Uncommon Threads

Explore the eclectic and creative style of Santa Cruz.

Exhibited From September 4th- December 6th, 2015

How can you wear candy wrappers? Or transform bones into bras?

See how the past 10 years of FashionART Santa Cruz stand apart from traditional contemporary fashion markets and trends, in these one-of-a-kind pieces adorn the body and change our relationship to everyday materials. “Uncommon Threads” is a salute to Santa Cruz’s contributions to the world of wearable art and out-there fashion. But at its core, it featured a kind of display of creativity that linked Santa Cruz’s past and its present.

“Uncommon Threads” exhibition serves as the culmination of the 10th anniversary of FashionART, a Santa Cruz runway show that takes place every September at the Santa Cruz Civic.

Free First Friday Uncommon Threads Exhibition Opening 20655034344 O

A celebration of 10 years of FashionART at The MAH.

Combining poetic materials in creative ways, the local designers defy the runways, each piece in this exhibition is a unique item. All items are hand made. These styles on display are more playful with materials and designs then what you can expect on conventional runways. Some items venture into realms of political critique, satire and the absurd. Other items explore new ways to interact with the body. The region’s designers go against this grain and reject “fast-fashion.” Instead of industrially produced garments, our coastal artists focus on handmade items. They incorporate unlikely materials such as bones, condoms, candy wrappers, steel wool, forks, silk, electronics and scraps of industrial fabric. Upcycling (reusing discarded materials) becomes a common theme. Using the ready-made to reimagine our relationship to the objects around us.


The exhibit took local designers – Santa Cruz’s I.B. Bayo and Rachel Riot and San Francisco’s Miguel Marte – and gave them access to the Museum’s collection of period dress and costume collection, which includes some heirloom garments that date back to the 1800s along with dresses already in the collection that were created. Each of the three local designers was then given the chance to choose one dress, and then create another dress inspired by the first.

This exhibit also included artists who have made a name for themselves from FashionART are also represented, set to open as part of the First Friday Santa Cruz art tour in the second-floor Solari Gallery. These artists include Charlotte Kruk, famous for her candy-wrapper dresses and cheeky sense of humor, Rose Sellery, who iconic bone dress is part of the exhibit, along with Ellen Brooks, her recyclable wearable art designs, and Christina Morgan Cree, local Bay Area-based artists, a women’s designer with a “wide and varying range of design from high art to office chic.” and Victoria May, who will demonstrate her techniques of working with unusual material at the Friday event.

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Rachel Riot, the creative vision behind the Santa Cruz-based Manic Designs (she has now re-branded), chose a Victorian dress from the 1890s, decorated with small green shapes, as her inspiration. While working to create the new dress, she created a fictional narrative of that Victorian woman who wore the original: “She was a fighter for women’s rights,” she said. Her creation tended more toward black with some detailed elements for which her designed have become known.

An independent fashion designer, Rachel is originally from Oakland and had begun sewing at the age of 7 when her mom taught her how to embroider. She fell in love with the artistry of every stitch and went on to study at FIDM in San Francisco. She started her business when she moved to Santa Cruz in 2010 and has participated in local events including FashionART, Pivot runway shows, and collaborations with many other talented south bay artists, primarily in San Jose. Dedicated to reviving the art of handmade clothing to overcome a world polluted by fast fashion and sweatshop labor, and her sales approach promotes self-love and confidence. She creates clothing and accessories with a dark and elegant avant-garde twist.

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“When that dress first came out of the box, I was like, aaahhhh,” laughed the African-born designer Bayo, whose Nigerian family goes back nine generations in making clothing and textiles. The garment he chose was a black-and-red 1920s-era flapper dress, donated years ago by famed Santa Cruz landscape designer Roy Rydell. The dress was festooned with beadwork, which is what caught Bayo’s eye. His creation, also black and red, upped the ante on the beadwork, modernizing the look of the original. “It took countless hours,” he said of the intricate and delicate beadwork, which features hundreds if not thousands of small beads.

Born in Osogbo, Osun State, Nigeria, Bayo [pronounced Bio], learned to weave and dye from his mother, and to sew from his father who made traditional clothing for Nigerian royalty. Bayo attended the Niké Center for Art and Culture, dedicated to preserving traditional Yoruba art forms. He now adapts his reverse appliqué and quilting techniques to American styled clothing, combining hand-woven, hand-dyed, and embroidered fabrics made by his family in Nigeria, with other fabrics to create the uniquely designed clothing in his I.B.Bayo line. The vibrant color, patterns, and shapes of his work reveal his talent for replicating nature, creating flattering styles for diverse people, and sharing stories from around the world through wearable art. Bayo also teaches workshops, while prepping for his one-of-a-kind collections for fashion shows in the Bay Area and beyond.

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Miguel Marte

Miguel Marte’s inspiration dress dates back 100 years to around 1910. He chose an otherwise conservative black dress with one striking element: it covered the body, but it was daringly sheer. From that piece, Marte developed an art piece even more sheer that also featured several different textures, include silk organza, faux leather, and lime-green burlap.

Marte’s design company is called Maison Michel Ange, and he’s also gotten attention for his provocative work, including a dress made from 800 condoms, also part of the “Uncommon Threads” exhibit. Marte’s designs are said to, ”reinterpret tradition with modern textiles.” Simple yet bold and alluring. Inspired by minimalist architecture, savage textiles and exposure to romanticism with modern perception. Inspired by British Rock and the early punk scenes Michel Ange’s target market are grunge fanatics who are not afraid to be bold and fierce while still containing a simple elegance for balance. He is the winner of the Academy of Arts University Scholarship and graduated from City College, and Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra, located in the Dominican Republic. Being the sole founder and designer of his current brand, Michel Ange, Miguel is also co-founder of the brand Varonandel with partner Daniel selling Rock n’ Roll lifestyle clothing.

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“She was a Fighter, it was not a great time to be a woman [of the Victorian era]. Whatever women wore, they had to keep themselves covered, and still find a way to express themselves.”

Rachel Riot, Independent Fashion Designer — on her Victorian creation

The Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History pays respect to Santa Cruz’s wearable-art tradition in ‘Uncommon Threads’ (September 2015)

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Uncommon Threads may have come and gone, but there's plenty to discover in our current exhibitions.