Cover Stories

The Fashion Issue 2013

GTW072513Featuring: The Penny Rose, the popular local fashion, style and beauty blog. Designs from Blank Verse, Sally Esposito, Legs, Wallflower, Cameron Marks, Stripe and others. A big peek at the latest styles.

Santa Cruz has long been typecast as a hippie enclave or a surf mecca, a lackadaisical locale where its citizens entertain nary a thought for the latest styles and trends. But it is becoming increasingly apparent that there’s more to Santa Cruz fashion than Birkenstocks and flip-flops. What may once have been considered an underground fashion scene has bubbled to the surface in the form of a fresh crop of local boutiques and designers. And at the forefront of this local fashion renaissance is The Penny Rose. This multi-faceted media outlet, which includes a blog and professional production team, is fast becoming the final word in Santa Cruz style and beauty.

Since the blogosphere boom began a few years back, fashion and beauty blogs have mushroomed. However, with most geared toward larger cities like San Francisco or New York, Santa Cruz found itself left out of the fashion loop. Christa Martin, former features editor at Good Times, saw a need to fill this growing niche.

“After having produced five fashion issues for Good Times over the years, I noticed that there was an eager audience of local readers who wanted to read about fashion and beauty,” says Martin, who founded The Penny Rose in March of 2012 and is now the blog’s editor. “Santa Cruz actually has a thriving fashion scene: from cutting-edge boutiques, to international fashion designers stationed here, to the runway show at the Civic, to scores of independent designers who live and work here, this town is ripe for fashion coverage and for fashion readers.”

The Penny Rose is the first media outlet of its kind serving the Santa Cruz audience and reporting on fashion and beauty in the town and beyond. Part blog, part online magazine, The Penny Rose offers readers a daily fix of fashion, style and beauty, infused with a unique Santa Cruz twist.

“We cover all local fashion and beauty news happening in the area: from a jewelry trunk show and news about local designers to our favorite picks from stores,” Martin outlines. “We offer a wealth of ideas on how to dress and put together a stylish outfit that speaks to one’s creative spirit.”

Though it has only existed for 16 months, The Penny Rose has become a reliable local style resource that has gained a loyal following of fashion-minded readers eager to see what each day’s post brings.


Like Santa Cruz, Martin states that the blog has an independent flair. Though the editorial team selectively culls their favorite looks and styles from the current trends, it then adapts them to local readers–and that infusion of local culture is precisely what makes the blog unique.

“The Penny Rose is very local in all of its endeavors—we hire only local artists to be a part of each project that we do, and we are sure to keep tabs on what’s happening in the fashion and beauty industries locally,” Martin says.

The Penny Rose, established out of Martin’s love for style, has evolved into a treasure trove of daily blogs created by a team of contributors, which includes professional writers, a textile designer, an independent fashion designer, a fashion industry veteran, a filmmaker, a high fashion photographer, a makeup artist, a fashion stylist, a hair stylist and many others. This combination of industry professionals creates a sense of credibility about The Penny Rose that Martin is extremely proud of.

Take Ellie Vilmenay for example. This fashion veteran spent 15 years working in the fashion industry as a designer in New York and San Francisco before moving back to Santa Cruz. Now contributing weekly to The Penny Rose, she imparts her sartorial wisdom and shares in-the-know finds with curious-minded readers. And though The Penny Rose is far from the glitz of Fifth Avenue, Vilmenay believes the blog has filled a vacancy in Santa Cruz.

“The Penny Rose contributes to the style scene by highlighting and showcasing another side of fashion other than the beach style that we’re known for,” Vilmenay says.

Another contributor, local fashion designer Sally Esposito, shares Vilmenay’s sentiments. Having written for the blog for more than a year, Esposito credits the sense of community The Penny Rose generates as a main measure of its success. “I think The Penny Rose is connecting lovers of fashion and beauty to each other, which is totally new for Santa Cruz,” Esposito says. “The Penny Rose has created a community in Santa Cruz for people interested in style and fashion beyond the flip-flop, Patagonia-fleece scene that dominates our Surf City town.” 

Martin explains that in addition to its contributors, The Penny Rose is different from other fashion/beauty/style blogs because it’s more like an online magazine.

