasingly, bright and flowing non-Western menswear.
In 2006, after graduating from the University of Washington with a master of fine arts degree ("Being a fashion designer as an artist was like a second coming-out—I was so afraid of rejection"), Cepress went to study with prestigious theater designer Robert Wilson at the Watermill Center in New York, then spent two years working in the exacting costume department at Seattle Opera. In 2008, he opened a little storefront at 417 East Loretta Place, where he ran a retail operation and shared space with a fellow MFA grad. But Cepress isn't a retailer: "I went to art school for a reason." Just this week he's rechristened the former store as an open studio—he'll work on commissions (334-7602, www.michaelcepress.com) and talk with anyone who drops by, but the clothes will be on sale at other locations, chiefly Velouria, a new boutique on Melrose Avenue. He has a simple gospel to preach: basic fashion consciousness for men. "So many guys come in and say, 'Oh, I just don't think about clothes,'" Cepress says. "Well, actually, you do. But you're making the choice not to make any decisions about it, and that's just as much a decision." JEN GRAVES
Sally Brock, co-owner of Fancy, an art-jewelry store near the Moore Theatre, has just returned from Mexico. She is rather sad; she already misses the sun and bright colors of the south. As she opens her store for the day, she explains how her 4-month-old baby and her partner, Erich Ginder, enjoyed the break from Seattle. It happens to be cloudy and wet outside. Fancy (1914 Second Ave, 956-2945) sells not only Brock's creations but also work by other designers. This is what she is returning to, selling the works of the local artists currently featured in the store—Rachel Rader, Sarah Loertscher, and Dixie Darling—all of whom are considered to be "emerging art-jewelry stars." As Brock shows me the work, she does not express great excitement or enthusiasm; her heart is still in Mexico and not the business she has been operating for seven years. The three featured artists have vastly different approaches to jewelry: Rader's work is definitely oceanic (her glass ornaments look like creatures from the sea); Loertscher's work is metal, minimal, and elegant; and Darling's work is, to use Brock's words, "just the right crazy." Prices for the jewelry range from a hundred bucks to a grand, and much of it actually looks wearable—this is not always the case with art jewelry. "We also have a new website. Very excited about that website." The address is www.fancyjewels.com. "You should check it out," Brock says, thinking of the sunshine that's not to be found in this part of the world. CHARLES MUDEDE
If you've never sold your old clothes because you're afraid the buyer will scoff at your lame fashion, you should meet this guy. Dylan Clayton became a clothing buyer at the Crossroads Trading Co. in August of 2009, where business has been "record breaking" since the store doubled in size a few weeks ago. Clayton says Crossroads is always buying new-looking clothes and they try to make it worth your while: "If you paid hundreds of dollars for that purse, I want to make you feel like you're getting a fair deal when you sell it."
Like other buyers at Crossroads, he reads a lot of magazines to keep current—Clayton prefers Paper, Dwell, Nylon, and the Japanese edition of Vogue ("the fashion spreads are so much more creative than American Vogue"). He's the only male buyer at the store, and he likes the attention: "All the girls here know my sizes and so when something nice comes in, they set it aside. They love to dress me." He says that like his regular Crossroads customers, he's always "editing" his wardrobe.
