By C.J. Hirschfield
When I was growing up in Los Angeles, there was a women’s clothing store called Petite Sophisticate. I used to joke that this was one store that I would never visit, because I was neither petite nor sophisticated. The chain went out of business in 2010, perhaps because there were too many like me.
I thought of that store when I was recently approached to be a model in a “Movers and Shakers” fashion show for a fundraiser being put on by the good people at Family Bridges. While I have been known to move and shake, I am definitely neither a fashionista nor a model, despite having watched many seasons of “Project Runway.”
|Invitation to Family Bridges' dinner and "Movers and Shakers" fashion show.|
But how do you say no to an organization that serves Oakland’s Asian community with everything from child day care to senior health care to immigration services? I couldn’t, and didn’t.
That’s how I found myself last week journeying to the San Mateo studio of the delightful and talented designer Jessie Liu. Here’s how she describes her work: “In an artistically expressive yet sophisticated [that word again!] and elegant approach each season, the Jessie Liu Collection captivates its wearers and the purveyors of style.” In my own words: Jessie’s clothes are beautiful—luscious fabrics, bold designs, all very wearable.
|Selections from Jessie Liu's Fall 2017 collection.|
Jessie suggested a number of pieces, and I obligingly tried them on. We settled on a black silk long-sleeve shirtdress with a “flounce hemline featuring dramatic draping back with double layers,” along with striped silk pants with a hand-painted effect.
After the fitting we chatted. Jessie has two young children, and I convinced her that she has to bring them to Children’s Fairyland.
Then, on the same day, I ventured into downtown San Francisco, where Victor Tung Couture is located. KQED has described Victor as “San Francisco’s Own Haute Couture Master.” (“Haute couture” – high fashion – is one of those labels, like “Petite Sophisticate,” that I thought would never apply to me. I was about to be proven wrong.)
|Victor Tung (center) with pieces from his collection.|
Victor’s creative designs are literally unique: There were more than 200 one-of-a-kind pieces on display at his store, made from fabric he’d hand-dyed or hand-drawn. I read about one of Victor’s dresses, described as the designer’s masterpiece: It had been constructed from the cocoons of silkworms, and it took him more than four months to complete. For me, however, Victor chose a vibrant blue jacket that I’d be wearing with black leggings and heels.
At least I wouldn’t be alone on the runway. Other models included Oakland City councilmember Abel Guillen and my very own husband/mover/shaker David Stein.
|C.J. Hirschfield and Abel Guillen practicing their duck faces before making their runway debuts.|
I was a little nervous about modeling for the Family Bridges Gala, which honored Suzan Bateson and the work of the Alameda County Community Food Bank and Andrea Ho, super volunteer and regional vice president of Cathay Bank. But then I reflected on the evening’s theme: “Yes, We Can!”
And yes, I thought: I will.
C.J. Hirschfield has served for 14 years as executive director of Children’s Fairyland, where she is charged with the overall operation of the nation’s first storybook theme park.