Amber and I both hail from Sacramento, California. It’s more or less kind of near where both of us grew up, it’s where we first bonded (at a fortuitous Chk Chk Chk show at Harlow’s in 2008), but even though we’ve also spent time together in LA, Baltimore, Atlantic City, New York and Chicago, as far as our friendship is concerned, our hometown is Tucson, Arizona.
There’s nothing that compares to a walk down the middle of a dimly lit Barrio Viejo street, past the glowing windows of familiar pastel adobes and onto the wax hardened earth that leads to the sweet flame flickering of the wishing shrine. My heart swells just to think of it.
As wanderlusters must stay true to their nature, we both eventually moved away, but the desert beckons us back so often that we have a designated Interstate 10 only playlist and favorite rest stops.
When Amber and I traversed that dusty desert highway for what seemed like the hundredth time last October, I was determined and a little nervous. I was showing my first work in over two years at Tucson Fashion Week. I had given up designing in late 2012 and spend the last two years missing it painfully. But here I was and luckily I had my best friend at my side backstage to keep me calm and hydrated as I frantically hand sewed in zippers and tried not to get stepped on.
Actually, had it not been for Amber, I wouldn’t have been there at all. On a balmy April night at The Coronet on our previous visit, she’d called up a good friend and together they talked me into it. I was a little drunk when I agreed, but I kept my word. I’d spent the last two years creatively floundering and wondering what I should make instead of clothes. I struggled with this question for far too long. Answer? Nothing. I should make clothes.
I showed my now retired line, Sapphire Cordial, at the very first Tucson Fashion Week in 2010, so it was only appropriate that I let the warmth of my desert city ease me back into the world I love, under a new nom de plume, Yearling. An animal in its second year.
May I present “Leilani”, designed by Jamaica Cole, unveiled in Tucson, shot in Sacramento, dedicated to Amber Flynn.
Model Leslie Hoffeditz. Photos by Nicholas Avey. Hair by Deeda Salon. Makeup by Leslie Hoffeditz.
A reoccurring daydream of mine has been to have too much time to myself, isolated from the world for several months with nothing but my sewing machine, a large iTunes library, and enough super healthy food that I wouldn’t have to venture into the world at all.
It’s a reverie that has calmed me when overwhelmed, hungover or sick to death of my job. I would plan my escape, figuring how much I would have to save up, where I would go, who I would tell (very few), and what I would do if somebody tried to break into this hypothetical house while I was sleeping and murder me for no reason I know this is an absurd thing to stress myself out about but I can’t help it and I have done it since I was a kid and nothing remotely like that has ever happened to me but I still freak out about it and on a similar note camping is terrifying.
Um. Well, as luck would have it, this scenario (the house to myself, not the faceless axe-wielding maniac*) was handed to me on a silver platter right when I got back from accidentally spending two and a half weeks in the Bible Belt (Make that four and a half weeks for Rian and Ryan, who are finally hauling yacht back to LA).
When my friend Monique asked me to dog/cat/veggie garden/house sit for most of July, I jumped at the chance. A perfect opportunity to cash in on some much needed alone time and prepare for the fashion show I agreed to do July 20th, my first in over a year. So I moved my few belongings in, bought a ton a healthy food, turned on some Moonface and sat down to sketch…
Everything I drew looked contrived and amateurish. And boring. I concentrated on the theme. I looked at magazines. I finally joined Pinterest. I had long phone conversations with my mom on the topic(s) of art vs. business vs. selling out vs. no one cares vs. blah blah blah and had countless revelations which I immediately forgot.
After a week and a half spent hunkered down, trying to concentrate, cursing my lack of vision/motivation/a flat stomach, I had a little facebook chat with my friend Michael Lopez. A fellow designer, he seems to be constantly producing things, updating his etsy store, doing photoshoots…he displays a level of excitement and productivity I haven’t felt since I was 22 or so (not counting a few little spurts coinciding with wanting to impress someone, or that little known internet gem called Concrete and Cashmere).
Michael explained that when he didn’t feel inspired to sew, he’d screen print, or just make basic crop tops, just make something. Slowly I began to remember what it’s like to sew. Most of the time when I end up with a piece I really love, it was one that continuously morphed as I made it. Sure, I’d have a basic sketch, but since I rarely work from patterns, I’d always be compensating, changing it from the shape I originally intended and into something new and beautiful that I didn’t expect. (<<< check out that sick metaphor 4 life, bro.)
