Creating Art in the Aftermath of Disaster
Growing up in Redding California, summer wildfires have become a part of my normal routine. Every year there is a portion of July and August that smells like campfire and turns the sun into an unnatural looking crimson dot in a horizon of ash. I’ve learned to deal with a week or two of smoky days, and the anxiety that comes with knowing destruction is happening just outside of my periphery.
Nothing could have prepared me for the Carr Fire Disaster. Watching the fire lines cross into the city limits on local news felt surreal. Needing to evacuate my family from my house that is two minutes from an airport and a hospital didn’t seem possible. As the evacuation period closed, we were among the fortunate few who had a house to return to. I feel forever grateful to have been spared the loss and chaos of losing a loved one and/or having all of my earthly possessions destroyed. However, once the immediate danger passed, and the reality set in, I remembered that I was responsible for creating the first ever Redding Fashion Week in less than two months.
I am the co-executive director and co-founder of the Redding Fashion Alliance, a non-profit organization located in the heart of downtown Reddings’ Cultural District. For months myself, and our other co-executive director Jan Kearns had been working towards creating what would become the first fashion week north of Sacramento. Before the fire ever started, I had my doubts about how exactly we would create something that had never been done before, in a place not known for fashion, for a small community whose attention is split in so many charitable directions in the fall. After the fire, I knew that going forward with our plans would be a risk and I don’t think there has ever been a time that I felt less confident about planning an event, or for that matter, 6 days of consecutive fashion related events. I was having a hard time with fathoming the layers of complexity.
When faced with making a decision about whether or not to move forward, my gut kept saying: “It’s now or never.” There was cautionary advice, there were naysayers, but there were also hopeful designers, local businesses, and a community that needed a pick me up. More than ever it became apparent that some positive press for the Redding area could be a temporary antidote to the endless smoke and stream of bad news. So, we built the airplane as we fell off the cliff, and at the last second we made a bumpy landing. Redding Fashion Week wasn’t perfect. We learned a lot of hard lessons. We also did a lot of hard work that paid off. People are still talking about the Fashion Show Gala, as they should be. Not only did we create a professional fashion show with a big city vibe featuring 11 fashion designers (myself and Jan included) and almost 50 models, we also fundraised and created a scholarship fund and an emerging fashion designer fund. We made it look good, and most of all, we made it feel fun.
Making something out of nothing is tough. Conjuring something fabulous out of devastation is almost impossible, but it sure makes a powerful statement.
Photos by Nigel Skeet, Fash Bear, Michael Flanagan, and Rachel Hatch
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jamie Solorio, the creative mind behind the original concept for the RealFake Magazine exclusive editorial, House of Style. Watch this in depth video where we break down what worked and what didn't, the importance of mental health and acceptance, and why every work of art is ultimately a self portrait.
House of Style Editorial Team
photography/concept/editor: Jamie Solorio
fashion stylist/creative direction/interviewer: Robin Fator
I feel so thankful I had the opportunity to attend the first ever Girlboss Rally at the Hudson Loft in Downtown Los Angeles on March 4th, 2017.
On a side note, this was my first solo trip in 12 years! So, it was kind of a big deal. It was 48 hours of alone time that was long overdue. Flying from Sacramento to LAX I had time to listen to a Tim Ferriss podcast episode that was super inspiring. There is something kinda epic about being above the clouds. LISTEN HERE
I stayed with my friend Maddie who is a teleprompting boss at E! and lives in a cool 70's apartment complex in Burbank. It was very reminiscent of where the Karate Kid lived.
By a coincidence of bad uber timing, I was the first person to arrive at Hudson Loft on Saturday morning. Slowly the 500 attendees started to roll in. Every person looked like they were dressed for a magazine feature, it was pretty amazing! Everyone I spoke to that day was super friendly, and sweet. The energy was really positive. As we picked up our passes we were directed to the freight elevator with hot pink neon. As soon as the doors opened I realized they had transformed this event space into the Girlboss HQ. Every wall, room, light fixture, and handout was stylized and designed to be memorable. They created a beautiful world and we lived in it for a day.
The day kicked off with Sophia Amoruso opening the rally and Gabby Bernstein following her with a very on point talk about motivation. It was an intimate setting with amazing people. I got to hear from a fashion designer, a stylist, an illustrator, venture capital investors, why generation X is so different from millennials (finally I get it), the creative director of vice media, Whitney Cummings (funny but also really knew her mental health stuff), a L'oreal VP, web designer, women in film, and (my favorite) Arian Simone + Kevin Systrom -CEO and founder of Instagram! It was 12+ hours of networking, learning, listening, inspiration, and perspective. I wish there had been enough hours in the day to talk to each person and get to know them at bit. I felt a sense of belonging, and for me, that can be rare.
So happy to be featured in the Kiva Makers Stories!
Kiva U.S. Stories is a space to share and enjoy the moving, the funny, the inspiring, stories that come from every corner of the Kiva U.S. community. Read on to hear about my Kiva journey and the positive impact my small business loan has had on my entrepreneurial life.
Most of you who know me well, are aware of the fact that I workout at Elite Barre Fitness Studio in Redding, Ca. And if you have talked to Michele McEntire (owner/instructor of Elite Barre) she has probably filled you in on my role as web designer and social media marketer for her business, because she is generous in that way. What most of you don’t know are the details of what I do and why I am such a strong supporter of Michele and her small business.
