Art Happens Unexpectedly

I got an invitation from my friend and über designer Stephanie Verrieres to help her celebrate her birthday at the studio she shares with her business partner Kimie Sako. Together, the form the design team Verrieres & Sako and have been making splashes in the San Francisco design scene ever since they debuted at the Genart Fresh Faces fashion show back in 2006. Stephanie had a grand idea of having her guests collaborate on a a painting. There would be no direction, no theme, no limits. Just a blank canvas, brushes, paint and the collaborative creativity of all involved. To be honest, I didn’t really think it would amount to much thinking it would looking like the stalls of some bathrooms. The night started with a base coat of yellow. From there, Kimie created a rough outline of a woman in a gown. Someone started a tree to the left. Soon, then an Arabic alphabet was added to the right of the tree. Someone came along and added an eye to the left morphing it into a face. From there, more and more elements were added. In the end, a wonderful piece of art was created worthy of some galleries. I was very impressed with the finished product and the party was a huge success. Collaboration on the painting facilitated conversation and by all accounts, everyone had a good time. Oh, the food was fantastic too. It helps when the food was prepared by a professional chef who happens to work for a local Japanese restaurant.

Art Happens Unexpectedly

Mercedes-Benz LA Fashion Week – Day 1

There’s not much going on in terms of runway fashion shows in San Francisco so when the opportunity came to shoot LA Fashion Week I jumped at it. LA Fashion week is a real industry event open only to people in the fashion industry. Produced by IMG, the same company that produces NY Fashion Week, these shows are professionally produced and not staged for selling tickets to the public. I made the drive from San Francisco to L.A. for this event and the timing for this day was tight due to a long delay caused by the closure of Interstate 5 at Santa Clarita. The detour was not exactly easy and took over an hour. I arrived at the parking area with just enough time to change, gather my gear and catch the shuttle to SmashBox Studios by 3:45 pm. The first show, Sue Wong, was scheduled to start at 4:00 p.m. so I knew I had to hustle. The check in for the press line was ridiculously slow. They had a small trailer with two people inside issuing credentials for all media so the line was not moving at all. By the time I got in line, it was already 4:10 so I made the decision to go in and shoot it with just the credentials I had from Sue Wong since I had gotten an invite from her P.R. team.

By the time I got to the riser, it was already packed with about 75 still and video photographers. I made my way up to the top level and found a spot. It was pitch dark so I had to setup my gear by touch along. Fortunately, I got settled just in time for the show to start.

The show started with some dancers so this was a great opportunity to setup my exposure. I was a bit startle by how bright the lights were. I had planned to shoot at ISO 400, 1/250 at 2.8. Instead, I had to quickly reset my camera to ISO 160, 1/400 at 2.8. This show took place at the Main Tent which is the largest of the three venues. It’s a traditional setup with a white runway, audience seats set at an incline, and two banks of lights down the middle of the runway. One bank points at an angle toward the models as they approach the end of the runway. The bank next to it points at the back of the models for back lighting. I make this important distinction because I have some seen other shows staged by less professional lighting teams who point the lights straight down at the models. This setup creates very unpleasant dark eye sockets in still and video photography.

The Sue Wong collection was huge with lots of bright, vibrant pieces and very interesting head gear to match. As expected, the models were gorgeous. In a press released from Sue Wong, her collection was inspired by 20th Century modern artist such as Alexander Calder, Piet Mondrian, Joan Miro and Victor Vasarely. Each artist is rendered throughout the collection in a series of hand-painted prints, color blocking, negative / positive reverse and embellishment all in bright, lively colors as well as an infusion of black & white graphic repeats.

As I was shooting the collection hearing all the shutter clicks around me, it became even more clear to me that there are three type of runway photographers. First you have the sports shooter’s rapid fire style of holding the shutter button down and hoping for the best. Second, you have the more experienced runway shooters who pick their shots and timing it for optimal effect. Third, you have the occasional shooter with a kit lens and a flash but those are pretty rare on the risers. Los Angeles Fashion Week is a bit different from others due to the celebrity factor. It was interesting to watch the dichotomy between celebrities and paparazzi photographers. At L.A. Fashion Week, photographers are basically broken down to two groups; those interested in shooting celebrities (paparazzi photographers), and those interested in shooting fashion. It’s impossible to do both because if you want to shoot fashion, you have to get on the riser early, claim your spot, and nest there until the show starts. This process can take anywhere from 30 minutes and over an hour. Paparazzi have to camp outside the entrance waiting for red carpet arrivals. Once the celebrities walk in, they follow them around the runway and front row taking pictures. Runway shooter might occasionally grab a shot of a celebrity as they walk pass the runway but basically, you’re pretty much stuck to the spot you claimed. In less popular show, it’s possible to step off and move around a little.

