A potential candidate for my next gay boyfriend recommended that I come see a fashion show and since it doesn’t take much to get me to a new type of event, I arrived two weeks later at the show with my mom as my plus one. I wanted to know how my city would fare next to New York and LA, or any other city that warranted a fashion week. San Francisco has always attracted the do-it-yourself types and the show, Kinetic: Emerging San Francisco Fashion, held at the deYoung Museum, was an example of what is possible when creative minds come together to strut their stuff.
While Mom and I sat through the raucous punk band that would introduce these fine fashion folk, I spotted what I thought must be one of the models for the show to come. She wore a steel gray satin dress, tailor made to fit every curve. The dress had a strap that curved over one shoulder with horizontal and diagonal pleats that met under the bodice. But it was the bottom of the dress that caught my eye, how the hem was folded and curled up to make the piece and model look as if she were a mermaid who had just swum out of the sea. I turned to my mom and said, “You know, I’m not the type of woman who dreams of a wedding dress, but if I could have a dress like that, I’d start thinking about a wedding.” The dress was stunning. It wasn’t until Antonio Luna’s designs graced the floor moments later that I realized we had a master in our presence.
Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Luna found inspiration in his mother, who made dresses for the aristocrats in their city. He tells me this in his rich accent the week after the show over the phone.
“When I was growing up, I would watch her, but then something happened and I realized that I had some way of communicating through clothes. I absorbed things that I saw when I was a kid, but I didn’t know that I absorbed them until now. There is a lot of prejudice and stigma against male fashion designers [in Guadalajara back then]. My family is very traditional and Catholic, they would have preferred I do another career.”
Luna obliged, like so many in their twenties tend to do, and finished his college in Mexico with a major in Business Administration. He went on to begin a masters program here in San Francisco with the desire to learn English, until he found his way.
“I didn’t finish my masters because it wasn’t what I wanted. Three years ago, I realized I liked fashion. Fashion is so hard, the competition, but I had the drive to do it. I started taking classes at City College and it became my passion. I have taken classes for two years [and] now I love it. I want it to be my career.”
He contemplated taking classes at more renowned schools like Parsons in New York or The Academy of Art here in the city, but Luna recognized that City College might allow him to be the larger fish in the smaller sea.
“[At City College] the classes are more relaxed and free and they have helped me to find my own style because they are giving me that free space to explore.”
He started with the Fashion Illustration class, which he said gave him the experience to draw his concepts on paper. Then he moved on to the technical classes. It was in the technical classes where he met Paul Gallo, the teacher at City College who later became his mentor.
“I took Draping, one of my first technical classes. [You have] a form, then you drape fabric over it, and then you mold the design using the form. [It was] inspiring. I saw the skill that Paul had, he’s really good at draping, and I knew that if I [would be] doing it by myself, I [would] need to know it more than anyone else … I was hungry to know and he noticed that. I did my first dress during that class. I brought it to class and Paul was like, ‘Who made that?’ (It was the gray dress I had spotted before the show). It was the first dress I ever made and we talked about everything. I wanted to absorb everything.”
He presented the idea of a fashion show to some fellow students, and then networked with his roommate (who worked for The San Francisco Bay Guardian) to sponsor the show.
“I wanted to tell a story through a collection. I didn’t have the means to do a whole collection of thirty looks, so I decided to do a small collection of thirteen looks [which was] good enough to tell a story. [It] was born from an inspiration board of a sunset, an iceberg, the midnight sky, a volcano, and some volcanic rock formations.”
The story came as men in velvet jackets and satin slacks, but with an urban edge to create a postmodern style. The women wore satins reflecting colors of the sun, with lines that hugged their bodies with slits and draping that illustrated a sense of allure. Each garment was its own piece of art, with beautiful bodies to carry the works down the runway.
As it goes with exposure, after the show, things started to happen. A local company that has been producing t-shirts, hoodies, and sweaters with hoods was interested in having a higher-end line for women, so they put Luna to the task. They are in the process of brainstorming and sketching and plan to have the line ready for December.
“It’s actually what I was looking for, but just because I did the show, it happened. It will be feminine, but they want edgy—biker and punk rock. [I’m] going to use leather with soft fabrics … it’s going [to have a] really tough feeling of it, but very delicate: silk organzas with leather [and] a nice jersey with twill. [I’ll] make it interesting [on] the surface [but] delicate. [It will be] edgy and angry, [but] feminine.”
And those of us who love all things feminine will be proud to wear such emotion.
Photo courtesy of Antonio Luna
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