It’s likely that most San Franciscans have never experienced a fashion show where an intermission was required to mop fake blood off the runway.
But at the “Supreme Beings” avant-garde fashion event on March 1 at the SOMArts Cultural Center, that’s exactly what happened. An evening of bizarre spectacle merged with conceptual fashion, attracting about 200 curious guests.
A fundraiser for the nonprofit organization Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, the highly unusual and entertaining evening incorporated contemporary Japanese butoh dance and the debut of two collections by emerging San Francisco designers Ilanio and Iimuahii.
The night opened with a haunting dance performance by Ronnie Baker and Luku-san, who were dressed only in loincloths and covered with white body paint, a tradition of the contemporary improvisational art form.
Accompanied by otherworldly electronic music by local duo spacEKrafT, the dance continued between runway presentations with a second disturbingly grotesque installment in which dancers executed seizure-like movements and tortured facial expressions, and squirted red fluid from their mouths and body parts.
“Butoh is a bit of an acquired taste,” said 43-year-old Ilan Reuben, the Bernal Heights artist behind the high-concept line Ilaniowear. “It was kind of revelatory the first time I saw it. I always told myself if I ever get to create my own events, I want to incorporate that incredible energy.”
The energy was apparent in the crowd when 28-year-old Elena Slivnyak, creative director of Iimuahii, sent her inventive neoprene activewear pieces down the runway. The Academy of Art graduate’s architectural black and neutral collection was inspired by the body-conscious fencing uniforms she spotted while watching “SportsCenter.”
“Everything was so monochromatic with texture,” said Slivnyak, a Daly City resident. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s so gorgeous!’ “
Each intricately crafted piece blurred the line between masculine and feminine silhouettes, such as a boxy, broad-shouldered minidress in black with skin-baring cutouts at the hips and a flesh-toned vest studded with panels of metallic screws atop a stretch, mesh-paneled pencil skirt.
“If I create a heavier silhouette, I usually like to put a lighter material into the piece to soften and make things more feminine,” Slivnyak said of her construction.
Reuben, a self-proclaimed “San Francisco Art Institute dropout,” closed the evening with a highly conceptual presentation that bordered on fashion theater.
Inspired by Parisian wig designer Charlie Le Mindu, Reuben’s wearable art pieces included a spiky white triangular rubber dress paired with a giant eyeball encapsulating the model’s head; a medusa-like “Whipping Willow” headpiece worn with a black polyurethane swimsuit; and a giant breastplate necklace made from aluminum surgical tubing.
Fetishistic themes also surfaced throughout the show, with one model sporting a bulbous, one-shoulder dress that exposed one breast. Another nude model’s face was hidden by a giant furry headpiece, and she flapped like a bird down the runway with feathery coverings as sleeves.
“I find the fetish culture really kind of humorous,” said Reuben, who has shown his work in nonconventional fashion show venues such as a church and a greenhouse. “If you look on fetish websites, you see people wearing crazy balloon heads and you wonder ‘How is that sexy?’ There’s an interesting counterpoint halfway between comical and sexy, and fetish fashion is right there.”
This article by Nerissa Pacio Itchon appeared on page L – 11 of the San Francisco Chronicle on March 18, 2012.