So what's in? "Denim shirts are in right now, and nude colors," along with studded clothing, floral prints, and printed tights. After working for nine months on Broadway, Clayton says "nothing shocks me anymore," but he's always a bit surprised when people "try to sell clothes right off their body." (He always demurs when that happens.) And what's his advice for shoppers? "If you're patient, the perfect clothing will come to you. It feels good to wait it out." PAUL CONSTANT
It's a not-well-known-enough fact: Seattle Central Community College is home to one of the nation's most rigorous apparel-design programs, a two-year boot camp of intense technical training that sends conceptual fashionistas running for the door. "It's not about art, it's about production," says Maria Canada, a recent graduate of the program, who credits the school's insistence on technical execution for the next great opportunity in her fledgling fashion career: acceptance into the freakishly prestigious women's wear program at London's Central Saint Martins College, alma mater of such fashion titans as Zac Posen, Stella McCartney, and Canada's recently deceased idol Alexander McQueen. "People laughed when I told them I was applying," she tells me. "Even at my interview, people kept reminding me how very, very difficult it is to get in." Her interview involved presenting the board of judges with everything from state-of-the-art portfolios to her scrappy "inspiration" notebooks. "It was like a psychological exam," she says. "They're trying to get a sense of your process, who you are as a designer, your potential..." I spend 20 minutes flipping through her portfolio. The most striking pages involve a close-up nature photo of a black beetle, alongside the garment it inspired: an intricate, elegant women's winter coat, the back folds of which fall over each other like the beetle's wings. (See her work at www.mariacanada.com.) "I want to work in fashion on the international level," Canada says. "And I knew the next step was studying with someone great in Europe." Until then, Canada will devote herself to raising the necessary funds to make the dream of a European education possible. "And I'm designing a dress for my friend to wear to the Kentucky Derby. So glamorous!" DAVID SCHMADER
Andy Warhol and Salvador Dalí were window dressers. So were Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, but they were embarrassed about it, so their displays for Tiffany's went under the name Matson Jones. The king of the 27 windows at Macy's in downtown Seattle, Pierre Gour, is a working contemporary artist. He's been doing his own studio art and "visual display," as it's known in the business, for 31 years.
His first job, in 1979, was as a trimmer—the person actually dressing the window; at Macy's, Gour manages a team of nine trimmers—at a furniture store in Ontario, while he was in school for graphic design. Window dressing today is more corporate than it was 30 years ago: The stores look more alike across the chain. Once upon a time, in Ontario, Gour got away with an installation of mannequins, all undressed (and many posed provocatively: women seated, with legs open) except for one wearing clothes, that was intended as a dramatic study in light and shadow. It didn't sell anything specific, but it got people in the doors. At Macy's, the team—it's collaborative work, Gour stresses—starts with a directive from the home office in New York, including basic color ideas, materials, and a theme. "My signature is much more clean, much more modern, much more neo than the previous people that have been here," Gour says of his own input. He also includes work by artists—last year, sculptures by June Sekiguchi appeared in a "trends" window. The trimmers have other lives as artists, dancers, or in architecture. "It's a way to continue developing your ideas," Gour says, "while you're at work." JEN GRAVES
Taylor Nichole Hurley, aka Niki, builds dream bikes at Mobius Cycle. After one too many times getting hit by a car as a messenger, Hurley, an experienced mechanic, decided to focus on her downtown bicycle boutique full-time. Mobius is known in the bike-geek world for hot, stylized fixies and steel road cycles that withstand daily use (and abuse). The bike she was plotting when I dropped in: a frosty purple vintage road frame on hand-built wheels with purple spokes, silver nipples, and matte white phosphorescent rims that glow purple in the dark.
