THREAD Show creator Lara Matthews with brother Alex Matthews
Fashion Frenzy
Local designers, entrepreneurs try to put San Diego on the fashion radar
Published Thursday, 14-Aug-2008 in issue 1077
In San Diego, designer jeans and flip-flops pass for fashion. That’s all about to change if local designers and entrepreneurs have a say.
With local fashion and shopping events like THREAD and this year’s first-ever Fashion Week San Diego, local designers have an opportunity to showcase San Diego’s unique sense of style. The Gay & Lesbian Times chatted with two entrepreneurs, Lara Matthews of THREAD (which celebrates five years in San Diego at the Sheraton Hotel Aug. 17), and Allison Andrews, the director of Fashion Week San Diego, which will run Sept. 28 through Oct. 5. We also caught up with two emerging designers who will showcase their work during Fashion Week.
With a growing grassroots fashion revolution, you may be seeing more of these locals on the runway.
Lara Matthews
Creator, Thread Show
Fashionista Lara Matthews took time out of her busy schedule to give the Gay & Lesbian Times an inside scoop on THREAD – a dynamic event bridging designers and the contemporary women and men who demand fresh, unique pieces for their wardrobe. THREAD – which will celebrate its fifth anniversary during an Aug. 17 fashion event featuring 100 top local men’s and women’s designers at the Sheraton Hotel Downtown – fills the style void between mainstream and high fashion for those wary of malls.
Gay & Lesbian Times: How did THREAD start?
Lara Matthews: I was lying on the beach at Torrey Pines with my best friend Carla Manuel and her husband. I was doodling ideas down on a pad for a way to somehow showcase, celebrate and share the art and ideas of the women I had met since living in California. All my friends were designing and making great bags, clothes and jewelry, so I wanted to get us all together and have a party in my back garden – Barbara from Belles & Whistles, Carla from Kites Design, Steph Ashmore from Albino Blackbird, Amahlia Stevens from Vitamin A swimwear.
I grew up in a household where there was always a dinner party or barbecue going on, so I love to be hospitable and have people over. So, a combo of fashion, shopping and a party was a great idea in my mind.
By the time I left the beach that day my doodle had evolved into a house party for independent fashion designers. My friend Carla said, “I’d bring my clothes and sell them if you did it” and that was it! I even designed the logo and some tag lines. The first show was called, San Diego’s Design Collective. The name THREAD came later.
So I threw the party in my back garden in Mission Hills and 20 designers brought their things to sell and about 60 of my friends and people I didn’t know turned up.
I was inspired to do it again, this time at the Cassius King Gallery, then again at Mixture, then I found the Wonderbread bakery and THREAD grew from there.
GLT: What was your motivation?
LM: To do something other than work and play. I wanted to do something with a meaning, something different. I worked full time at Croce’s Restaurant in the catering and marketing department, which taught me a lot, but I wanted a creative outlet.
GLT: Who is the event designed for – designers, chic shoppers, the general public?
LM: The event has a few purposes: THREAD together designers and artists in San Diego and the other markets we go to present a showcase of local talent; THREAD is an alternative to the mall – it’s a chance for shoppers of all tastes (hipsters, trendsetters, mums, boys, etc.) to buy something unique, one-of-a-kind pieces for their wardrobes; [and] THREAD is open to the public. We also invite local buyers, boutique owners and showroom managers to attend.
GLT: San Diego is not regarded as a fashion capital. Why – and what is being done to change that?
LM: San Diego is not a fashion capital, because it doesn’t want to be – in my opinion, anyway. However, San Diego is definitely more than just a beach town, as some call it. San Diego has a much stronger design center forming in recent years with so many talented artists, designers and fashion makers making a mark locally and nationally. I think it’s really exciting and I’m really proud to be part of it. THREAD has given so many designers the chance to take the next step and show what they can do.
I also see more and more, when I’m out, big clusters of uber-cool, stylie hipsters. I didn’t really see that when I first moved here – I thought San Diego was so conservative. But I can see its evolving from a fashion standpoint.
Sometimes I’m out at events, I wonder if I’m in New York; with so many hipsters and people around me [who] clearly have not just shoved on their jeans, they have mixed it up and styled in some alternative accessories. It’s brilliant. I get inspired when I go out and try a new outfit I saw.
People in San Diego do want more; they want unique, one-of-a-kind. The fact that 1,500 people attend THREAD to shop from indie brands and alternative looks and materials, every quarter proves that.
GLT: Are there any fashion trends that are catching your eye now?