So instead of sitting around watching the first two seasons of Louie and getting more and more depressed, (well, not instead. I should have said, after watching the first two seasons of Louie and the Joan Rivers episode totally punching me in the revelation gut, and the duckling episode making me cry) I made a decision.
I decided to stop thinking.
Specifically, thinking about the future. My mind had been occupied with so many career-related what-ifs and if-I-can’t-make-clothes-then-what-is-my-purpose-in-lifes, that my hands had become immobile. All I had to do was pick up the fucking scissors and get to work. And so I did. And I made a couple of really shitty pieces of clothing.
But it was either actively try to create, or give up and slump into a lethargic Netflix globule, whining to the dogs about how pathetic I am.
Two days later, things started to turn around. Tonight I finished a fourth gorgeous dress and I couldn’t be more excited about the upcoming show. As I stated in my last post, the evening’s theme is Future Primitive, something that at first didn’t resonate with me. Now, however, I can confidently see where this collection is going and pinpoint its main themes. Ladies and gentlemen, get ready. The designs in their essence:
Lascaux cave paintings -meets- Juggalo babes going to the opera.
(I’d like to note for the record: I just spent twenty minutes photoshopping hatchetmen** onto a cave wall for you and then said aloud “What the fuck am I doing?”)
If you happen to be in Tucson, I’ll see you Friday, but I’ll post pictures as soon as I can after the show, which is FREEEEEE.
*I am fully aware of my absurdity here, and have talked my heart out of exploding countless times: What are the chances that there is a guy with an axe/revovler/candlestick just wandering through these woods right now? It’s raining anyway, he’d be too damp and uncomfortable to be in the mood to kill me, and besides he doesn’t know me. Most murders are committed by someone the victim knows, right? Or am I thinking of rapes? Or am I thinking of most car crashes occurring within five miles of your house? Whatever. There would be no motive, is what I’m getting at. And if this imaginary calculating brute is for some reason an acquaintance of mine, why me? I’m so nice! And I’m poor! I have literally nothing this creep could want. He couldn’t even want my identity, since I have somehow managed to achieve a terrible credit score, despite the fact that I didn’t go to college and I’ve never had a credit card. To conclude, there is no chance that anyone is trying to kill me. That sound I heard was probably just a bear.
**The irony of this post involving potential “axe wielding” individuals AND hatchetmen just now hit me.
Homeless, aimless and unemployed, I appear to be in gypsy mode once again. But that doesn’t mean I’m going go overboard with baubles (overbauble?) and dress like a schizophrenic costume shop refugee a like I did in 2009. This time I’m taking the high road (well, only clothing-wise. The low road has WAY better bars).
For the past six months or so, I’ve cooled it with my accessory obsession (obsessory? accession?) (sorry) (not sorry) and stuck to a look comprised mostly of dresses and shoes. There is a get-up-and-go simplicity about it, and it’s given me the opportunity to downsize my wardrobe into a travel-friendly two-bag affair. However, I seem to have only collected a variety of short floral dresses and cowboy boots and now I look like I’m wearing a Jamaica costume.
Something must be done, lest I end up an action figure. I can see it now: a displeased plastic frown from juggling my miniature suitcases while trying to find my tiny boarding pass. My haircut comes pre-experimented on by little kid scissors, and if you look in my luggage, there are seven more outfits exactly like the one I’m wearing.
I have approximately one more month in Tucson before I’m truly floating in the wind. Now is the time for reinvention! So stylistically, I’ve decided to embrace the vagabond life in a Kathleen-Turner-in Body-Heat homage to the 1930’s via the 1980’s.
Confused? Good. So am I.
Whilst thrifting in Flagstaff, AZ with my mom, I came across this pattern:
The masculine/feminine silhouette balance and the monochrome simplicity made me weak at the knees, and better yet, this (view B) is one of those easily thriftable looks. A pair of high rise pleated pants can be easily made into shorts with minimal sewing skills. Just cut a couple of inches longer than intended, then roll up, tack down and press. Wear with a brown belt over a simple silk tank and then throw on one of those ubiquitous oversized white button downs and roll up the sleeves. Top with a wide brimmed hat or a pair of big earrings, adopt a breathy voice, and you’ll win/break the heart of almost every character ever portrayed by Michael Douglas.
