American Beauty: Redefined

Designer Sarah Liller’s “Romantic Repurposing”  helps to redefine the fashion community.

It doesn’t take a Joseph Campbell to look at the confusing state of the world and want to find some primordial meaning or try to put it in larger context.

Alongside our culture’s obsession with celebrity, is the increasing desire for beauty. Connecting with bigger lives can motivate us to lead better ones, and traditionally beauty is an indicator of health and fertility to the opposite sex and of a potential rival worth monitoring to other women.

But beyond evolutionary cues, our voracious modern hunger (New Beauty magazine, anyone?) for beauty – hair and skincare products, anti-aging diets, neutraceuticals, botox and fillers – begs the question, what’s it all about?

Call me Pollyanna, but I can’t help thinking it’s the powerful ability of transformation that is at the heart of the matter. Devoting time to one of the few permissible self-care rituals allowed in our too busy lives, hair, fashion and make-up makeovers represent a deeper sense of renewal and metamorphosis that as a society we’re yearning for.

Last week, a fashion event by an enlightened San Francisco-based non-profit, Groundwork Opportunities, offered both a chance to redefine what beauty means to a community and reestablish fashion’s self identity from glossy posse to bountiful brigade.

Held at Madrone Studios, an airy space at the heart of San Francisco’s creative Mission district, the Define: Beauty event was designed to fund a clean water well for 4,000 people in Moshi, Tanzania.

“Given the many eco-friendly and socially responsible fashion shows, we wanted to focus on a specific cause to let guests directly see the community they are supporting and demonstrate how our support can impact their ideas,” says Bartlomiej Jan Skorupa, executive director of Groundwork Opportunities.

His team found inspiration for Define: Beauty while scouting sites for a clean water well with community members in Tanzania.  The local women didn’t define beauty by the latest styles or products; instead they defined individual beauty by “selflessness, inner strength and community.”

Eight designers were brought together – Cari Borja, Ken Chen, Dallas Coulter, Sarah Liller, MENK, Kajan Padraig, Retrofit Republic and Daniel Sudar –  chosen because their organic or recycled and locally-produced collections reflect the values of beauty found in Tanzania.

More than 50 looks were showcased to an enthusiastic crowd of 300 who were alternately invigorated and humbled by the mesmerizing multimedia installations that demonstrated the possibilities of community through audience participation. Take a look at some of the highlights from the runway.

Kajan Padraig’s slashed and tucked details enhance the earth-toned collection’s wearability

Dallas Parke’s ultra flattering tiered peplums and bustles

Cari Borja’s vivid designs come to life on the runway

Photography by Jayson Carpenter.

Rowena Ritchie

Rowena is EcoSalon’s West Coast Fashion Editor and currently resides in San Francisco, CA.