LM: I love tailored, fitted clothes – items that show form and sexiness. For the summer I see a lot of silk around; floaty, light materials; bright yellows and greens; short cotton dresses with high heels; red and turquoise combination – I love it. In L.A. the fashion looks a lot the same to me so far. But when you start looking deeper into the local indie boutiques there are some gorgeous vintage inspired pieces, too, which I’m very drawn to – sexy vintage. I love dresses. I declared this year the year of the dress for me. I got a bit addicted to my skinny jeans (I have them in three colors) and needed to bust out my legs again. It feels good. I bought three in one day. I bought three more at THREAD.
I’m not a huge fan of the high-waisters shorts and trousers, unless you are super skinny.
GLT: What is your personal style? How would you describe it?
LM: I’m pretty conservative. I like to be classy and timeless with a bit of a twist; a black pencil skirt and a vintage belt with a pair of bitchy heels. That’s my new fave outfit; or a short-fitted, vintage dress with heels. It’s all about the heels, baby.
GLT: What are some of your favorite labels and designers?
LM: I don’t buy labels. I buy from emerging designers and my favorite ones are Micha Designs’ necklaces, (she is my best friend and she makes the most amazing stuff); Bilingual Clothing’s silk dresses; Dear Cora – my friend Athena Toner creates beauty out of the most unexpected things. When I hold her bag I feel connected for some reason. It’s because each one is different and she made one just for me that reads inside, “I believe in you, I do, I do!”
GLT: Do you have any favorite local designers?
LM: Yes – Micha Designs. Fables by Barrie, Ximena Valero, Carla Manuel, Nicole Graziolin, Dear Cora
GLT: What are you most looking forward to at the event this year?
LM: Free cocktails, pool party, runway and dance shows.
For more information on THREAD, visit The next San Diego THREAD show will be Aug. 17 at the Sheraton Hotel from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets range from $10-25, and include entry to a post-event pool party at the Sheraton Hotel.

Allison Andrews
Director, Fashion Week San Diego
Allison Andrews is the founder and creative director of APA Consulting, as well as the director of Fashion Week San Diego.
Andrews created APA Consulting with the goal of helping boutiques and designers become more profitable. Through a practical and creative mix of merchandising, visual displays, marketing promotions, event planning and retail psychology, she has increased the business of every client she works with.
Although Andrews has watched her clients flourish, the tight economy had a recognizable effect on others in the fashion industry in San Diego and throughout the country. As naysayers urged her to move her business to Los Angeles, where the market was stronger, Andrews was decidedly determined to improve conditions in San Diego.
Cue Fashion Week San Diego, born to bring awareness to the unique fashion culture that thrives in Southern California, influenced by the border region.
“This in-depth look at Southern California’s fashion industry is absolutely unprecedented,” Andrews said of Fashion Week San Diego. “A seamless display of a fashion culture that knows no borders will mesmerize San Diego this fall.”
Gay & Lesbian Times: What is Fashion Week San Diego?
Allison Andrews: Fashion Week San Diego is an event made to showcase emerging and well-know designers and their collections for the next season. This is a very important event for not only the designers, but the buyers to attend to see trends, purchase the next “it” item and buy the next season’s fashions. Fashion Week San Diego is a fashion week taken back to its roots to showcase American and Mexican designers that aren’t represented in the industry yet, but should be. These designers will be the next household name – just watch.
GLT: How did it get started?
AA: It got started from a need, niche and want. I loved going to fashion weeks in other cities and saw the same problems. I saw the emerging growth in San Diego and knew we could have a valid fashion week and I wanted to help be the extra push to grow the culture and city. I also don’t want to move away to work and do what I love. This city is ready for it and can handle it.
GLT: What do you enjoy most about fashion and the industry?
AA: The creative people; there is no cookie-cutter mold for a creative fashionista. They come from all over with different life experiences and knowledge that adds sprinkles to their cake. I just love to sample them all.
GLT: Are there any fashion trends now that are catching your eye?
AA: I really like the wave in “green” textiles and making them so couture in the silhouettes and construction that you would have no idea they were “green.” That’s a fabulous trend that I want to see grow.
GLT: What is your personal style? How would you describe it?
AA: Classic elegance with a modern twist and a little edge
GLT: What are some of your favorite labels and designers?
AA: Morphine Generation, French Connection, Chanel, Ann Taylor, but above all, my favorite designers are the designers in Fashion Week San Diego 2008.
Fashion Week San Diego director Allison Andrews
GLT: In general, would you say fashion has a positive impact on a person’s self-esteem?