Shooting Fashion Week is a series of hurry up and wait interrupted by 40 minutes of intense focus and repeated over and over again. One of the biggest challenges in runway photography is managing resources. It’s a real balancing act trying to use the limited resources you have while still maintaining enough for the next show. If you shoot rapid fire, you will definitely run out of memory and power very quickly. Not to mention the extra time required to edit the junk out after the show. The way the runway is setup, it pretty much impossible to get full length shots when the model is at the end of the runway unless you are in the first or second row. Most of that space is taken by the video guys with the humongous tripods. So I ended up shooting most full length shots while they approach the runway and tighter shots at the end.

With the Sue Wong show behind me, it was off to the Nicky Hilton show. This would be a circus as she has one of the biggest celebrity factors and was showing at the smallest of the three tents. In the end, we manage to squeeze in and make it work. Fortunately, sister Paris did not make a showing to it was not as bad as it could have been. As for her collection, let’s just say it was more off the rack than designer fashion but maybe that’s her target audience. Who knows? It’s just not what I expected to see on a runway among more flamboyant designers.

Next up was the Yves Castaldi show. He started the show with a solo vocal performance that tested the patience of all in attendance. People are there to see fashion and anything other than fashion just detracts from it. I have no problem with the performance of a single song so I can test the lighting but I was not ready for a mini recital while packed shoulder to shoulder on the riser with a bunch of sweaty photographers. The show finally opened with Bai Ling as a celebrity model. I was rather impressed with the collection. His entire collection consisted of black, charcoal, and white.

The day ended with the headliner show in the big tent by Randolph Duke. It was a huge show with lots of celebrities present. Randolph Duke is known for elegant gowns and he did not disappoint based on the positive response from the crowd. As expected, the pieces were elegant and feminine.

By the time the show ended, it was already past 9 p.m. By the time I caught the shuttle back to the garage and check in to the hotel, it was already past 10 p.m. and I was exhausted. Luckily, none of the shows start before 2 pm so I could relax before the cycle starts over again. Having the first show behind me, it was now time to make an assessment of what I really needed. I had brought along a backup body and a couple of wide lenses and a flash for backstage shots. But it was just too much weight to carry around so for the second day, I just brought what I needed and a small compact camera for backstage.

Sue Wong Collection

Nicky Hilton slide show

Randolph Duke slide show

Yves Castaldi slide show

Rene Geneva Design focuses on the exotic, luxury and future of fashion with an eco-friendly conscience for Fashion Week, Los Angeles.

Model: Angela Ryan, Photo by: Greg Daniels

Model: Angela Ryan, Photo by: Greg Daniels

Austin, TX (October 1, 2007) — Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, Los Angeles is coveting the eco-trend this season, partnering with companies such as The CarbonNeutral Company and Whole Foods Market. This year, with eco being a hot issue, designers such as Debra Lindquist and Ecoganik will surely grab greater attention. And this year, many will be in for some eye candy with the Fashion Week debut of Rene Geneva Design.

Rene Geneva has been steadily gaining popular industry attention with recent features in California Apparel News, Yogi Times, Austin Monthly and more. Her conscientious work with indigenous tribes, small villages, and fair trade labor in developing countries in addition to the dedication to the “greening” of her business in many aspects shows audacity, if not leave the reader with the wonder of when she finds time to sleep.

“While eco friendly clothing has become a popular fashion trend, it is still very hard to find sophisticated designs that are truly eco-friendly and target an ever-growing fashion forward audience,” says Geneva. Presently, fashion has a fast-growing market of eco-aware women who have limited options for apparel and even fewer options for sustainable wedding gowns. “Our goal is to fill the void for this modern, aware, and design-savvy customer base within the fashion community.”