It's a bit tricky to find the shop at first (official hours are late afternoon to late evening, details at www.mobiuscycle.com), with its alleyway entrance and four floors to climb, but the huge loft space inside is like a secret world. You'll find a rack of hand-screen-printed Mobius T-shirts (one design has the namesake strip, another a 1973 compact Leica CL camera above the word "grain"). Some messengers might be winding down with pool and air hockey after a long day while an artist weaves cashmere underwear on a giant loom—the shop shares space with an array of artist studios. Hurley is also a professional photographer, a skill she honed to catalog her creations—find her bike-porn shots at www.flickr.com/mobiuscycle. But Hurley's bicycles aren't just sexy in appearance. "A junky bike will abuse your body, and your body will acclimate to the abuse," she explains. "When you ride a good bike that's solid under your body, and the wheels sing and the frame sings, you realize how good it can be." JESSE VERNON
Find yourself on 15th Avenue South on the right sunny day and you'll see him: a man who looks to be in his 60s, sitting in a lawn chair amid a field of hats. These hats are strewn over every available surface of the man's front yard, from the grass to the driveway to the hood, roof, and front windshield of a parked car, and include everything a human might ever consider putting on his or her head: top hats, panamas, fedoras, straw hats, and fancy ladies' numbers, of course, but also rainbow clown wigs and plastic pith helmets and velour Cat in the Hat whimsy towers. Mixed among men's casuals I find a well-worn fishing hat, adorned with sun-bleached badges: "National Association of Retired Poor Folks," "Retired Men Have Time to Do It Right." All hats are procured during the man's never-ending sweep of thrift stores from Auburn to Seattle, and all are for sale at reasonable prices ($1–$10, generally). There's a mirror leaning against the side of the house to help buyers make decisions. The hat man has no desire to see his own name or face in print. "But take as many pictures of the hats as you want." DAVID SCHMADER
The first thing Jessie Oleson does upon waking up in the morning is preheat her oven. One of her tasks as Head Spy at Cakespy.com (a website dedicated to "seeking sweetness in everyday life") is to conduct various baking experiments and blog about the results. (Perhaps you've seen her Grilled Cheesecake sandwich recipe on ThisIsWhyYoureFat.com.) After a morning of baking, she and her two pugs, Olive and Porkchop, take a walk to her brand-new Cakespy retail shop in the old Bluebottle Art Gallery space on Capitol Hill. She and her husband, Danny Oleson, bought the store earlier this year, and she's spent the last few months turning it into cupcake heaven.
"Things keep getting pinker every day," she says. "I have painted the back wall pink and added a mural of cake and pie having a death match complete with brass knuckles and various weapons of shankery." On top of bringing in a lot of her own Cakespy artwork—she does adorable watercolor paintings of cupcakes doing stuff like drinking at Linda's—the Cakespy shop will carry other cute things including Bob Ross and Ira Glass finger puppets. And if you'd like, she'll also paint you a custom cupcake portrait while you shop. "A dude came in yesterday and asked, 'Can you do a portrait of two cupcakes looking for change on the sidewalk with NYC in the background?' I get to be the person who says, 'Yes. Yes, I can.'" MEGAN SELING
TJ Cowgill started designing T-shirts in 2006, when he got a 1:00 a.m. call from Sean Reveron of Rockers NYC. "He saw a button I did for Book of Black Earth"—Cowgill's black-metal band—"and asked me to draw some metal logos, and they were some of his best sellers." Shortly after, Cowgill started his own company, Actual Pain, printing metal, occult, and satanic-themed shirts that retail at boutique shops for $40 apiece. He recently expanded into designing his own garments—hoodies, vests, jackets—and even jewelry (a silver upside-down cross, of course). His website (www.actualpain.org) hosts a free mixtape series curated by artists as diverse as Atlanta club DJ Krames and Fenriz of Norwegian black-metal gods Darkthrone.
His satanic designs are "not that tongue-in-cheek. I'm not a member of the satanic church, but I'm not making fun of people who take satanism seriously. I just love the imagery." He continues, "I love the occultism hysteria of the '80s. Terrorism is like the new satanism now, but back then people were really scared of this stuff." One of his popular shirts, a print of a tiger with its face torn off, was a riff on the trend of "vintage" wolf T-shirts being sold at Urban Outfitters. "Recently, tons of brands were doing Morrissey shirts," he says. "And I wanted to do the same concept—a 'Gore-issey' shirt." (His printers said they wouldn't do it because they loved Moz too much to literally deface him.) "There is a fine line between what I do and what's sold at Hot Topic," Cowgill admits. "It's a tight rope, and eventually they'll start selling stuff that looks just like my stuff, and I'll have to make something else." ERIC GRANDY
