In celebration of our two year anniversary, we have created our first video blog, a note from the editor. Look for more original videos, interviews with independent designers and fashion coverage every month from our beloved video editor, Deva Blaisdell-Anderson. Special thanks to Deva and our music composer Nick Chao for this project. Also, many thanks to Stripe and Cameron Marks for letting us shoot in their stores in Santa Cruz.
In today's Discovery of the Week column, I introduce the unique, edgy, but still feminine jewelry line of Wolf and Sadie. The work of artist Bramble Lee Pryde, this line has an original aesthetic and according to Pryde's website, her vision "is to embrace the customer's individuality by executing limited runs of the designs." While I love all the pieces here, I'm especially drawn to the 14 karat gold Triquerta Ring featured above left, selling for $40. Discover the line at wolfandsadie.com.
Identifying Fashion is a column by Susan Myer Silton which asks people with a unique fashion footprint how fashion shapes their identity. This month, Myer Silton talks with textile artist and designer Tobin Keller. Photos by Jose Estevez.
Tobin Keller, pictured above amidst fashion created from the fabrics he designs, is creative and prolific. His accomplishments read like a paean to the artistic soul: he is an artist, printmaker, fabric designer, clothing designer, art instructor and gallery curator.
Keller has been part of fashionART Santa Cruz since its inception in 2006. In recent years, he and design partner Barbara Bartels sent their youthful, skater-inspired line down the runway. In their collaborations, Keller hand dyes and screen-prints the fabric while Bartels designs the styles based on Tobin’s prints. Bartels will be profiled on The Penny Rose in April’s "Identifying Fashion" column.
The story of how Keller shaped his fashion identity is built in layers, from painting and drawing, printmaking and dyeing to fabrication of materials. In his own words:
“In art school in the late '70s, early '80s, I started paying more attention to how I dressed and how I looked. At that time, my art and what I wore hadn’t merged together. They went along separate, parallel avenues that didn’t connect until now.
My mentor at the time, Jay DeFeo was significant to my development as an artist. She was very beautiful and paid attention to how she looked. She was an influence when I started thinking about how I wore clothes and what they did to me physically and emotionally.”
In the mid-90s Keller transitioned from painting and drawing into printmaking, specifically Monotype printing, known as "painterly print." He then began printing on glass. "With glass panels you can stack them on top of one another in any way," he says. "The transparency of it was really cool, but things were getting heavy, fragile. I needed something much lighter." So he translated the technique onto diaphanous silk panels. "I liked the illusion. I liked that it fluttered and moved. I was just doing long panels. I wasn’t even thinking about wearable anything."
Meanwhile, he had been taking a sewing class and was doing costuming with Rose Sellery. "As I got more interested in screen printed fabric, my costuming became more artistic and more sculptural," he says.
Enter Bartels, an accomplished pattern maker, who was enrolled in one of Keller's painting classes at Cabrillo College.
"I collaborated with her on some simple garments that used layered silks," he says. "A transparent layer on top of an opaque layer. A heavy silk charmeuse and then an organza or a chiffon layer on top of it. I taught myself how to dye the fabric and dye-print and Barbara made the patterns. FashionART Santa Cruz was where I started showing costumes and that’s where we started showing the wearables five years ago."
DeFeo brought things full circle for Keller. “I come from a high art background, working in museums and galleries. It took me a while to really come to terms that what I do is the same thing as what I was doing before. It’s just a different form. Jay DeFeo said, 'Take that thing and go as deep as you can with it. Go as far as you can into that.' She was referring to my paintings at the time when she said it. But it had universal meaning for me. After that realization, I was able to really commit myself to the fabric and really explore how the dyes and the prints work. I think if she was around today, she would love what I was doing. She’d want to wear them.”
Keller is pictured in his studio, wearing a silk T-shirt layered over silk grandpa boxers, and silk sweat pants, designed by himself and Bartels. He's wearing Cole Haan sandals, similar here. Contact Keller or Bartels to learn more about their work.
Keller is standing at the entry of his home, in front of his sculpture, "Blue-Green Orb David." He is wearing a sheer silk organza shirt, designed by himself and Bartels, pants by Custo Barcelona.
Shoes by Cole Haan, similar here.
I've always been drawn to Celtic knots and their maze-like beauty, so I'm especially excited by the emergence of knotted cord necklaces. Giving the bib looks a new twist, excuse the pun, I'm drawn to their simple beauty and I'm especially fond of the ones from Knotty Gal. Shown are two of my favorites from the collection: Lazy Sunday (White) and Stay Classy, San Diego! (Black). The mother/daughter team who design and hand make each piece have managed to achieve a perfect balance between modern and rustic that pairs effortlessly with just about any style. That a portion of their proceeds goes to the girls school founded by a family member in Bangladesh only makes them more attractive.
There aren't many stores that I enter and immediately love. But Legion, a lifestyle boutique in San Francisco that opened a few months ago, is an exception. Owned by Bay Area style maven and writer Sydney Pfaff, Legion is a lesson in modern, creative, less-is-more fashion. With a bright, beautiful yellow back wall, a succulent box hanging above, and exquisite detail paid to every inch of the store's aesthetic, this is a hard place to leave without buying a few things. And with your new purchases, you'll be pleased to show off original items that few other people have. Pfaff specializes in carrying small batch items from independent designers. As a result, there's constant new stock in the store (so a weekly visit there is now on my to-do list).
The Penny Rose recently caught up with the new store owner, whose boutique is located in Chinatown.
What's the style and aesthetic of your store and merchandise?
The shop is simple and clean, but also feels very personal to me and my own style. I picked each line because they all made things that I would wear. I love clean shapes with unexpected details, like a twisted seam or a unique print. As for the non-fashion products, I love being surrounded by fun and interesting little things—books, perfumes, candles, ceramics—but not in a cluttered way. Everything has its place. I have apparel, handbags and leather goods, sunglasses, scarves and jewelry, ceramics, books, apothecary items, and other home accents like pillows and glass terrariums. Each piece complements the next in some way. I like to think they could all live happily together.
The press has certainly been kind to us. Being "off the beaten path," it's important to get buzz going and I'm really thankful for the coverage we've had. I'm truly excited by the whole experience of finding things I love and sharing them with people, so it's been pretty dreamy.
How would you describe your personal style?
I like to be comfortable, first and foremost. I ride my bike or walk everywhere. I wear pants most of the time, skinny jeans or printed pants (my collection seems to be growing lately) and I love silk tees and dresses. Basically, no fuss, and I love great prints, but my favorite color is grey. It sounds boring, but there are so many good shades of grey and they go with anything.
What’s your favorite brand of denim?
I love Blank; $78 for a pair of staple black skinnies? I stock them at Legion and you can't beat the price for well-fitting jeans.
What fashion designer are you eyeing right now?
I am so excited for Evens. It's a gorgeous line hand-made by a very cool gal in Houston named Kate de Para. We're getting it for spring and I honestly can't wait. Simple silhouettes in the best fabrics and neutral prints.
What’s your favorite skin care item?
I love OLO's Argan Oil Hair Tonic. It makes my hair feel healthy and gives it a pretty shine. And Native State is another go-to. They make all-natural and vegan formulas, and I swear by their Ritual Lotion.
Mani or pedi?
Lip gloss or lip balm?
Heels or flats?
Both! Always Keds for my bike commute, and then usually booties or oxfords.
Find Legion at 679 Clay St., San Francisco, (415)-733-7900.