Fashion week in Burlingame

Fashion week in Paris seemed a good time for Kids & Art to hold the second of its upcycled clothing craft sessions. This is the first season Purvi has explored this territory with the help of two local designers: Jill Pilot of Ricochet, in San Mateo and Neysa Young, a designer who teaches at California College of Art in Oakland. In September, a fashion show is planned to showcase the work.

March 8, participants spent a few hours with Neysa and other volunteers in the Burlingame studio space adjacent to the new Kids & Art office. The workshop was open to both kids and grown-ups. Participants left with something old slash new to wear.

Two four year old friends, Naomi and Sarah arrived hand in hand. They marched in so full of excitement and purpose, a little like they were on a runway. Who does not love seeing a smiling child? I am sure a good deal of their excitement was because they were there to do something together.

Neysa brought us up to date on techniques and styles trending in the upcycled clothing design world. This worldwide movement you might say itself recycles practical notions human societies present and past have used to economize on materials, beautifying what was worn out with decorative embellishment.

The updated modern take on this is about being decorative but also about being eco-conscious. Upcycled fashion is also part of the expanding crafting movement and has made its mark on high-fashion. Neysa’s slideshow featured many design ideas, including some pieces by Timo Risenen and Junya Watanabe, internationally known in sustainable fashion.

Neysa underscored that ‘cheap fashion’ comes at a high cost to the environment and in terms of social costs. Upcycling clothes benefits the environment. “The process of design transforms what might end up unused waste into wearable clothing,” she says.

“You also get more in touch with your clothes by making them,” she tells us. We have all gathered around her laptop, where adults and kids alike occupy some kid-sized furniture.

As for the expressive part of this craft, it is a way to be original and an individual and yourself. You can make quick transformations to existing clothing that will give things already in your wardrobe your own signature, she tells us. We pass around a few playful pieces she has made, and she talks about how she has altered them.

Had Neysa not mentioned that it was fashion week in Paris I might not have known. Life gets busy. Hearing about fashion week brought back memories of Paris. We lived there five years ago, and one thing I do know is there are almost no taxis available in the city when the fashion world takes over.

This week has also been significant for my daughter whose decision to cut her hair short came with an accidental benefit for Locks for Love. I was happy that her stylist thought to make the suggestion.

Participants were asked to come to the workshop with a piece of clothing to refashion. They chose add-ons from tables of trim and fabric samples. Fully intact garments, aka old clothes, were also ready to be deconstructed and re-incorporated into a new piece. A few sewing machines were available as were hand sewing supplies, and Neysa and Kanjana helped with hands-on tutorials.

Naomi, who attended a prior workshop where I had met her, had come with her mom--and dad came along too. Naomi and her BFF Sarah picked out the fabric and buttons they liked and placed them on the dress and top they had brought from their home closets.

Yvette and her brother Ezra, two teens who have participated in many workshops, showed off their style sense. The pieces they made had a kind of edgy retro Bohemian look. Ezra's sister, Yvette put white pom-pom trim on a printed skirt.

At one point, I tried to help Ezra with some probably basic but new to me stitches diagrammed in a book. Even though Neysa had demonstrated the sequence of steps to create this decorative top-stitch for us, in the end, we moved on to the machine, which would take care of it more quickly. Something in me wanted to master the stitch, though. Now I’m determined to.

Naomi’s mom sewed polar fleece onto a sweatshirt with sequin letters that spelled HAPPY. I saw that Pooja appliqued some decorative elements onto a t-shirt. I wondered if she and the other kids would raid their closets and make a pile of things to refashion.

While the sewing machines and hand sewing proceeded, the two four-year-olds got to enjoy the day’s theme in a different way. After they had begun running around the fabric supply table for a bit, we decided they needed fabric capes. There were many lovely fabric choices, and Purvi found two marigold- toned East Indian block print lengths of fabric. The girls did many more laps around the room but also checked in to oversee how their workshop partners, er, labor force, were doing. Then they took a seat to do a little fashion illustration with markers on paper. They got to go home with newly embellished frocks each bearing a ton of buttons.

After we wrapped up, Neysa said she had a great time at the workshop. "I’m impressed how kids jumped in and got right to it,' she said. "It was nice to see what they picked out. The kids got the message, and it was great to see them have fun doing it,” she says.

To the children and parents who had signed up but were not able to make the workshop, you were missed!