Want to embody a modern, monochrome Carmen Sandiego, but avoid the Polly Esther Fabrique? If you’re not me, you could try the actual high road and achieve this look with new clothes!
above photos via fashion gone rogue
And if you want to get just crazy high on the high road (at least as far as scoring points with yours truly is concerned), be sure to check out what may very well be my last Tucson fashion show on July 20th. The theme of the night is “future primitive”, and even though I appear to be doing “vintage modern”, I’m sure I can rationalize it all somehow. In keeping with my current approach toward life in general, the best plan is…no plan?
No… I’m not actually back in Reykjavik. It’s pushing 100 here but it kinda feels like I am since I’ve been marinating in Icelandic inspiration for weeks preparing for my fashion show. It’s all finally happening this Friday at the historic Fox Theater in Tucson!
Funny to think I would even attempt to capture the grandeur of Iceland by putting pretty clothes on pretty people, but the venue and the music should help!
Never underestimate the power of Art Deco and Sigur Ros.
If you know me, it would make sense that Painfully Hip’s first fashion show would take place on the same stage that Leslie Hall melted my face from a few months previous… and involve dogs somehow. That’s just how I roll.
My inspiration for this show? Prep school kids from the desert with hippy parents. A back to school theme, just in time for all the ASU students to go, well, back to school. Four full days of pulling, sewing and styling later, I ended up with this recipe: 15 models, 6 dogs, two parts buttoned-up, 3 parts buttoned-down, 11 parts hip. Yes, my models were stunnahs, but it was the dogs that really got fierce on the catwalk.
For the full immersion experience:
1. Press play on the Caribou soundtrack below
2. Press play on the slideshow player
3. Click full screen button (bottom right of slideshow player) to zoom
Documentary photos by Andrew Brown
Fashion photos by Allan Sturm
Every Dog Has Its Day
A Benefit for Hope Animal Shelter
Aug 27th, 2010
Styled and directed by Amber Mortensen in collaboration with Bradley Rhea and Abraham Cooper
Many thanks to Preen Vintage, Buffalo Exchange and Wingflash Designs (who custom-designed a collection of single carved bone feather earrings and necklaces for this show) for contributing to the cause of benefitting Hope Animal Shelter. We raised over $1500 for Tucson’s only no-kill, no-cage animal shelter and for surgery to help save the life of Atticus the rescue dog.
Special thanks to Dan Hernandez, Club Congress, Adrienne Lake, Caroline Palmer, David Jon Muse, Aveda Institute and to all of my loverly models and wonderpup owners.
Last week I woke up and felt like it was Christmas morning in July (except it wasn’t July, it was October… only it felt like July because I’m in the desert…). Why you ask? Because it was motherfucking HAIRCUT DAY.
You see, the gorgeous Jasmine of Billie Goat Vintage had asked me 2 months ago to be part of her amazing runway show on Sept 25th, and had graciously asked me to please grow out my hair for it. I knew it was important to her, so I didn’t hesitate to promise to keep away from the scissors – NOT an easy feat considering that my hair is my arch nemesis, and I’d rather have as little of it on my head as possible at all times.
Here I am on the runway… Turned out there was actually no need at all for me to grow it out since they just ended up fixing a big yellow clove hitch of fake hair to the side of my head anyway… By the way, those are butterfly wings affixed to my eye. The hair and makeup was pretty awesome all round. Check it.
Click photo to see the rest of this amazing show!
I must thank you again, Jasmine, not only for letting me sport the most amazing dress ever, but for priming me up for the best haircut of my life.
Fast-forward. I have just met one of the most talented hair stylists I will probably ever know. We become fast friends because he is FUCKING AWESOME… and he offers to cut my HAIR!! My gnarly, fried, bleached-to-shit, nothing hair! And what does he do with it? He makes gold. An alchemist is he. He spent, like, an hour on my 3 strands of hair. Addam Moreno, ladies and gentleMAN, the creative director of Joico.
Yes, Dirty Harry, I DO feel lucky. Thanks for asking.
Here’s the front, just for the record, in the immediate afterglow of scissor heaven via my laptop photobooth.
This is what glee looks like
BTW, Tucsonans, we are currently looking for hair models for a free cut and color by Addam. YOU WIN. Please contact me at painfullyhipATgmail.com IF you are not afraid of change.
Phoenicians? Is that what we call people of Phoenix? I really hope so!
Don’t miss BOOTY SAFARI tomorrow night, October 15, at the Ruby Room! My friend Joe! He paints with light! Plus it will be a crazay partay!
