A woman in a mop-like dress designed by artist Rose Sellery
The designs of artist Rose Sellery have been a staple at Pivot for years.
(r.r. jones)
The Here & Now

Pivot’s latest pivot: Uniquely Santa Cruz fashion event lands at the Tannery

Pivot: The Art of Fashion has found homes at the Rio, the Wrigley Building and, last year, on a screen, and this year the high-profile Santa Cruz fashion show and performance-art showcase moves outdoors at the Tannery and adds other live elements.

For the past several years, the only-in-Santa-Cruz fashion show and performance-art showcase known as Pivot: The Art of Fashion has been — ever true to its name — pivoting all over town.

An offshoot of Angelo Grova’s splashy FashionART show that made the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium its home back in the ’00s, Pivot has created its magic at, among others, the Rio Theatre, the Wrigley Building on the Westside and, in a pivot necessitated by a worldwide pandemic, on a movie screen at a makeshift drive-in at the Beach Boardwalk. Like a well-cultivated wardrobe, Pivot has made a virtue of adaptability.

With 2021 comes yet another pivot for Pivot, this time to an outdoor space at the Tannery Arts Center. On Saturday, Oct. 23, Pivot returns for its first live event since the pandemic, featuring a runway show and other live performances, all in an artistically idiosyncratic tribute to adorning the human body.

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Though it has been something of a vagabond when it comes to venues, Pivot has remained consistent in its format, presenting a fashion show that leans much more to California creative than New York chic. The Pivot approach is to mix together ambitious and visionary fashion designers who create specific lines of apparel and more eccentric artist types creating bedazzling but wildly impractical “wearable art.”

The show’s two-sided orientation is a reflection of its two creators and directors, fashion professional Tina Brown and celebrated and occasionally outlandish artist Rose Sellery. Together, Brown and Sellery — both veterans of the old FashionART show — have cultivated a diverse roster of designers and artists who mostly present at the show every year.

Among the most high-profile of these is African-born designer I.B. Bayo, whose distinctive outerwear and eveningwear are as coveted as any Santa Cruz designer, and Charlotte Kruk, the artist known for making period dresses and gowns out of candy wrappers, among other kitschy materials. Both Bayo and Kruk are aboard for 2021, among 37 artists and designers in this year’s program.

“We’ve got a lot of surprises coming up,” said Sellery. “We have artists and designers coming from all over the country, several from Hawaii, who don’t even know each other, Michigan, Iowa, a whole group from the Sierra Nevada foothills, the Haute Trash collective. They’re very fun and quirky and they do some great pieces, so we’re very excited to have them.”

Santa Cruz-based startup Lil Jax recycles adult clothing into children's fashion.
(r.r. jones)

Haute Trash, based in Nevada City, California, is a group of fashion designers who make clothes out of materials scavenged from garbage. Much like a roller-derby crew, the designers often go by punny stage names like Redusa D’Trash and Lotta Rubbish. Their rebelliously conservationist aesthetic couldn’t be more in line with Pivot’s own philosophy.

While attracting creators from all points beyond, Pivot is also featuring artists from nearby, extremely nearby. Among Pivot contributors who work and live on the Tannery grounds is designer Sonia Le, who is repurposing Indian silk saris into skirts and swimsuit cover-ups.

This kind of “upcycling” has been a central tenet at Pivot for years. Typical is the Santa Cruz-based designer Asha Tobing, whose line Lil Jax uses recycled adult clothing to refashion into children’s clothing.

On the artists’ side, Sellery is again leading the parade, as she’s done in years past with one-of-a-kind art pieces that are as humorously clever as they are provocative. This year, Sellery is upping her game with three separate outfits.

“My pieces this year are primarily focused on the pandemic,” said Sellery. “But there’s a lot of playfulness in them.” One is titled “The Party’s Over,” using deflated balloons to comment on a pre-COVID world. Another, “Tired,” uses materials from old tires. Dag Weiser, another high-profile Santa Cruz artist — well-known for his dazzling cardboard art — also will dive into fashion with his own piece.

Pivot will be presenting its signature show once again in a new venue. Brown and Sellery’s talent at adaptation was surely tested in 2020, when an in-person fashion show was out of the question. They responding by producing a film, “Pivot in the Pandemic,” which they presented in an upbeat the-show-must-go-on spirit onscreen at the Boardwalk’s riverside parking lot to audiences confined to their cars. Even with the challenge of establishing a new venue, with the Boardwalk experience in the rearview, the upcoming show at the Tannery feels like a deliverance.

“I just keep focusing on how everybody’s going to be so excited to be together looking at fashion that it’s not going to really matter, all those details that I usually stress over,” said Brown. “We just have to keep changing and roll with it. But I think the Tannery is going to be good for us. The Tannery is excited to have us.”

A woman wears an outfit from visionary Santa Cruz designer and textile artist I.B. Bayo
The work of visionary Santa Cruz designer and textile artist I.B. Bayo ranks among the most desirable apparel in the local fashion ecosystem.
(r.r. jones)

The event will take place in the open space between the Colligan Theater and the Radius Gallery, with a reception at the Radius. A group from the Tannery World Dance & Cultural Center will add an element of performance. Audiences will be asked to wear face masks.

Another big change is the program comes with its music. Pivot has always used recorded music for its runway show, and Brown and Sellery have shown exquisite taste in their selection of music. This year, however, the Pivot show opts for live music from the Bay Area band Los Improviders, who performed this year at the downtown gallery Curated By the Sea.

“Not only are they great,” said Brown, “but they can just sort of change with flow of the segments of whatever happens to be on the runway. It also helps us in that when we do livestreaming, or put the video online, we won’t have copyright issues. Plus, they’re all super nice guys and we really like their music. But it is totally new for us, so it’s a little scary.”

“Pivot: The Art of Fashion” takes place Saturday, Oct. 23, at the Tannery Arts Center in Santa Cruz. Runway show is at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35 general seating; $75 VIP tickets, which includes a pre-show reception at 5:30 p.m.

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