Spencer Moody is not dusting the pile of human skulls that face his desk or polishing the portrait of Peeping Tom Jesus staring in his neighbor's window. Moody is sitting in his shop, the Anne Bonny on Summit Avenue, watching customers handle his junk. He enjoys being the bridge that brings old junk to new people, trying to find the right home for a life-size poodle toy on runners, or a tasteful portrait of John and Jackie Kennedy, or a human skull, because he says, "If I were dead and decapitated, I'd love for someone to have my skull on their mantle. It has to be the right mantle, though." Walking into Moody's store (534 Summit Ave E, 382-7845, www.theannebonny.com) is like peeking under his bed or behind his ears. It's intimate. Every week he hunts garage sales and estate sales, never buying anything he wouldn't keep in his own home, though oddly enough, never keeping anything he buys. So it collects in his store—old photographs and antique prosthetic limbs and dead women's costume jewelry—waiting for the right person to walk through the door and ask rhetorically, maybe to the giant rainbow cock on the wall, "Where have you been all my life?" That, he says, is the payoff. CIENNA MADRID
Mark Mitchell is sitting in his home studio, apprizing a rock star's ass. "No, no, it looks better in this one," he says while Rachel Flotard of Visqueen tries on another denim jumpsuit. She's got an upcoming video shoot in a junkyard and needs a costume. "Can you fix it so I don't look like a fat Cannonball Run chick?" she asks. "I said your ass looks better in this one—but you'll have to wear 'fuck me' shoes. Then they'll start sending them to you in the mail." The walls of Mitchell's studio are covered in design sketches, photos of Klaus Nomi and David Wojnarowicz (with his lips sewn together), and a spray-painted triptych on squares of cloth: Lou Reed circa Transformer, David Bowie circa Diamond Dogs, Iggy Pop circa whenever.
Mitchell has worked as a costumer, tattoo artist, sewing instructor, custom designer, and now rock 'n' roll butt consultant. "I've never designed a line," he says, trying to think of something he hasn't done. "I'm always designing a thing for a person for an event—which I adore." He makes intricate dresses for burlesque dancers that spring apart with the flick of a finger, little gingham numbers for Kyla Fairchild of No Depression, huge contraptions for drag queens and performance artists (see www.itsmarkmitchell.com for photos). "That's the costumer background," he says. "You learn to design anything. I do a lot of handwork and crazy things like I'm still trying to prove something—which keeps my production low, which drives me crazy." But, he adds, at least he doesn't get bored. "I love to design things I've never done before." BRENDAN KILEY
On an average day, Sean Evoy gets up at 7:30 a.m., gets a cup of coffee, and heads to the Goodwill to wait for the doors to open. For seven years, he's been a picker at the bins, digging for valuable items in the donated bulk and reselling them for a living. "I sell online, I have clients that come from Japan, and I have a person who does my eBay listings for me. I do sell to stores around here, but that's definitely not my main source of income," he says. "I look for anything old, pretty much. I take what I can get, but men's workwear is my favorite—denim and old leather, boots and backpacks. Men typically wear their clothes 'til they're falling apart, so if something lasts, it's usually more rare and valuable."
The bins have always been competitive, according to Evoy, but recently the down economy and increased media interest have made picking especially cutthroat. "There's fights down there," he says. "I had a problem with a woman down there freaking out on me constantly. Eventually, they came and talked to us, and they kicked her out, but she sent her sons in there to threaten me with knives, and they keyed my car. I carry a knife down there all the time now, because it's turned into such a sketchy environment." Evoy plans to return to school to pursue a business degree in the fall; he wants to stay involved in fashion, but "not on the picking aspect—it's just getting too vile." ERIC GRANDY
