Who’s the next Alexander McQueen?












Last night I attended the San Francisco Academy of Art University student fashion show.  Given that this blog is about people and clothes for post-post college audience, this may seem odd. It is not.

When I turned 40 (those were the days) I left advertising for the 3,285th time and enrolled at the then Academy of Art to study fashion design. I was twice the age of most people there (sans teachers), yet oddly felt somewhat at home. Just goes to show how shared passions transcend age.

I figured out early on that a career as a fashion designer was not in the cards after a semester of CDFP (Cut, Drape, Flat, Pattern) class. I would not become the next Ann Demeulemeester.

CDFP Binder: I’ve clearly given up, per the label “badly hand-rolled hem”

It was, without a doubt, the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. Thanks, or no thanks to that class, I know first hand how hard it is to cut and drape fabric, create patterns, and the precision and patience it takes to sew (I have neither), and as a result have the utmost respect for fashion designers.

While I languished down in the sewing “lab”, I flourished a few floors up in “Fashion Illustration 1” taught by the world-renowned fashion illustrator Gladys Perint Palmer (GPP.)

She was a huge inspiration, and helped me embrace imperfection and channel my energy and attitude from my pen to the pad. Realizing that I loved drawing fashion far more than I loved creating or making it was a huge relief.

As I thought about the show, I unearthed my CDFP class binder, mood and inspiration boards,  “croquis.” and “flats.”

“50’s Italy” mood board by Paula, 2003.

“50’s Italy” Croquis, by Paula. 2003.

“50s Italy” final sketches by Paula, 2003.

I wondered if any of my teachers would be at the show. I wondered if Gladys would be there. I wondered if she would remember me if I went up to say “hi.”

She was there all right, looking like the fashion insider she is: black skinny slacks, structured jacket, black sunglasses a la Karl Lagerfeld.  I so wanted to run up to her, but she was surrounded by the fashions elite:  The two top fashion journalists on the planet: Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune and Cathy Horyn of the New York Times, and Sarah Burton, creative director of Alexander McQueen.

My mouth was ajar and my feet would not move. Like JSlow before me, I froze in the face of fashion royalty, and melted into a shy puddle of lameness.

What would I have said anyway? Would I have asked if she spotted the next Alexander McQueen or Derek Lam at tonight’s show? I guess it’s more about what I would get to say after the fact.  Things like, “Oh yeah, I asked Cathy Horyn if she still thinks Alexander Wang is a mediocre designer” blah blah blah.

Suzy Menkes + Cathy Horyn last night.

2012 Academy of Art Fashion Show invite, GGP.










For me, so much of the show was in those front row bleachers, but what of the actual show? Isn’t that why I was here? Who would I find on La Garconne and at Barney’s in the future? Many of the fashions were restrained and architectural, clearly influenced by the mighty Japanese designers I so admire:  Junya Watanabe, Issey Miyake, Comme de Garcons. The color palate was subdued to reflect this minimalism: blacks, greys, whites and creams, layered to create volume. Very little skin showed anywhere.  True, this collection is for fall, but still. The level of sophistication that these young designers brought to the runway blew me away. Some designers juxtaposed giant metal accessories to bring drama; my favorite were huge handbag handles turned into a tangle of metal.  I’d never seen anything like that before, which is part of the point. I wonder if Gladys will draw some of these looks for her next book.  I wonder if Cathy or Suzy will be writing about any of these talents in a few years?  I hope so.


Illustration by Paula, from GGP class 2003.

Illustration by Paula, from GGP class, 2003.


3 Responses

  1. ahassett@nytimes.com'

    Great write up today Paula. I actually spend a couple of years at AA myself and had no idea that they had such a well respected fashion school. Wish I knew that both Times giants were in town last night…I yet to meet either. Love your illustrations–they are beautiful!

  2. Paula

    Thanks Anne. I was blown away by the caliber of guests at the show, and the show itself. The Times giants were so cool. Nothing like writers who really tell it like it is. xoxo

  3. kellypagnac@yahoo.com'

    I love that you “tell it like it is.” That’s why I keep reading and feeling inspired. You and Jennifer are offering a human side and a vulnerability to that elite and mysterious (and snobby!) world. Bravo! and thank you yet again for having the courage.

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