Seventy-five degrees might be a bit warm for a mid-November night, but it was perfect for this year’s Stitch fashion show. In their third year, Stitch and its producers were once again out at Emo’s on 6th street for blaring tunes, one-of-a-kind jewelry and incredible fashion. While Austin is already a Mecca of fashion forward individuals, the Stitch show proved that fashion can continue to surprise.
Created in 2003 by Jesse Kelly-Landes of Amet and Sasha, Tina Sparkles of Sparkle Craft and Karly Hand of Identity Crisis Clothing, the three designers came together after realizing they had no accessible place to show their work. This year, they added a fourth producer, Jennifer Perkins of Naughty Secretary Club. Stitch is a collaboration of fashion designs and arts & crafts. Crafts, of course, may make you think of Martha Stewart or the horrible reason that TLC seems to be a lifelong repeat of Trading Spaces, but these crafts are different. Think amazing handmade soaps in surprising scents like basmati rice with wheat germ, or bamboo sugar cane from Feto Soap, the clever soap label created by Lisa Chouinard. Feto Soap also makes fun roll-on parfums in delicious scents like sparkling citrus, which doesn’t smell like citrus at all. Instead, it smells like a very yummy wine spritzer you can’t get enough of. There was more jewelry at Stitch than what was worn during this past summer’s boho trend. Tables and tables of handmade jewelry were abounding, but what really stood out were Natalie Tischler’s amazing one-of-a-kind pieces that are simply stunning. Typically made from a mix of new metals and vintage beads and usually on vintage chains, Tischler’s pieces are perfect for anyone. While it’s hard to choose one as the most stunning, her charm bracelets are brilliant. The whimsical charms and gorgeous link bracelets evoke an heirloom feel that is lost in most jewelry that claims to have a “vintage” feel, but is actually quite contrived. Another favorite is a vintage gold tone metal chain with jet black beads. The necklace (like most of Tischler’s creations) is so universal; I can see it on my 17-year-old sister and 54-year-old mother alike.
Before the show, vendors like Chouinard and Tischler had tables set up and were ready to sell. A quick survey of the place and you realized that taking a quick survey is impossible. The entire vibe of Stitch, from the vendors to the $1.50 beers to the show itself, is unique and welcoming. While space is limited, shoppers were more than happy to sift and spend. Racks of graphic tees from labor-friendly American Apparel lined the giant room as music blasted. Crammed and armed with the mentality to come home with something original, Stitch-goers perused the tables of homemade candles, hand-knit scarves and other accessories primarily. While there were many tables to be seen, Elizabeth Bryant’s brilliant display of one-of-a-kind obi belts stood out. Made from silks and satins and resembling the traditional belts of the Far East, Bryant’s belts look extraordinary cinching a blousy dress or pulling together a t-shirt and jeans ensemble. Tables with DIY everything created small rows for shoppers to peruse for hours. Ramonster’s vintage-inspired wrap dresses in bright colors with deep contrasting trims (or vice-versa) were especially perfect for any occasion and needless to say, easy to wear in the Texas heat. Plaids in unexpected color combinations such as navy and turquoise or rustic orange and plum were the premise for Ramonster’s western button-ups that are ridiculously effortless and cool. Extended versions that create a dress silhouette will have you sold in a heartbeat. With everything that was on display and for sale before the show (did I mention Amet and Sasha’s gauzy hand-dyed wraps that evoked an ethereal look?) you’d think that there was nothing much left to be seen. Yet when the house lights went down and the heat rose, there was a still lot to take in.