About a year and a half ago, a nice young man moved to Seattle from San Diego. Suddenly, crazy-glamorous new club nights started popping up. Instead of wearing jeans and T-shirts, people started turning up in full-body spandex, rhinestones, and garbage-bag dresses. And dance floors were filling up. "I had been doing nightlife promotions before I moved here. There was definitely fun to be had in Seattle, but it seemed a little mundane. When I discovered HotMess, and then Hard Times, that's what really brought out the beast in me. I felt very strongly about supporting those, and then creating more." And create he did. Kauer currently has Fringe, the costume-riffic theme party every first and third Friday at the Eagle; C.U.N.T. (C U Next Tuesday), a dance party every Tuesday at Pony; and Snack Hole, a snacks-and-carnival-themed monthly at the Wildrose. Though none of the nights are gays-only, Kauer does say, "The queer crowd is the BEST crowd, because nobody gives a flying fuck; it's all about fun. Usually by the end of the night everyone is dancing, making out, fighting, sweating, and/or puking—all the good signs of people enjoying themselves." KELLY O
Candygirl is putting on her clothes and looking for a job. After working at the Lusty Lady peep show for 27 years, and dancing her way through the cold war, the World Trade Organization riots, and eight and a half months of pregnancy, Candygirl—along with 70 other employees—will be unemployed on June 27 when the Lusty Lady closes its doors forever. What kind of work does an ex-stripper crave once her breasts reach retirement length? "I want to work with old people, in an assisted-living community," Candygirl says. Being a stripper gives you great interpersonal skills, she says, especially with the elderly, who make up a large clientele base at the Lusty Lady. "We call them oldie moldies," she says. "Because they're old, not dead. They need to see a little skin to keep them going." She adds that being a stripper teaches you how to put up with a lot of shit, which is another valuable skill to have when working with the infirm. But above all, she's eager to continue her work as a caregiver—albeit a clothed one, now—and take care of people who might otherwise be marginalized. "They've got great stories, and I'm a great listener," she says. And so the Lusty Lady's loss will become some lucky geriatric's gain: being sponge-bathed and spoon-fed by an ex-stripper named Candygirl. CIENNA MADRID
Emily Horsley, age 30 ("almost 31!"), takes pictures of babies. All day. Six days a week. Babies babies babies. She's the manager at the Sears Portrait Studio in Sodo, and she describes her job like so: "I take pictures of kids. Well, anybody, really. From 2 days to 90 years." But mostly babies. Horsley, who skis, scrapbooks, and does wedding photography on the side ("I do everything for $700"), started working in the baby-portraiture industry because "I was 18 and just really interested in being my own manager. The freedom of it—nobody yelling at me all the time. I've been my own manager for 10 years."
Do you ever get adults in here wanting to take weird pictures? "No." Like in crazy costumes or naked or anything? "No, it's mostly just babies." Has a baby ever thrown up all over the place? "No." Problems with baby poop? "No." Do you ever have to deal with, like, uptight moms? "No." What's the craziest thing that's happened in your 10 years managing photo studios? "Ummm... nothing, really. Everyone's really nice!" Do you ever get babies that just won't stop crying? "Sure." Do you have any insider tips for quieting a screaming baby? Patented methods? "Put stuffed animals on your head—they really like that." LINDY WEST
"These days, it's all about this hiphop fashion," bemoans Leroy Shumate, the owner of Leroy Menswear. "My clothes are really for another generation." He shows me an ankle-length white fur coat. "But, you know, all sorts of people come in here. The other day, some guy from Chehalis, a lumberjack who was turning 30, he called and asked if I sold mink coats. I told him we do. He drove all the way down and bought this—the fur coat—it's not real mink, of course, but it looks great." Shumate's small store (204 Pike St, 682-1033) is truly exceptional. You will not find another one like it in the three big cities of the Pacific Northwest. If you need clothes for church and special occasions, if you want to look like a million bucks, if you want to roll like a pimp, the only place that can honestly meet those needs is Leroy's. The joint, which has been in business for three decades, sells shoes that are bright blue, suits that can put a peacock's tail to shame, and hats that light up the sky like the Fourth of July. "This part of the world is Eddie Bauer country," says Shumate. "No one really dresses up here. Washington and Oregon—it's the same plain colors. We are the last store that cares about looking good." Leroy's has all the big names in the flashy-clothes business and the latest designs from the Magic show in Las Vegas. There is always something new in the store, but right now Shumate is focusing on the summer. He shows me the special item for this season: a two-piece that looks very much like a safari suit—classy shirt that matches classy short pants. "Just feel that fabric." I do. "You see, that's what clothes are about." CHARLES MUDEDE