With the recent release of their ready to wear fashion line at WWDMagic, August 2007, Ms. Geneva has successfully entered a market eager to receive eco chic apparel. Their designs encompass exotic corsets (under the Faernyn’s Grove brand name), women’s contemporary apparel, eveningwear and bridal made exclusively from organic and eco friendly materials and are offered to an international customer base. Each garment is either made in the USA or with Fair Trade Labor. Textiles this season include Sustainable Biodegradable Product™ rated hemp blends, Tencel, “peace” silk, SKAL certified organic cotton, and bamboo. More exclusive designs use rare fabrics made from tree bark, and hand woven silk. Most designs from this season carry a “carbon neutral” certification that offsets the carbon necessary to bring a garment to life through their “Fashionably Neutral Carbon Program™”, which is the first of its kind in the luxury apparel industry. Company efforts help higher causes, including the “Scraps for Schools” program, which recycles fabric scraps for children’s art projects, and the “Sun Power Project,” which will implement the installation of solar electricity into a needy community in Central America.

Designer, Rene´Geneva, Photo by: Greg Daniels

Rene Geneva Design Studio and Showroom
509 West Elizabeth Street
Austin, Texas 78704

More information may be found at

Pioneers New Movement in Contemporary Fashion with Unparalleled Collection of Dresses Inspired by 20th Century Masters of Modern Art

Los Angeles, CA – (October 10, 2007) Designer Sue Wong Spring 08 Collection, to be presented on Sunday, October 14th at 4:00 PM during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Los Angeles, is an experiment in design direction geared towards a youthful demographic. The collection overall however will not forsake the label’s core customer who continues to demand Wong’s classic vintage sensibility found in Nocturne, her line of special occasion eveningwear.

“Runway should be bigger than life to me – it’s an art performance so why not work it,” says the designer whose shows are known for their grand scale and theatrical presentation. “The runway is going to explode with color! It’s going to be pretty happy and cheerful and all in the same vernacular this season,” she explains in reference to the run-of-show.

Highlights from the collection are inspired by the recognizable works of some of the 20th century’s most influential modern artists including Alexander Calder, Piet Mondrian, Joan Miro and Victor Vasarely.

Each artist is rendered throughout the collection in a series of hand-painted prints, color blocking, negative / positive reverse and embellishment all in bright, lively colors as well as an infusion of black & white graphic repeats. The ingenious combination of prints, patterns and textures applied together with progressive design is testament to Ms. Wong’s perpetual talent.

New fabrics befitting the modern aspect of the collection are crinkled silk organza, crinkle silk cotton, power mesh, matte taffeta in a range of vibrant multi-colors, citrus, black and white and quintessential yet subtle greys.

Young Hollywood is catching on to the new direction with celebrities choosing Wong for their press appearances including: Vanessa Hudgens of High School Musical, Hayden Panettiere of Heroes, Miley Cyrus of Hannah Montana, ,Jordin Sparks of American Idol and film actresses Rumer Willis and Brittany Snow among many others.

While Sue Wong’s new take on retro modern is designed to capture the attention of a burgeoning contemporary market and first-time dress wearer, the collection overall remains true to its core customer by retaining a selection with classic vintage appeal, a universal fit, and unbeatable pricepoint.

The Sue Wong collection is available at better specialty boutiques and department stores such as Neiman-Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom and more. The label is also carried in over 25 foreign markets.

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week At SmashBox Studios Goes Green

From Designers to Décor, everything that will make you Green with Envy

Los Angeles, Calif. (October 9, 2007) – From tents to tables and shipping to staging, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios is getting a complete makeover this season and it’s all green. As the emphasis on the environment has taken hold, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios is proud to put its green foot forward being among the first in the industry to make this commitment. This season’s eco-friendly initiatives include a series of eco-conscious designers and fashion shows, a greening of the overall production elements and a partnership with The CarbonNeutral Company to measure, reduce and offset the entire fashion event!

Eco-Chic takes on a new meaning with our environmentally conscious line up of shows from Ecoganik, The Gallery and Evidence of Evolution.  These socially responsible designers have taken fashion to the next level by providing consumers with stylish, comfortable and organically-based clothing.  Ecoganik’s clothing is made only with certified organic or eco-friendly fabrics.  The Gallery is a philanthropic PR and marketing company committed to promoting organic apparel lines through green branding. Their green initiative fashion show will feature six collections from Peligrosa, Vintage China, Rene Geneva Design, Roshi Salim, Wet Cement and M the Movement.

“We are happy to bring these talented eco-designers to the runways of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios,” said Smashbox Studios co-founder Davis Factor. “We hope that this commitment to the environment sets an example for the rest of the fashion community that it is possible to be profitable while using sustainable materials and designs.”