“Whereas many blogs concentrate on posting daily outfit ideas, we cover fashion news topics, we do eco-beauty reviews, we’re honest in our coverage and never do sponsored posts.”

In fact, the Penny Rose team scours local boutiques for favorite finds to photograph and write about, and works with local companies to create a finished product.

The other side of The Penny Rose brand is The Penny Rose Production Team, which formed from Martin’s vision to create a full-blown fashion week to exclusively feature on The Penny Rose blog. This team of freelance fashion and beauty professionals collaborate to work for clients who might like The Penny Rose to create lookbooks, catalogues, photography for ads or an editorial spread in a magazine. Most recently, The Penny Rose Production Team produced the Fall 2013 catalogue for local organic clothing label Synergy.

But the commercial side is simply a byproduct of what the team was originally intended for: as a way to launch The Penny Rose into the realm of high fashion through the execution of the seasonal fashion weeks. With Martin acting as producer and creative director, and brilliant self-taught fashion photographer Nick Chao behind the lens, the team of stylists, makeup artists and hairdressers have thus far created three full-blown fashion extravaganzas, filled with couture creations, whimsical settings, and theatrical makeup that would look right at home on the pages of Vogue or Harper’s.

This summer’s fashion week centered around a “Wizard of Oz” theme, with stylized versions of Dorothy, the Scarecrow and of course the infamous Wicked Witch, who in the imaginative world, dreamed up by the team at The Penny Rose, wore a bespoke black rosette gown created by local designer and The Penny Rose contributor Sally Esposito.

cover3“The Wicked Witch may have been ugly in the story, but I wanted to bring her a kind of glamorous evil that was undeniably beautiful,” Esposito says. One glance at photos from the shoot and it’s apparent that Esposito and The Penny Rose Production Team achieved the whimsical yet sophisticated high fashion look they were after.

Each fashion week has been hugely popular, and a major draw for The Penny Rose. Deva Blaisdell-Anderson, a local filmmaker and member of The Penny Rose Production Team who has created a handful of short films specifically for the blog, feels that the fashion weeks go a step further by raising the level of awareness of local designers and fashion-forward boutiques in our community.

cover4“A lot of world-class and internationally successful designers are based here, but Santa Cruz style, in general, is rather disconnected from the fashion world,” she says. It is her hope, and that of Martin, that The Penny Rose will bridge that gap and open the community’s eyes to local talent, while also providing inspiration curated from the fashion world at large.


cover christaThe Penny Rose is certainly stirring the pot of Santa Cruz fashion, each post a daily rallying cry to encourage local citizens to rise against the stereotypes and to put the antiquated idea that Santa Cruz is a town sans style to rest.

“Santa Cruz style is typically extremely casual and The Penny Rose is challenging that perception by showing that a lot of superb taste and quality can be found here,” Blaisdell-Anderson says.

Save your flip-flops for the beach, The Penny Rose says it’s time to let the style revolution in Santa Cruz begin.

The Penny Rose founder/creator Christa Martin. Visit
Shop at Stripe & Stripe Men: 107 Walnut Avenue, Santa Cruz; 117 Wal nut Avenue, Santa Cruz, 421-9252,
Cameron Marks, 402 Ingalls St., Santa Cruz, 458-3081,
Blank Verse Jewelry:
Sally Esposito:

Creative Director/Producer: Christa Martin
Photographer: Nick Chao
Hair: Ginger Vaughn
Makeup: Anna Wu
Fashion Styling: Missy Schnaps
Wardrobe Supervisor: Sally Esposito
Production Assistant: Gina Peters



Sally Esposito (pictured to the right) calls her entrance into the fashion world an act out of sheer necessity. “I would have an idea of something I wanted but either couldn’t find it or couldn’t afford it,” Esposito explains on her website, “Instead of giving up (or saving up), I sat down and started sewing.”

cover sally2Bold yet simple, every item of clothing that Esposito creates is made from high quality materials—from organic cotton, to organic silk, and one-of-a-kind vintage fabrics. Custom-made items are always a possibility, as every shirt, dress, and skirt is handmade from an original pattern by Esposito herself. Between cutting the fabric to a pattern, to hand sewing linings and hems, something like a fitted dress will take Esposito about 10 hours.