Had there been no fashion at all on the runways, I seriously might have been okay with that. With the speakers blaring Thermal, Futureheads and Kaiser Chiefs, who wouldn’t be? But even a band that has just signed a record deal is not match for the designers featured at Stitch. You think you want indie? How about designers so underground, their only means of taking orders is through messages on Myspace? Or gals who just sat down at a sewing machine one day to let out frustrations and ended up creating jaw-dropping frocks that even the remarkably chic Sofia Coppola would ache to wear? This is what Stitch is about. It’s a forum for independent designers to display their creativity and amazing pieces that have come from it, whether it’s completely insane or totally wearable with a pair of jeans. Label Parts & Labour came through with a remarkable ivory hooded dress that almost resembled something Little Red Riding Hood’s chic older sister would wear. Tattered black suits that would be appropriate for Marilyn Manson’s upcoming wedding, as well as events you might actually attend were created by Machine Ballerina. The lines were simple and clean with small fusions of lace and tulle peeking from hemlines and cuffs. Oversized collars and slightly flared sleeves made the blazers perfect for wearing to the office (with something underneath) or on a date (without something underneath). The hemlines of the jackets sat at the perfect point: a bit further down then the waist, but right above the hips and were shown in varying lengths. While everything from Machine Ballerina was primarily black, it worked well and could easily be implemented into an existing wardrobe.
While Louise Black’s collection was stunning, it had no place in an Austin club usually visited by emo singers and their Chuck Taylor-wearing groupies. Amazing frocks concocted in materials like green chiffon or maroon feather-trimmed satin. Black’s dresses are suited for the chicest of cocktail parties whether it’s the holidays or not. The skirts of the dresses flare with ease and leave plenty of room to display a fabulous shoe. But with these dresses, you could go barefoot and still command a room. They’re that gorgeous. Natalie Ford’s label, Mi Hija was filled with ivory, beige and camel. The standout piece was a khaki puffer that was cropped and had the most amazing collar this side of Dracula. The collar itself was stellar and the jacket was substantial, but not heavy. Often puffers lose their appeal because they’re too, well, puffy and overpowering. Ford’s version would look great with a slim dark jean and streamlined sneakers or even a long skirt and tall boot. It was functional without being overly sporty which is difficult to find in warm outerwear.
Shannon Mulkey’s inventive label, Revamp, will have you clamoring to have something fancy to attend. Her marigold corset dress with its burgundy tiered skirt is a gorgeous piece that blends beautifully together. The marigold bodice seamlessly turns into a ruffled confection that resembles swirls of clouds the color of the deepest cherry. Everyday pieces she creates are equally charming. Black acrylic and cotton blend capelets adorned with a single huge red button and a swatch of red and black tartan creating a bird peps up my everyday uniform of a long sleeved black t-shirt and dark skinny jeans. Her more casual dresses are reworked vintage pieces that look thoroughly modern once Mulkey takes them into her hands. Deep teals and plums with touches of velvet or vintage lace add a touch of retro, while the silhouettes of the dresses remain simple and easy to wear. Most of the casual dresses would look just as chic with a pair of flats and a shrunken blazer as they would with fence
net stockings and your favorite sky high heels. The dresses are special, but not costume-like. Putting one on, you’d feel like a princess rather than an extra in a bad film version of The Great Gatsby.
After the show, the audience was still roaring to shop and folks stuck around the club for a solid amount of time having a few drinks and spending money on unique items not found anywhere else around the globe. The handmade candles and soaps, the awesome scarves and sashes that were lining every aisle under the tents, and the cute bags emblazoned with Johnny Cash lyrics were made to be the best Christmas gift you’ve ever opened. Okay, maybe not the best (first edition of To Kill a Mockingbird, anyone?), but certainly one that makes great conversation and will make you smile for years to come. If you’re truly fashion obsessed, it’s hard to find something that really triggers your heart into frenzy sometimes. When you have a subject that’s second nature to you (any subject, not just fashion) it tends to all become the same old thing. Season after season, you fall in love with things, and eventually it’s the same things. Stitch was a breath of fresh air and its budding designers showed that great fashion is great fashion, even if you’re seeing it in a muggy club on a hot night in Texas. That’s the great thing about fashion. Just when you thought you’d seen it all; it surprises you.
For more information or a list of designers featured at Stitch visit stitchaustin.com.