Before I get into all of that, let me give you a little back story:
In 2013 I was entangled in what felt like a health crisis. My lack of self care over the 13 years of being a mom had finally caught up with me. Stress, lack of exercise, and poor eating habits finally had taken it’s toll, and I was sick. I wasn’t just physically sick, I was sick and tired of feeling restless and used up. After trying everything else except exercise, I finally made the decision to join my local YMCA. My first gym membership ever. At first, every class I took felt like torture. I made myself keep going, it got easier, I felt better and so began a commitment to self care. The first time I took Michele’s barre class at the Y, I was hooked, it was so efficient, effective and fun. That class attracted a great group of women and I came to depend on that hour two times per week for my sanity. Another thing that kept me coming back was Michele’s positivity and confidence in instructing. She really knew what she was doing, and finding someone you can say that about is rare, in my experience.
After over a year of taking these classes Michele announced she would no longer be teaching at the YMCA, she had an opportunity to instruct at a private studio. I immediately imagined not having her barre class in my life (affording an additional class membership was not an option at the time), something I did not want to become a reality. I tried other classes at the Y in the hopes they could replace barre, no such luck. So, I had an idea - I am a problem solver after all. I had worked collaboratively in my fashion design work and so I decided to try working with Michele collaboratively- a trade you might say. My proposition was simple: I would do Michele’s facebook marketing for her barre class and in exchange I could continue to take her barre classes at the private studio. She generously agreed and so this experiment began.
Over time, more and more women in the community regularly came to Michele’s classes, this gave her the courage to quit her other part time jobs and concentrate on Elite Barre full time. I agreed to help her make this transition a success, because when you become a full time small business owner, there is no plan B. Going to a full time class schedule meant I needed to do more than just a few Facebook posts and logo designs. Supporting and coaching Michele’s business meant that I was signing on for a long term commitment of web design, branding, marketing, ad campaigns, project management, conference calls, emails, tech support, meetings, and strategizing. You may be thinking “All of that is more work than the original trade agreement. How could Michele afford to pay for all of that start up work when she had just quit her day jobs and was just getting her business off the ground?” The short answer is: I have never billed her for the work that has gone above and beyond our original trade.
Why? Why would I agree to work for free? Why would I go into a situation knowing the person I am working for can’t afford to pay me? The answer: I wanted to give a gift to someone who was willing to receive it and appreciate it and make the most of it. Michele was and is most certainly that someone. However, this gift is not just for Michele.
Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn't matter. The intent does.” -Seth Godin from the book: Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
After our first Barre Bootcamp ended in the fall of 2015, we had a gathering at a local restaurant, where we celebrated the success of all of the women who had participated. We talked about how many inches they had lost, how many pounds were shed, what worked and what didn’t, and then the conversation got a little more serious. Almost everyone talked about how much support, friendship and community they felt at Elite Barre. How much they needed that in their lives. How making time for their own health and fitness made them feel so much better and how having Michele, the studio and it’s members was something they desperately needed. It was then I realized, how important my art really was.
Sometimes you have to bend the established and accepted rules to get things done. I decided that money should not be a barrier to creating a business that promotes health and community. For me, supporting Michele, who is super hard working, doesn't back down from the challenges of being a business owner, and a loving supportive friend, is a no-brainer. There was work that needed to be done, she needed help to get it done, so I did it- no questions asked. I did it because I wanted to. I do it because it is important to me. My intention is to make change, because I can.
Just to be clear, I didn’t write this post to toot my own horn, or to advertise that I work for free. The real reason I wrote this post is to inspire you to make art, give gifts you think are worth giving, and bend the rules to make the changes you know are needed for the good of your community- whatever and wherever that may be.
When done properly, gifts work like nothing else. A gift gladly accepted changes everything. The imbalance creates motion, motion that pushes us to a new equilibrium, motion that creates connection” - Seth Godin
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2016 has been a really busy year for me as a fashion designer and entrepreneur.
Working with Jamie Solorio on fashion editorial photos shoots has been a game changer. It has provided me with the opportunity to step into the role of fashion stylist and creative director. Two things I really love doing!
What began as an artistic experiment, continued as a creative collaboration and has slowly morphed into a business partnership.
Trying to get our work published in fashion magazines proved to be extremely frustrating. So we decided to create our own fashion magazine! Right now it is online only and we are in the process of a soft launch.
We have partnered with the best collaborators to bring the highest level of artistry and professionalism to our work.
Real Fake Magazine is a publication dedicated to supporting emerging indie fashion, design, photography, and creativity.
With the launch of this magazine, we hope to take the art of fashion into the future.
A future that includes and supports artistic culture.
A future that encourages collaboration.
A future that breaks down the old barriers of status with a punk rock attitude.
We are pulling back the curtain of illusion.... join us!
Much more to come in 2017!
video by Jamie Solorio
In September during New York Fashion Week I got the opportunity to speak to my local community about my handmade fashion brand Dark Pony Designs. Fashion Futures was an event put together by the Redding Fashion Alliance, it featured fellow local designers and a display of wearable technology. It was really amazing to see the interest and support for fashion in my own home town. Redding Fashion Alliance is an organizaton co-founded by yours truly, Rachel Hatch and Jan Kerns. To learn more about what we are up to, visit www.reddingfashionalliance.org
I am super excited to have Pure Body Lounge in Redding, CA, as a business coaching client.
Owned by Certified Nurse Practitioner Becca Lewis, Pure Body Lounge is the one of the only places in Redding where you can receive natural IV vitamin therapy from a professional RN. Take a look at the menu to see the many exciting treatment options Pure Body has to offer!
Pure Body also carries an amazing line of bath and beauty products by The Body Deli.
Check out Pure Body Lounge on –
Do you need a business coach? If you could use help, please don't hesitate to reach out – I can’t wait to work with you!