In the era of corporatization and mega-retailers, consumers are increasingly looking for distinctive apparel to express their personal style. Enter Thread, a trunk show featuring unique items from more than 80 independent accessory and clothing designers.
Now in its sixth run, the quarterly show allows designers to sell directly to customers looking for alternatives to cookie-cutter mall offerings. The show offers the personal attention and discovery of boutique shopping, but on a much larger scale.
"'Independent designer' means not mainstream, not necessarily manufacturing for Nordstrom or Bloomingdale's," said Thread founder and director Lara Matthews. "These are unique, one-of-a-kind pieces, small lines sold to boutiques. It's fresh, new stuff people haven't seen before."
Hipsters, fashionistas and the simply curious will descend upon the next Thread installment on Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Old Wonderbread Bakery because this is more than another shopping opportunity. It's an event.
Hourly runway fashion shows, an art show and charity auction, a martini bar and cafÈ, massage tables and DJs spinning downtempo all add to the relaxed, social ambiance.
Curated by artist Jonas Depuis, the art show will feature new works from painters, sculptors and photographers from all over Southern California. The charity auction will benefit the California Arts Council.
But what do visual art and music have to do with fashion?
Everything, if you ask artist and clothing designer Ginger Che, who participated in the last two Thread events. Fashion is another form of artistic expression, just like photography or sculpture or music.
"Fashion is more than functionality -- it's such a powerful way to express yourself," she said. "You can inspire others with fashion, just as you can with music, and make people feel good and special."
About 60 percent to 70 percent of the exhibitors hail from California, but designers from Hawaii, New York and Chicago will also be on hand. Local designers include women's fashions by Sally Bee, Kites and Handmade; men's fashion by Iron Fist; accessories by Coquito Workroom and Salvation Sacks; and jewelry by Bohemian Jewel and Sara and Sarah Design.
Style mavens have been gathering at Thread shows since fall 2003, when Matthews assembled a few local designers to sell their wares in her back yard. About 100 people showed up for the chic yard sale. The event has been a success ever since, moving to the Cassius King Art Gallery, Mixture in Little Italy and eventually to its current home, the Old Wonderbread Bakery.
Thread will occupy four bi-level spaces and 10,000 square feet of trade show floor within downtown's Old Wonderbread Bakery. Thread 6 may be one of your last opportunities to experience this historic, industrial-style brick warehouse located near Petco Park. The facility is set to be demolished to make way for high-rise redevelopment.
"I love that space," Che said. "It has lots of natural light that comes through the ceiling. I think it's good to have an unorthodox space for creative energy, because it's somewhat unexpected and adds to the experience."
Che, owner of Fathom Design Gallery in La Jolla, called the Thread show "inspiring."
"The whole vibe of the event is very young and very refreshing," she said. "You have all these creative talents coming together -- art, music, fashion ... It's a very concentrated place of talent."
PROGRAM: Thread, Fashion and Lifestyle Show
Date: Sunday, May 22
Time: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Location: Old Wonderbread Bakery, 147 14th St., downtown San Diego (at L Street, opposite Petco Park parking lot
More information: www.threadshow.com