Snow: San Francisco Makes a Bold Fashion Statement in Winter White

Fashionably white: front row fashion show guests await the start of Snow 2012, hosted by the San Francisco Bay Area Fashion Network. All photography by Edric Itchon.

Copy as seen in the San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday, February 5, 2012

By Nerissa Pacio Itchon

Never mind the old-fashioned advice against wearing weight-adding white on camera. At the third annual Snow event, hosted by the San Francisco Bay Area Fashion Network, droves of picture-happy partygoers eagerly posing in head-to-toe white were as much a part of the entertainment as the white-themed fashion show.

Held at the unlikely venue of a SoMa auto-repair garage that was transformed into an industrial-chic catwalk Jan. 28, the evening drew about 250 guests dressed in everything from slinky gowns and feathered spectator hats to cheeky flight suits and fur chubbies.

“People are really getting into the white idea this year,” said Joseph Domingo, founding director of the trade and events group, whose mission is to connect members of the local fashion industry.

“The first year when we started this, people were asking me, ‘How can we ever find all-white outfits in wintertime?’ I said ‘You can find it anywhere – besides, it’s all on sale in January!’ ”

Joseph Domingo's pleated A-line dress moved beautifully down the makeshift runway. Photography by Edric Itchon.

The 30-minute fashion show, produced by a crew of about 100 volunteers, featured six local designers and a range of aesthetics and skill levels. The lineup included veterans Cari Borja, Julie Schindler and Domingo, as well as emerging designers Violetta Vieux, Cana Klebanoff and Herbert Williamson.

Vieux, a native of Moldova who studied fashion in Paris, opened the presentation with three expertly constructed wedding gowns that converted into frothy cocktail dresses intended for the reception.

“This collection was inspired by snow before I even knew I was going to participate in Snow,” said Vieux backstage while working on last-minute fittings on her models.

“You can see my design of the snowflakes, flowers, feathers, all the organza, the ruffles, the icy rhinestones, and the skirts, which look like an avalanche.”

Violetta Vieux's convertible wedding gowns go from full-length to short in an instant. Photography by Edric Itchon.

Klebanoff, a student at City College of San Francisco who has worked as an intern for Domingo, kept things fresh with his G.I. Joe-meets-1970s-inspired menswear collection. Basic jersey T-shirts and turtlenecks paired well with trim, structured suits in white cotton twill and linen.

Recent Chicago transplant Herbert Williamson showed a somewhat disjointed collection of pencil skirts, voluminous blouses and an overworked evening gown that looked something like a bikini top attached to a ruffled column skirt.

Backstage at the Snow Fashion Event 2012.

Schindler, who began her career in the late 1980s designing coats at wholesale for stores such as I. Magnin, did what she said she knows best: outerwear. While the concept of her shiny, full-length jacket went awry with its quilted lab coat effect, Schindler also delivered more wearable pieces, such as structured overcoats in creamy white with bold, oversize collars and buttons.

Borja and Domingo were the clear anchors for the night. Borja delighted the crowd with a breezy loungewear collection in organic cotton, linen and tulle that she dubbed “boudoir to the beach.”

Her crinkled linen men’s pieces, her first foray into menswear, were sent down the makeshift runway in striptease fashion, to the crowd’s sheer delight.

A breezy resort-inspired menswear look by local designer Cari Borja. Photography by Edric Itchon.

“All of the pieces flow, they all move, which is how my collections always are,” said Borja. “It’s really for anyone who goes to the beach. I love the idea of being in New York in the midst of winter and flying down to a dreamy beach house in Jamaica.”

Domingo punctuated the event with an impressive seven-piece collection of meticulously constructed eveningwear, styled with piles of statement jewelry by local designer Saeia.

Domingo preps models backstage before the show.

An icy, sequined, long-sleeved backless gown seemed ideal for a wintry opening night at the Ballet, while a flutter-sleeve lace minidress epitomized the freshness of spring.

Joseph Domingo's shimmering, key-hole back gown, ideal for opening night at the Ballet. Photography by Edric Itchon.

“There are more restrictions designing in white because white can be very flat,” said Domingo, who was celebrating with a drink at the after-party. “The challenge is you have to add texture, jewels, details, flow and movement.”

Nerissa Pacio Itchon is a freelance writer.

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