 “Because [the pieces] are all handmade, I can take the time to focus on details and make sure that everything is made to be durable and exact,” Esposito notes.  “It sets my clothing apart because it is really wearable and up to the times, it’s something that you would see in a magazine or a fashion blog.”

While her designs are modern, Esposito’s inspiration comes from classic vintage styles that keep her designs timeless. Her designs can be found ready to wear locally in Downtown Santa Cruz at Stripe (107 Walnut Avenue, Santa Cruz, 421-9252). Esposito frequently contributes her musings on fashion and design to The Penny Rose fashion blog— By Jenny Simeone

For more information, custom design inquiries, or to place an order, visit



For some, consignment clothing means people’s used and old worn styles. Taking an environmental approach, Lara Caldas, owner of Twist, has taken that negative perception of consignment clothing and turned it on its head.

cover Wallace“We don’t take everything because of a brand, our consignment is different than most consignments,” Caldas explains. “We are looking for high quality fabrics and classic styles that will last 5 or 6 years, we are very against disposable clothing.”

Twist is modeled in with a casual bohemian aesthetic, promoting the

recycling of clothing that is gentle on the planet, and gentle on your wallet. Caldas notes that in most cases the clothing sold at Twist is for an eighth of the original price.

While the majority of Twist is consignment clothing, there are new items that Caldas ensures are from sustainable and environmentally conscious sources. For the first time in four years of operation, Twist now buys and sells men’s clothing, an endeavor that has made the store equally interesting for men and women’s styles.

“Our customers love that we pick styles that never go out of style,” Caldas notes. “We are driven by social responsibility and a commitment to the environment. It’s what we and our customers strive for.” By  Jenny Simeone

Twist is located at 1364 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 420-1300. For more information, visit

For The Guys

Enjoying the heat of the remaining summer months, guys of every age and fashion preference have been touting one of the most classic styles for men—the casual button up shirt.

For those who lean toward understated and simple colors, Stripe Men has delivered with its recent shipments of harbor tops and stitch shirts for days by the beach. Summer arrivals at Patrick James offer button-up sport shirts with colorful brash patterns for evenings on the town. And for the professional man, Cameron Marks has their first shipment of Chinos and Oxford business shirts from Los Angeles based company, Apolis. However, for the guy looking to make a strong statement with a button up tee this summer, perhaps hemp is the way to go.

cover X SteveAfter a trip to one of the first World Hemp Expo Extravaganja festivals (WHEE) in 1997, Richard Dash has since been convinced that hemp is the future of the garment industry. His company, Dash Hemp, boasts the heaviest weight jersey in the hemp business and as Dash notes, “maybe the entire t-shirt world.”

 “They aren’t just T-shirts, they really are fashion statements,” explains Dash. “Just by being in the industry, I am making a political statement. And the more t-shirts that I sell and the more people that wear them, the more that awareness expands.”

Dash’s political statement is the fight to legalize industrial grade hemp in the U.S. The current legal restrictions on hemp have made manufacturing the clothing in the states cost prohibitive. Consequently, Dash has his garments assembled in China with what he guarantees is ‘sweat-free’ labor in small workshops where the Hemp is grown.

As a member of the Board of Directors for the Hemp Industries Association, Dash hopes that his garments will encourage his customers to support the cause and consider the benefits of legalizing industrial hemp.

“I don’t do what some would call ‘hippie stuff’,” Dash laughs. “I can’t do everything, we design and manufacture upscale hemp clothing, sold in a little retail store that people come to mostly from word of mouth.”

Perhaps it is the durability that makes his clothing so popular. Dash claims that his customers have worn their hemp shirts for years as hemp clothing does not pill and rarely loses its shape. Or it may be due to the anti-microbial properties of hemp that Dash advertises, allowing his customers to wear their tops unwashed for days at a time without any ‘aroma’. Or simply, Hemp Dash clothing, and the rest of the button-up shirt world, is a success because it is comfortable and tasteful.

Dash Hemp Styles can be found locally at 303 Potrero St, Santa Cruz, 426-1824, or online at Stripe Men is located at 117 Walnut Avenue Santa Cruz, 431-6182, and online at Shop at Patrick James in store at 7538 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 688-2105, or online at Cameron Marks Boutique can be found at 402 Ingalls St., No. 7, Santa Cruz, 458-3080 and online at | JS

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