“They said he had two years to live, and he ended up dying in six months. It forced me to grow up quickly. I had to take care of my younger sisters. One was two years old at the time, the other was six. I started studying different religions and how they deal with death. I was fascinated with the afterlife. I’ve always been a spiritual person. Creating costumes is my way of stepping into the world of death and dealing with it creatively.”
In 2008, Thai moved to Chicago to avoid marrying her first boyfriend. She wasn’t happy in San Diego.
“It’s not easy to break with the cultural tradition of being the oldest, and therefore the one who’s supposed to take care of everyone else. I also felt like San Diego was a materialist bubble. I needed to get away from the party lifestyle and my family responsibilities to find myself. Chicago kept me focused. It was a different world. The Midwest mentality felt more real to me. Chicago pushed the reset button and really helped me to appreciate San Diego and the culture here.”
She moved back to San Diego this year. She doesn’t plan on leaving again.
Thai says that although designing costumes gives her tremendous creative freedom, her challenge for Fashion Week San Diego is to make the transition to clothing people can wear every day.
She is calling her spring/summer 2013 collection Fractured Kaleidoscope.
“It’s mostly fabrics in black and white, using geometric shapes to create a three-dimensional and patchwork look. I’m really into quilting right now. I’ll present ten pieces. I think it’s good to keep it small. I’m a perfectionist.”
Thai pays the bills with her custom costumes and themed party clothing. Customers find her through word-of-mouth, but the lion’s share of production work takes place around Halloween. As soon as Fashion Week San Diego ends, Thai will be back at the sewing machine, creating costumes that outfit the children of the night.
Bubbly brunette jewelry designer Fader is from Cincinnati, Ohio.
She came to San Diego in 2006 to attend the Gemological Institute of America in Carlsbad. She graduated in 2008 with degrees in gemology and applied jewelry arts. Erin understands the negative impact mining has on the environment and has decided to take “useless” products and transform them into something of value. She describes her Trashy Chic jewelry line as “up-cycled.”
Working out of her living room in Encinitas, Fader creates chunky, layered chains and signature big-baubled jewelry using fair-trade gemstones, conflict-free diamonds, and ethical metals.
Fair-trade gemstones are stones mined, faceted, and manufactured from responsible and ethical sources, with limited damage to the environment. Workers are paid a fair wage, and conditions are humane.
Conflict-free diamonds come from sources with strict environmental standards and labor laws, places where child labor is prohibited. The conditions under which they are mined are free of violence, and the profits do not fund rebel movements.
Ethical metals are metals that can be traced from their source. Fader believes that the most ethical metals are recycled.
Her favorite vintage periods are Deco and Disco. Fader reworks older pieces to create something new — it’s a personal war against traditional jewelry.
“There’s already enough unwanted and unused jewelry out there. Why create more [from scratch]? My pieces are timeless, one-of-a-kind treasures. I pride myself on the craftsmanship, knowing that attention to detail and the quality materials I use will ensure a long life for [the pieces] and keep them from ending up in a landfill. Ultimately, my dream is to create a complete line of environmentally and socially conscious jewelry.”
For Fashion Week San Diego, Fader will launch a new, higher-end line called the Erin Fader Collection. She’ll continue to find used jewelry and remake it, but will work directly with wholesalers to locate additional cast-off pieces.
“Everything will still be limited edition, but if a design becomes popular, I’ll be able to create more than one. For example, if I find 100 old watches online, all made in the ’70s by a company going out of business, I can buy them and create my own version of something wonderful.”
Hat designer Wood regularly changes her look with dramatic shifts in hair length, color, and style. Wood loves neon lipstick shades, which she pairs with matching neon lamé tops. She is the kind of woman who once would have danced the night away at New York’s Studio 54.
A Jane of all trades, in 1971 Wood was “Suzy Snicklefritz, the dumb blonde,” on a live morning chat show at KTUF in Phoenix, Arizona. She worked for Ronald Reagan his final year in office. She drove the press around San Diego during president George W. Bush’s 2007 visit. She has painted portraits and owned galleries and managed a 400-acre ranch in Escondido. But, she says, “I always wanted to be a dancer.”
Two years ago, while Wood was working on the ranch, she needed a hat. She couldn’t find what she wanted, so she made one herself. She started with a baseball cap and moved on to fascinators, fedoras, and evening chapeaux.
Wood calls her line Dazzlme. The first public showing of her collection was Los Angeles Fashion Week, for which she designed hats and clothing inspired by Japanese “Harajuku” style. All her hats have names: “Diamonds and Pearls,” “Affair to Remember,” “Gatsby,” and “Hepburn.”
Wood’s newest enthusiasm is her ready-to-wear clothing line for women over 40. She’ll be launching it at Fashion Week San Diego.
“I see a need for those women. I like unusual things. I’m adventurous, and I’d like to design clothing that is both fun and also hides those parts that most women over 40 don’t want to show to the world. For example, my tops will have a high neckline to hide ‘saggy neck syndrome.’ Or sleeves that cover but still have an opening to show a little skin.”
Wood is also working on a metallic-fabric swimwear line for the older set. Again, she will offer high and bedazzled necklines to distract and disguise.