Keno Mapp (https://www.facebook.com/kenomapp)
Bryan Farley (http://bryanfarleyphotography.com)
HOT COUTURE 2017
When I was pitched by Lisa Bautista a longtime friend and PR representative for the event to offer my views, I was first taken aback simply because I never really liked critics. Then I thought about Prince’s own words “All the critics love you in NY,” so the thought engulfed me to wonder just how fashion designers could express their appreciation for our lost friend Prince.
It seems since his passing, there have been many a musician to jump at the chance to cover one of his songs, dress like him, pick apart his vault and shed tears from his sudden passing which shook the world on April 21, 2016 as the elevator brought him down.
It then dawned on me that so many of us who have been touched by Prince Rogers Nelson have not really had the chance to release our thoughts and feelings over the loss outside of the music community and this night at The Crucible could actually be something very special from a non musical sense, more through visions, colors and fashion which indeed was another major part of Prince’s very funky life.
So I thought YES, ohhh 7 if it ain’t funky, somebody is just gonna have to get off the stage!
See I am a longtime fan starting my purple journey at the Civic Center in San Francisco seeing Prince, Vanity 6 and The Time live being as sexy cool as it can ever be. So my expectations are high, knowing everything has to be on the one, and you better look good doing whatever you’re doing. Yet I came with an open mind wondering how the Burning Man community could add their own unique flavor and make it all work with the underlining theme of fire being added to the mix.
Actually, I could not imagine what the designers could present under the purple light and if they even knew of Prince past the basics of Purple Rain yet nevertheless, I showed up as a curious child eager to have the blanks filled in and see for myself.
Baby baby baby, what’s it gonna be tonight?
Upon entering though the fire arches at the door, a women to the right was blowing glass and to the left there were two gentlemen, one armed with a sledgehammer and the other holding a red hot piece of metal down firming upon an anvil. As the hammer slammed down again and again, the mood became clear that this space was a place of creation. The metal and fire joining together seemed to be a warm representation of the Bay Area’s unique forms of artistry and their different creative expressions.
Moving on to the main gallery and seeing the design of the catwalk, I immediately felt that this would be no regular fashion show. The catwalk’s design alone was creatively captivating holding an octagon-shaped fireball metal furnace in the center which also held its own special vibe. At the top of the walk stood 6 metal trees facing each other giving off an edge of sharpness which would surely highlight the models perfectly as they would enter. Above it all rested the symbol of Prince o+> cut out of a metal cylinder which had beautiful wings on each side of it and seemed to be a reminder that although Prince is no longer here with us, he would be here tonight in spirit blessing every piece that graced the stage.
Then I saw this hot thang moving swiftly past me with hair all tied up in knots in this very funky outfit. I immediately thought “hmm, I should go that way.”
Down the hall, along the stage, into the back and BAM! My eyes got the surprise I was hoping for!!
It’s one thing to see a performance as it happens yet as an artist, I love to see the behind-the-scenes action where the intensity is building up about to be unleashed on wondering eyes.
From this moment, I could have sworn I smelled lavender in the air and could tell that things were posed to get very hot yet not at all as I imagined.
One Human Family
Through the silence thus far, I starting hearing the beat but not the normal electronic music that is usually playing but some real neck-jerking soulful funk that made me want to lose it for a second, put down my pen and just start dancing. It was the kind of beats that I have not heard in, oh, too long with scratches and all. Moving back out to the floor, I saw that the DJ who took me out of character for a moment was none other than the Turnable Queen DJ Pam the Funkstress who accompanied Prince on his last Piano & A Microphone Tour. I thought how perfect is that for she was setting it off just right, adding to the vibe that we all were about to experience and from the looks of things, I think it’s going to be a beautiful night.
After a few more scratches from “Purple Pam,” the lights were dimmed just right where you could still see all the expressions of curiosity which made me think, this will not be televised.
Fire began to burst and blasted out it seemed from everywhere and emerging first on stage was Mistress of Ceremonies, Bay Area FM dial personality Sterling James who has been the voice of the Bay for generations on 102.9 KBLX, 97.3 Alice and 98.9 KSOL.
Mistress of Ceremonies Sterling James
“This is not the traditional Prince tribute with purple and lace but is more focused on The Beautiful “One” and your own beauty yourself. It is not a competition but a shared expression knowing the sole reward in the end is that you did your part as you can.”
Throughout the night, she masterfully introduced the designers and shared valuable information about The Crucible, giving praises for all the great works offered there and expressing how they were a much-needed nonprofit resource for artists in the community and how anyone can contribute to its growth through volunteer work and donations. http://thecrucible.org
The Crucible itself is an artist’s haven which offers classes and workshops in 20+ different areas to those that wish to learn the art of welding, fabrication, woodwork, fire and more. Skills which used to be a huge part of our school system yet have been cut considerably over the years. Burning Man as we know is all about the fire and here, many aspiring artists have the chance to bring their works to life in a safe and skilled environment.
After the tragic fire at Ghost Ship in Oakland which senselessly took 36 lives, it’s easy to see how important it is for artists around the world to have a space where they can be artists safely and the Crucible is just such a place.
As the Executive Director David Miller said as fire was blasting out from all corners of the room right before the show, “We take fire very seriously here and as a reminder, this is a non smoking event.“
Executive Director David Miller
The Experience 1
The stage was lit and the lights dropped as National Recording Artist Netta Brielle entered wearing a headpiece designed by The Crucible Founder Michael Sturtz which was set afire as she opened the show with her rendition of “The Beautiful Ones” by Prince. Singing with a strikingly gospel voice, accompanied by Gabriel Navia and Jose Rivera as they added some smooth Latin sounds which set things in motion for a perfect beginning.
