For the past six years, artist and designer Tina Brown and stylist Rose Sellery have joined forces to bring a different kind of fashion show to Santa Cruz County.
Pivot: The Art of Fashion was first held in 2015, after Brown and Sellery were looking for a way to expand on what they were already doing at other runway events in the area, and carry on the tradition of the annual Fashionart event they had worked on with Angelo Grova.
“We wanted to do shows in other places,” Sellery says. “We wanted to offer different opportunities for designers, have workshops, marketplaces. We wanted to support them throughout the year, not just at one show.”
Since its inception, Pivot has grown in size and influence, gaining a reputation as a welcoming space for diversity and inclusion. Models—and the consumers the clothes are designed for—range in size, age, race, ethnicity, gender and orientation.
“We’re trying to define beauty in a broader sense,” Sellery says. “It’s not just about the size zero, 6-foot tall models. Beauty is the norm, it’s everywhere, in everyone you look around and see. Clothes are something every person can relate to. They are a mirror of our inner selves.”
“We want to inspire people, so they see the beauty in all kinds of clothes, and know they can have that beauty in their lives, too,” says Brown.
Pivot returns Oct. 23 with a night of runway presentations, featuring designer fashions and wearable artwork, as well as live music, spoken word, dance, and more at the Tannery Arts Center.
“Everyone is excited to be back,” Brown says. “They were so isolated during the pandemic. They’ve needed something to do, to look forward to and show off their work.”
When last year’s event was canceled due to the pandemic, Brown and Sellery adapted it into a film. A two-day shoot they describe as “intense” had artists and designers film segments at Curated-By-The-Sea and the Rispin Mansion in Capitola.
The film was shown at a drive-in movie event at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
“We had the best time,” Sellery says. “We were in lockdown for so long. This allowed us to get together with people who were like family to us, connect and create.”
Despite the success of the film, Brown admits there was something missing in the experience.
“At our live shows, the feelings, the excitement is palpable,” she says. “But last year we were in our cars. We couldn’t see people’s reactions. We definitely missed the audience.”
Pivot is back to an in-person event, this time outdoors. Originally the show was going to be at the Rio Theatre, as with previous years. But the Delta variant changed everything.
“We realized we couldn’t jam all those people backstage,” Sellery says. “We didn’t feel good about being indoors, even if we limited the amount of people. What were we going to do? By then we were already heading into August.”
Enter the Tannery, which Sellery says was “very eager” to take on the project. Working with Program Manager Mercedes Lewis, they began putting the pieces together for the new event.
“We’ve been scrambling a bit,” Sellery says. “But we’re super excited. The lineup we have, the surprise performances—we think it’s going to be fantastic.”
Pivot highlights both local artists and designers, and some from across the U.S., including Hawaii, Iowa and Massachusetts. Many focus on sustainability and “upcycling,” the process of transforming by-products and other unwanted items into new creations.
Haute Trash, a group that originated in the Sierra Nevada Foothills, creates pieces from recycled materials. Local designer and Tannery resident Asha Tobing will show off her line of kidswear, “Lil’ Jax,” made from salvaged textiles. Sonia Le of Santa Cruz will display her custom pieces made from upcycled sari pieces.
Local favorite I.B. Bayo is also set to present his unique womens and mens creations at the show.
“Everyone waits to see what kind of feather concoction gown [Bayo] is going to put together,” Brown says. “He’s incredible. You never know what he’s going to come up with.”
Rebecca Wendlandt of Davis will be showing off two wearable artworks. The sea-themed pieces, one a jellyfish and the other inspired by coral, utilize LED lighting elements.
Wendlandt says she enjoys how Sellery and Brown blend art pieces like hers with more wearable fashion.
“I really appreciate them providing this unique sort of opportunity for artists,” she says. “I’m sure it’s a lot of work to organize and put on this show. It’s a really great thing to participate in.”
Runway to South County
This year includes some new faces, including designer Sindy Hernandez, owner of Queen’s Shoes & More in Watsonville. Her line, “Sindy,” caught the attention of Brown and Sellery for its simple, clean lines and high quality fabrics.
“She’s fabulous,” Brown says. “Her stuff is very wearable, compared to some of the gowns you’ll see at the show. We do want some pieces that people will look at and say, ‘I would wear that!’”
Hernandez says she learned about Pivot through a customer, who introduced her to Brown.
“They really wanted to bring Watsonville into the mix, which is wonderful,” Hernandez says. “It’s been a rough year, and I haven’t been able to design much, but I do have a small collection of pieces I’ve been working on.”
Hernandez praised Pivot’s focus on diversity and sustainability.
“I’m very excited to be a part of it,” she says. “I’ve had fashion shows but they’ve always been here, in my store. With Pivot, I’ll get to experience the other side of things, with other designers. To see their work.”
A major goal of Pivot, Sellery says, is to educate the public about “slow fashion.” That is, embracing local and quality-made garments instead of mass-produced clothes from overseas.
“It’s about buying less, but better quality,” Brown says. “It’s about valuing and buying clothes made right here. You don’t need to go to Forever 21 to find something cool.”
“The fashion industry is one of the biggest producers of waste in the world,” says Sellery. “This is a big thing we can do to help the planet.”
Pivot will be catered by Emozioni Patisserie, a new Italian pastry shop in Santa Cruz, that will serve up both sweet and savory treats. Local band Los Improviders will act as the soundtrack for the evening; it is the first time Pivot will utilize live music for its runway show.
A catered VIP reception will be held prior to the event, where guests can enjoy food, champagne and mingle with designers and artists, plus have front row seating.
Face masks will be required for all guests and all participants backstage will either be vaccinated or have taken a recent Covid test.
“We usually have quite a big crowd,” Brown says. “So we’re trying to be as safe as possible.”
Both Brown and Sellery have their own jobs apart from Pivot. Sellery is a working artist and designer, while Brown works as a fashion stylist in the region.
But this show is their passion project, and something they look forward to every year.
“This is our labor of love,” Sellery says. “It is a joyful, fun experience where you can meet new people, make new friends and engage with art.”
For Brown, the most rewarding thing about Pivot is the community of artists and designers they have created over the past six years.
“It is very difficult to make a living as an artist,” she says. “Especially in the past year, people have struggled. It’s been rough. So it’s helpful to have a network of people. You can check in with each other, collaborate, or just talk. I think our work has really paid off this past year. We’ve achieved what we set out to do.”
Pivot: The Art of Fashion will be held Oct. 23 at 7:30pm (doors 7pm) at the Tannery Arts Center, 1010 River St. in Santa Cruz. For information and to purchase tickets, visit pivot-artfashion.com.