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Style & Culture

Where up-and-coming designers up and come

Designer Atousa started Sew Down to showcase the 'sophisticated, but cool and wearable' work of her young set.

October 31, 2003|Jessica Hundley | Special to The Times

Defying the philosophy of "less is more," Sunday's Sew Down will combine runway fashion, live graffiti art, several dance performances, nearly 20 DJs spinning a variety of sounds, two gallery spaces and one acid jazz band, all within a vast space on Hollywood Boulevard.

An eclectic trade-show, fashion-show hybrid, Sew Down is the brainchild of Atousa, a 30-year-old L.A.-based designer who aspired to create an alternative to the sleek, corporate-sponsored, VIP events that now dominate the industry.

"It's another way of showing your designs that is much more accessible and exciting," explains Atousa, sitting in Qtopia, the massive nightclub space that will host the event.

Atousa herself began designing in the early 1990s with a line called A Liquid Affair, a glittering, streetwear exploration that took its cues from the vibrant rave styles of the early days of that decade. She has since expanded to include high-end eveningwear and more sophisticated cuts, but the designer remains dedicated to creating clothes that are both comfortable and experimental.

"Sophisticated," she says, "but cool and wearable." Searching for a way to showcase her own clothes, as well as create a framework that would promote the innovative designs of several other young local designers, Atousa came up with the idea of Sew Down, launching her first production during last spring's fashion season. A thousand or so of the fashion-curious arrived to check things out.

Carly Jessica Mills, a local accessories designer and former schoolmate of Atousa's, was there, and she'll be back on Sunday too.

"You see things that you can't see at huge trade shows," Mills says. "It's really the crest of the wave, of music and art and style. Sew Down, basically, is describing a subculture, something new that's happening -- so new, there's not a label for it yet."

During the event, designers can sell samples, show designs that never went into production and, finally, participate in a runway show.

"It's great opportunity to meet, mingle, shop and, really, for the designers, to take a good look at your line preseason," says Atousa. "You can see what looks good and get direct feedback from the people who are actually wearing your clothes. It's an amazing give-and-take between the consumer and the designer."

Jamie Goddess, a Sacramento-based artist who runs a T-shirt company called Good Goddess, will attend Sew Down for the first time this fall.

"I started off as an illustrator, then discovered screen printing," she says. "Then I did a trunk show of T-shirts I had made and it took off. I sell them online, but it's a niche customer. I see Sew Down as a way to bring my stuff to new people and see what other designers are doing as well."

Eventually, Atousa hopes to hold a Sew Down every three months and take the show on the road.

"There's really a need for this sort of thing," she says. "For me to put on a fashion show, it's so expensive. And a lot of these young designers can't possibly afford their own shows. This is original, one-of-a-kind clothing, a chance to see upcoming talent and a way to buy clothes that can't be mass-produced."

The vendors included in Sunday's event are designers who have, as Atousa says, "the creativity, but not the corporate sponsorship."

With Sew Down, Atousa hopes to find those who are creating the next trend and allow them to show their work. With so much attention paid to designers who snag media attention and major corporate funding, it's all too easy for the fringe up-and-comers to get lost in the fray.

"It's an assembly line, in a lot of ways," she says of the fashion business. "The younger designers get buried, or they get ripped off and suddenly find their designs in chain stores with a different label in them. And there's no avoiding that. But there is a way to give people access to clothing they might not see in the mall -- art as clothing and clothing as art.

"That's why I wanted to combine all these different kinds of artistic outlets in one place, to give it energy and to show that this is reflective of a larger scene, a larger kind of culture that encompasses music and art and performance, as well."

Patricia Bosse, a Sew Down vendor and founder of the line Hippie Chick Style says: "Being in tune with yourself and finding a style that reflects who you are, that's what's most important.

"For me, it's not just the clothing. It's about a philosophy, a kind of freedom of being. I try to design without structure, without following a trend, but following a mood instead."

*

Sew Down

When: Sunday, 6 p.m.-2 a.m.; fashion show, 9 p.m.

Where: Qtopia, 6021 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood

Cost: Free

Info: (310) 657-9702

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