Candia Designs by Alexandra Candia “Royal Roots”
The Sun The Moon & Stars
Goddesses entered in true Brazilian Carnaval fashion, dancing and enchanting the audience while highlighting this luxurious collection. Accompanied by traditional live Brazilian musicians from the San Francisco based company Fogo Na Roupa. Beautiful feathers adorned the collection like Amazonian birds taking flight along the catwalk as fire blasted out of the ceilings from every direction. Red, bright orange, canary yellow and black all blended together with well positioned studs and headpieces, creating a very festive collection which came to life. Like Sterling James said afterwards, “They did not need any fire to make that hot!”
Lisa Jones and Ron Tomassini “Absurd Beauty of Unorthodox Means”
Must be something in the Water I drink
Pushing out a metal contraption which first looked like a cart for baby robot, followed by models in black like Edward Scissorhands with hung Afros and long sleeves which dragged to the floor and ended at the fingertips that were lit on fire like small candles. They mingled in a weird and wonderful way with a second group of models wearing powder blue nickers, bonnets and tall hats with glasses attached that opened and closed automatically as they stopped to strike a pose. Very idiosyncratic with a hint of sexy and extreme. Erotic City come alive.
The Experience 2
If I Was Your Girlfriend
Turning up the fire dial to full blast with award-winning fire performer, Erin Shredder, member of the Vau de Vire Society. This collection was not only beautiful but extremely intoxicating and commanding at the same time. Elegant down to the finest detail and full of winning colors and intricate patterns which lay throughout each piece. I easily got drawn into the stitchwork and sexy gaudy detailing and layering. Extremely strong and very soft all at the same time. Bravo!
Briana Schweizer and Maggie Pina
What if God was One of Us
Let us all be brave with our craft and allow no door to be closed. Shimmering gowns which flowed and highlighted the feminine. Brave men, daring and bold ready to just be. This collection was of a more typical fashion yet still has many directions it could evolve into. Let’s see.
One Human Family
Don’t hate me cause I’m beautiful
A tree man, humble with an apple in his hand, courageous and ready for the world. Then she came in powerfully with head high, draped in a tight African mini dress with hands sewed all over and a carpet cape which also had hands on each corner trailing behind. The gown said NO MORE and never again will I be touched by one that does not love and respect me for I am beautiful! Then came the Glass Girl appearing full and confident down to her/his glass slippers. Very original and perfect for a dusty day on the playa and did I say, I dig them shoes!
The Experience 3
Sherman Chastity Couture
Do Me Baby
And with all this fire, who could have thought things could have gotten any hotter.
Dust dirt smears, messed hair, bold Æon Flux beauty. Exquisitely done metal work, provocative while hugging each curve of the human body in a way which hit the mark and made way for fantasies to be unleashed and lost keys to be found.
Miss Velvet Cream with Dao Pow Industries
I Truly Adore You
I hate to choose sides yet this collection was my favorite by far. Each piece seemed to have its own story and was full of emotions. Happy, sad and of course love. How the material freely moved down the runway and flowed perfectly to its resting place well after the models stopped was like a dance. The fabrics and colors combined perfectly into all a women could wish for in a collection and all a man could ever need. Elegant, sophisticated, commanding, daunting and absolutely beautiful.
Medium Reality with Electrobaroque and The Oakland Mind
She’s Always in my Hair
Bringing it back to the days when the roots of true freedom and self expression lived strong. No boxes, no assignments nor boarders. The power in yourself to be who you are knowing your real soul is colorful, bold and courageous. If our urban community could rewind back to this style which carries these natural truths, for sure the sun will shine bright in honor of us all being beautiful and together as one. Cutting edge cool and musically blessed. Urban flavor for the new generation.
The Finale ~ The Origin of Love designed by Michael Sturtz
When Two Are In Love
As Megan Fenske (Hedwig) graced the stage and the mesmerizing flowery fire lamps rolled and coiled above, a beautiful story about the Origin of Love was set to be played out. See this story was from Greek mythology and spoke of men and women trying to find their counterparts and become whole again. Chloe Marvel Light Axelrod and Dwoira Galilea Scheffer who choreographed the piece entered the runway locked to each other, parading around full of joy along with two others who were joined together as well. A third joined pair swung from the ceiling on trapeze when suddenly all of their joined togetherness was broken and instead turned into loss and confusion as they all were separated by Zeus’s lightning bolt and lost to forever search through life for their one true love to become whole again. As Zeus shot his bolts of lightning from the ceiling onto the catwalk and the fire burst out from all four corners of the room, Hedwig sang beautiful about all that was dynamically being played out right before our eyes.
One could easily understand the power behind this story knowing as Prince did that all we could ever really wish for is true love which is something sacred from above and not at all easy to find even in a lifetime.
Yes, it was truly a beautiful night and an firm affirmation that we all are the Beautiful Ones and should never give up nor forget this simple truth that we were born with for yes, life can be so nice knowing that the only love there is, is the love we make.
I believe Prince would be very pleased from this creative collaboration seeing fellow artist sharing their craft in his honor and the Bay Area can be very proud and happy to take good care of all the arts coming out of our fine city.
Very cool indeed,
Remember that this is an annual community collaboration of love, and if you wish to participate next year as a designer or model, just get on the Crucible’s mailing list and look out for when they open again for submission. Who knows what could happen if you took a dare, you may be the next hot thang. http://thecrucible.org