Arizona! Come see us make like models at the Grand Avenue Festival, taking place in a rad former pie factory warehouse:
This will feature the most beautiful altered vintage from Butter Toast Boutique, the brick and mortar version of the amazing Billie Goat Vintage. I’m really excited. Hope to see some of you kids there!
Wait. I’ve been invited to model in a pie factory runway show. Should I have a bad feeling about this?
what’s HocoFest? oh, you know… i had no idea either. until there was a fashion show involved (and that right there sums up the extent of the brain-space i devote to anything non textile-related…).
so turns out, it’s a pretty freakin’ awesome 3-day festival that “a celebration of all things music, solar & sustainable during labor day weekend in sunny tucson, AZ- home to one of the best indie music scenes in the states.”
(aw! thanks hocofest website! i think tucson has one of the best “indie music scenes in the states” as well!)
emilie, half of the preen-ownership duo. um, was this dress MADE for her, or are you going to be stubborn and argue with the obvious?
so everyone’s favorite vintage shop in tucson, preen, would be getting involved, obviously.
how so? by combining with the also-fabulous buffalo exchange to create a “sustainable fashion show.”
um, hi world! did you say that the show involved all things thrifted and vintage?
huh… i suppose we could work within those parameters.
pre-show. we (and by “we” i mean emilie,) did a fantastic job with the theme, no?
so the theme was “glam rock,” something which i personally have never embraced as a style choice. it turned out to be a lot of fun to work with though, actually.
amber and i spent way too many hours combing through photos of david bowie, lamenting over our lack of one armed/one legged psychedelic jumpsuits, and listening to all things sparkly and amazing in our itunes. we styled some really amazing catwalk outfits, which were immediately tossed out the door the minute we set foot in preen and realized we had some serious options to work with.
me, amber and evee, wearing more makeup, leopard print and hairspray than we will for
the entire rest of the year combined.
so preen had eight models total, and buffalo exchange had somewhere around 30, but we totally managed to kill it anyway. the missing 8th model from the group picture at the top? this handsome looking fellow, abraham:
abraham, one of the only men i know who can totally rock pleather pants and a sequined bomber.
something else amazing? tuani’s vintage gold fringe skirt, docs, and one glove:
seriously emilie, how do you pull this off?!?!
ok, so she’s glove-less here, but i promise one came on for the show…
so enough “behind the scenes” already, right?!?! you’re ready for some actual show-action!!
well, that’s “behind the scenes” too. (hey, best spot in the house. and a change of scenery…)
so… some of us had never actually walked the the runway before and were actually a wee bit terrified. i won’t say who this “someone” is, because i’d be embarrassed. (hey! i’m not a model, i’m a designer and a stylist! being stared at is terrifying!)
this photo does the situation no justice – we’re all on the runway at this point – which i’m cool with. but how does a girl with absolutely no catwalk experience pull it off when it’s her turn alone down the runway? well, if you’re ever in the same situation, i’ll give you a little hint: do your most ridiculous dance and pretend everyone is eatingit up.
there’s no terror in large groups…
and not to save the best for last, but the show-stopper of the evening? i don’t think anyone can argue with this:
evee, in her cage-dress/vintage lingerie/black velvet little-boy blazer number, with the most amazing hair ever…
um, yeah. an amazing trash can ball gown erin bradley, the other half of the preen
magnificence created by hand.
yeah, i said it. BY HAND.
and in case all that wasn’t enough, the Meat Puppets played immediately after our part of the show. the meat puppets! stop and think about that for a minute or two. seriously, how awesome are the 90s?!?!
Diana and I were giddy with anticipation when we heard that Christian Siriano of Project Runway fame would be showing his Fall Collection at a chic cocktail party just in time for our very first blogger convergence. We arrived at the loft space via freight elevator and feasted our eyes on the gold, turquoise, and brown concoctions floating around the room on racks and statuesque models. It took us a great many pink drinks to get up the balls to talk to the pint-sized talent, who revealed that his sky-high footwear would be available at Payless soon! Can you say GLEE??
Christian complimented my little jacket-y thingy (one of those things I’ve had sitting in the back of my closet for ages and now can’t get enough of, see previous) and we were so excited to meet the stunning and endlessly sweet Karen of wheredidugetthat (who has a much more in-depth post here) and the lovely and hilarious Tamar of MTV’s Buzzworthy who apparently REALLY loves ponies. We also got to meet the gorgeous Justin Tranter, jewelry designer and lead singer of Semi-Precious Weapons.
Thanks so much to Christian and Lindsay Brown for the invite, we had a FABULOUS time.