San Francisco stumbled again with the latest attempt at throwing a fashion event

In the case of Eco-Fashion Show at the Bentley Reserve on November 18th organized by Yetunde Schuhmann, founder of SF Style, it was a little different. It was under hyped and under delivered.

Eco Fashion Show San Francisco. (c) Pat YuenTypically, fashion events in San Francisco are over hyped and under delivered. Promoters like to throw around phrases such as “first ever”, “premier”, “exclusive”, and “best” when describing their events at a bar or club. They don’t think twice about appointing themselves with some made up titles awarded to them by some made up organization that is nothing more than a web page and Facebook page.

In the case of Eco-Fashion Show at the Bentley Reserve on November 18th organized by Yetunde Schuhmann, founder of SF Style, it was a little different. It was under hyped and under delivered. Prior to the event, there was only a few mentions in obscure events listing referring viewers to buy tickets at $24 and $65 a pop. There was no website referenced and the entire search-able content consisted of time, place, and price.

I had already written this off as another ho hum fashion event nobody will remember next week but since I was already in San Francisco for another event, I decided to drop by and check it out since it was held at the beautiful Bently Reserve. The VIP event was slated to start at 7:30 p.m. but when I arrived at 7:15, I found the entrance to be a barren wasteland. Four volunteers stood at a reception table with nothing to do. Upon entry, I found a vast hall setup with a long raised runway lined with chairs on both sides. As a photographer, the first thing I noticed was the complete lack of any supplemental lighting. Aside from that, the staging showed promise as it appeared to be setup for a large production serving thousands of patrons. Perhaps all of them were in another hall mingling with San Francisco’s fashion elites. A quick stroll around and I quickly realized this was a not ready for prime time event taking place at a premier venue.


Eco Fashion Show San Francisco. (c) Pat YuenEco Fashion Show San Francisco. (c) Pat YuenEco Fashion Show San Francisco. (c) Pat YuenThe four featured designers were Oda (consisting of Angie Kim, Maggie Kim, & Mandalyn Begay), Lorian Lindsay, Ethos Paris, and a very bubbly Rachel Znerold. While I support the aspirations and hard work of new and upcoming designers, these designers were clearly out of their league in a venue of this size. I would expect to see the likes of Colleen Quen in such a venue. But realizing the space was donated by Christopher and Amber Marie Bently, these new designers are fortunate to have the opportunity. It was just a little strange to see the three designers with eight models in a venue of this size. The models were a mixed bag with a few on the short side as runway models go. Most of them were awkward and their walks lacked experience and polish.

  • Guest

    Well said Pat, I share the exact same sentiments with you on this one. And although I’m sure to anger some with my own reflections about the subject, I am honestly rather frustrated by it at this point (thanks in part to the many shows and scandals surrounding our latest SF fashion week). We have had some great shows in the SF Bay area, including some highly praised reoccurring yearly shows. Unfortunately, many of the talents in our fashion community is often drowned in a sea of producers with inflated ego’s, resulting in terrible management and show production, and poor or tasteless promotion, giving far too many shows a very amateurish quality that takes away from the actual designs and talent that should be the focus of these shows. We unfortunately will not be able to break away from this level of work unless a real overhaul is performed in the area of whomever is in charge of these shows.

    • I always try to walk a fine line between being overly critical and trying to call it as I see it. I don’t believe excellence comes from sugar coating. In this particular effort, I applaud the efforts of those involved. I can tell they had good intentions and try to do something positive which is what is needed. What’s lacking though is execution. That comes from years of experience.

      Gen Art had a great run in San Francisco and it was sad to see them fold nationally. Academy of Art University does a stellar job with their graduation fashion show but they have no interest beyond their own business model. Macy’s Passport is reduced to a shell of their former self.

      There is no one single governing authority in fashion in SF so anyone and everyone is free to throw their hat into the ring and give it a go. But that is part of the problem. Anyone and everyone does try and it ends up being less than stellar. To be honest, I just don’t see a financially viable business model for fashion shows in San Francisco. Industry fashion shows like NY Fashion week charge designers and don’t try to make money by selling tickets to Joe the plumber. But that requires a healthy fashion industry with influential fashion buyers which simply does not exist in San Francisco.

      If anyone is interested in discussing this in depth, feel free to join in the discussion at my new FashionSF forum. Hopefully, with some community input, those who try to produce these shows will gain some insight.

  • oda

    Pat, thanks for your comments on the show. As one of the designers, I have to admit it’s a little disheartening that you say we were out of our league in a venue of this prestige. We have showed in several other large venues and I guess the “obscure” designers that were featured were because the producers were focusing on eco-fashion and there aren’t that many companies that do only eco or sustainable fashion. That being said, I do agree the ticket prices were rather high for 4 (you don’t mention Ethos Paris who showed first) designers that aren’t even able to show full runways. One clarification on that point – we were told to only put in 5-7 looks each, the day of the event an eighth model showed up and we met her about 30 minutes before the show without even seeing her walk. As for the other models, we only had 11 to choose from in the model casting (which was 2 days before the event!) and the designers involved had to pick 7 and agree on which ones. Also for putting time and effort into preparing for the show we were also disappointed in both the promotion/turnout and the fact that it was 50 mins late. You got some great shots even with bad lighting so we thank you for that. It is hard to put so much time and effort into creating eco-friendly fashion that actually has a lot of back story and a multitude of processes that may not come across on the runway but its something we value greatly in our work.

    • I’ve watched the San Francisco fashion show scene for a long time and I know designer invest the most time and money are usually the first to get screwed when things don’t pan out. Those who have been around long enough will remember Jacinta Law the the International Fashion Week. My comment about the venue was about the size of the venue as much as the prestige of the venue. If 2,000 people showed up and there were more designers, it would not have been so awkward looking. If I ran the show, I would have given out free tickets to all fashion school students and charge their guests $5 to pack the place. As a designer, there are always compromises when it comes to doing these shows. My best advice would be for designers to get references from designers who have done bigger shows and learn from their mistakes. As for the models, they did fine for a San Francisco show. The audience is not looking at them with the critical eye that I use. Whenever I see failures like this, I feel for the designers the most because they have put in the most work and have the most to lose.