The greening will start before any of the designers, buyers, celebrities or VIPs even arrive as all major equipment will make its way across the United States aboard a fuel-efficient locomotive. Over the course of seven days, many will gather to build the tents at Smashbox Studios. These tents and staging structures will be rented, and be reused for another event in the future. Many forklifts needed to build these gigantic tents as well as other heavy machinery will all run on LPG (Liquid Propane), a far cleaner alternative to gasoline.

As the guests arrive, they will be greeted by signage printed on biodegradable plastic materials, carpeting made from recycled PET plastics installed using an environmentally responsible product – ATC Turf and Carpet Grip (which will be collected after the event to be recycled once again) and furniture covered with sustainable eco-fabrics and will pick up the official program, printed on 100% recycled stock of course.

Fashionistas will have the opportunity to purchase a piece of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios through the “William Good” collection. The “William Good” brand was created by Joe Boxer founder Nick Graham in conjunction with Goodwill Industries of San Francisco with the aim of generating an alternative green solution by creating the ultimate carbon neutral brand. Vinyl signage materials from Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios will be donated and reused to create fashionable accessories with all sale proceeds going to the Goodwill.

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios has partnered with The CarbonNeutral Company to measure and reduce the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of the event, and then helping us offset the remainder. The carbon credits totaled up for the event will go towards an Indian wind farm (which replaces electricity from fossil fuel power stations) and a Mexican forestry project (which soaks up carbon dioxide and preserves the rainforests ecosystem).  By matching CO2 emissions with CO2 savings from verified projects, the result is that the event has a net zero carbon footprint.

On the afternoon of October 17th, IMG Fashion will announce some exciting news for ecoStyle Kuala Lumpur (November 1-11, 2007). ecoStyle invites the world’s leading designers to showcase their innovations with a focus on style in relation to eco-consciousness and sustainable textile and design. The concept was born out of global movement toward environmental friendliness, ethical shopping, a shift towards renewable resources and efforts being made toward sustainability on a local and global level. All funds generated from ecoStyle Kuala Lumpur will benefit Earth Pledge.

Over the course of five days, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios, will also includes runway shows by Sue Wong, Chick by Nicky Hilton, Yves Castaldi, Randolph Duke, Coco Johnsen, Kevan Hall, Elsie Katz Couture, Joseph Domingo, Heatherette, Juan Carlos Obando*, Gregory Parkinson, Jenny Han, Christian Audigier, Dina Bar-El, Grey Ant, Whitley Kros, Tart, Beach Bunny Swimwear, Voom by Joy Han, Jeremy Scott, Bird of Prey, Candice Held, Monarchy Collection, Samora, Oligo Tissew and Petro Zillia.

The sponsors and partners of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios will be getting in on green with a series of individual initiatives discussed below.

Mercedes-Benz will be highlighting the World Green Car of the Year 2007 – the E320 BLUETEC – as the world’s cleanest diesel.  Appealing to the most fashionable crowd in the environmentally conscious city of Los Angeles, Mercedes-Benz will be highlighting the long-term objective of fuel-efficient and environmentally compatible premium automobiles that do not compromise on safety, comfort or supreme driving pleasure.

“We’re excited to be able to highlight our BLUETEC technology and show how Mercedes-Benz is committed to providing our customers with the safest, most enjoyable, luxurious and eco-friendly vehicles possible,” says Lisa Holladay, National Event Manager, Mercedes-Benz USA LLC. “Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios is the perfect venue to display our environmental technology messaging in a fun and fashionable manner.”

DHL, the world’s leading express delivery and logistics company, will highlight its environmentally friendly reusable envelope for guests who ship and return legal-size documents. The new envelope provides businesses with a quick, simple and eco-friendly return solution. Additionally, DHL will be supplying thousands of recyclable plastic bags, the official Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios schedule cards printed on recycled paper, and everyone’s favorite butter cream cookie will come packaged in a biodegradable cellophane bag.

Smashbox Cosmetics will be turning over a new leaf with the ¬GREEN ROOM SPRING 2008 COLOR COLLECTION. With the purchase of every GREEN ROOM product, a Moringa tree will be planted in a developing country by Trees for the Future. The Moringa or “Miracle Tree” is a powerhouse of nutritional value and provides a self-renewing food source for people in need. More trees also mean less soil erosion and cleaner air and water for a greener future. All GREEN ROOM packaging is biodegradable or recyclable and all products are made with environmentally-friendly formulas so it’s beauty you can feel good about!

Judith Ripka will be hosting a week-long fashion exhibit onsite in the VIP Green room with fashion photographer Melvin Sokolsky entitled Bubbles and Baubles.  In support of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios’ “green friendly” theme, both a Sokolsky photograph and a piece of Judith Ripka jewelry will be auctioned on Ebay – all proceeds will benefit Earth Pledge.
The Whole Foods Market motto, Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet. At Whole Foods Market, they take their commitment to the environment to heart as one of the core values of their company. Supporting sustainable and organic agriculture and wise environmental practices means more than offering the highest quality products; it also means making decisions for their stores that positively impact the health of the planet and local communities. To put these initiatives into action during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios, Whole Foods Market will be providing reusable green bags for many show attendees; will be showcasing a delicious array of natural foods with a menu especially created for the event, with items packaged in the same type of recyclable containers that are used in the stores; and will be providing compostable utensils made from potato starch.
At Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios, Gateway will be featuring their new all-in-one PC, the Gateway One. This eco-friendly PC is almost completely silent when running and uses much less power than a typical desktop PC thanks to low-power components, an external power module and smart power management.

Be green in style while enjoying a refreshing Peroni onsite at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios. Made from all natural ingredients – Peroni, “Tutti Ingredienti Naturali.”

The Los Angeles Times is proud to be a part of the green initiatives that is taking place within the LA Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios.  This Los Angeles Times, Image branded poly tote is made of polypropylene, which is 100% recyclable plastic material.  It is a see-thru translucent but very strong material.  It features a large inside clear pocket, bottom support board, strong binding construction and long shoulder straps.  Perfect for shopping and any outdoor activities.

For those who enjoy good taste and high quality products, FAGE (pronounced ”fah-yeh”) Total is a premium daily indulgence with a rich, luxurious taste. FAGE is proud to participate in this green effort as it shares the philosophy to celebrate a commitment to natural living, as FAGE is made of only two ingredients, live cultures and milk, its all-natural, free of any additives, sweeteners and preservatives. FAGE will be providing a healthy treat to all attendees, models and designers.

Havaianas, the eco-conscious flip-flop and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios gift bag participant, is all about how they make you feel! Since 1962 they have focused on the joy that comes from living!! From the production process, where 98% of any scraps are recycled off of the factory floor, to the support for the quality-of-life in the villages and communities that surround these Brazilian factories, they strive to feel good inside and out! They call it the “Legacy of Legao” – cool, comfortable, colorful and chic!

In addition to the lineup of designers showing at Smashbox Studios are a fashionable roster of design suites’ participants. The list of companies includes Andrew Lauren, Anna Kostruurova, Blue Tatoo, Boulevard, DanSara, La Chica Chic, Smooch Jeans, Privacy Wear and many more!

Will You Bleed For Free Exotic Erotic Ball Tickets?

The Exotic Erotic Ball is proud to announce its 7th Annual Blood Drive for FREE Tickets, October 11, 2007 at the Blood Center of the Pacific’s Irwin Center office, in San Francisco. Donors giving blood according to the instructions provided at this link will receive one FREE General Admission ticket to the Exotic Erotic Ball, Saturday, October 27, 2007, a value of $69.00.

The Exotic Erotic Ball has long fostered strong ties to the San Francisco Bay Area community. Over the years, the Ball has distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to charities supporting causes such as helping the victims of homelessness, AIDS, domestic violence, child abuse, and has always supported freedom of expression and First Amendment Rights. The Ball hosts an annual blood drive with Blood Centers of the Pacific and in 2006, 50 donors gave 50 pints of blood and each received a ticket to the Ball. For 2007, legendary rap artist, Snoop Dogg, will perform in a charity concert at the Cow Palace Arena on Friday, October 26, 2007, as part of the Exotic Erotic Expo and Ball Weekend, with all funds being donated to the Healing Circle and other San Francisco Bay Area Charities. Thus far, the Ball has donated $45,000.00 to The Healing Circle through Snoop Dogg in July 2007. Snoop will return the next night, Saturday, October 27, 2007, as a special guest at the Ball, where he will join Tera Patrick and Danny Bonaduce as judges of the Ball’s world famous costume contests.