AA: Yes, if we’re talking about someone who has had a positive upbringing; take away all of the other outside influences. I think that you have to begin with a positive start in society or everything could have a negative impact on you. That’s part of the reason we chose the Child Abuse Prevention Foundation as our beneficiary this year. I want to help ensure that children have an opportunity to start off on the right foot.
GLT: What are your thoughts on criticism towards too-skinny models in high fashion? What, if anything, is being done to change this, and how does it affect the general population (especially younger generations)?
AA: It’s a job and the requirements are to keep in shape and look the way you are needed to based on your genetic disposition. There are the people that always go to extremes and can ruin it for the rest. To help change this we can do more fashion weeks like Fashion Week San Diego where there are plus size and petites on the same runway with “normal” runway models. Fashion is for everyone and it’s important that the people influencing the industry portray that concept.
GLT: Who do you prefer: Tim Gunn or Nina Garcia?
AA: This is tough! I love my girls, but Tim Gunn … “Make it work!” I have stolen the quote more times than I can count.
GLT: What do we get to look forward to at this year’s Fashion Week San Diego?
AA: Simple – this is the first-ever Fashion Week San Diego and it’s open to the public so that you can enjoy it. Twenty-thousand people, 19 fashion shows, live music, great after parties, shopping events and forums – what more could you ask for?
For more information on Fashion Week San Diego, which will run Sept. 28 through Oct. 5, visit

Jorge Corella
Designer, Fashion Week San Diego
Gay designer Jorge Corella successfully merges class and sex appeal. The Jorge Corella Designs woman is a fashionista with class and style. Classic cuts with modern glam, his line is wearable and flattering.
“I’m all about quality and reminding the world what makes a woman a woman,” Corella said in an interview.
With 2008 almost half over, Corella has made more strides in the fashion industry. He has coordinated fashion shows for Macy’s and other production companies and, recognizing a talent for the work, launched Jorge Corella Productions.
Headlining Fashion Week San Diego, Jorge and Jorge Corella Designs will bring a new level of chic to the modern San Diego woman. The Gay & Lesbian Times snagged an inside look into the designer’s background, creative process and vision.
Gay & Lesbian Times: What do you enjoy most about fashion and the fashion industry?
Jorge Corella: I love fashion because there are only a few “rules” – and those rules can always be broken and changed. It’s ever-changing, but vintage or retro styles are always re-emerging. I guess, in short, I love the complexity of it all.
GLT: Are there any fashion trends that have caught your eye lately?
JC: Color! I’ve always loved bright colors and jewel tones. They are everywhere all year round now.
GLT: What is your personal style? How would you describe it?
JC: In one word: eclectic. My style changes from day to day but is always detail-oriented. I love to dress up and wear ties and cufflinks but I have my days when I go for “hobo chic.”
GLT: Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
JC: My biggest inspirations for my designs have been the women in my life. I have been surrounded by strong women my whole life. I think each piece I make has a personality matching one of the women in my life. I think this is where I get the variety in my designs. Another big inspiration for me has been our planet. There are so many beautiful things all around us in all sorts of shapes and colors.
GLT: What are some of your favorite labels and designers?
JC: I have so many; I think Alexander McQueen is a genius in the way he manipulates fabrics and materials to create his collections. Nicolas Ghesquiere (head designer for Balenciaga) is so innovative in his futuristic designs. Stefano Pilati has done such amazing things with the house of YSL, and, of course, the classic styles of Oscar De La Renta.
GLT: San Diego is not regarded as a fashion capital. Why – and what is being done to change that?
Fashion Week San Diego designer Jorge Corella
JC: I think it’s the relaxing nature of our city that doesn’t scream fashion to most people, but if you look underneath the surface you’ll find lots of fashionistas getting tans. I think Fashion Week San Diego is one major step in showing the world how much of a fashion capital we really are.
GLT: What is unique about designers in the San Diego/Mexico border region? What stands out?
JC: I think every designer is unique in their own way, but I think the large mix of culture in this region has given us all an edge that has gone unnoticed for too long.
GLT: Do you have any favorite local designers?
JC: I have so many of those as well, most of which are showing in [Fashion Week]. I love Liz Russell’s bags, one of my favorite summer accessories. Drea, designer of Sugar Couture, has brought a feminine style to punk. Lust4Luxe has the most amazing bags that every woman must have. There are so many amazing artists in this region!
GLT: Who do you prefer: Tim Gunn or Nina Garcia?
JC: I like them both but I LOVE Nina Garcia. I have seen many blogs referring to her as a bitch, but I love her blunt, straight-forward opinions. I think we need more strong women in high power positions like her.
GLT: What are your thoughts on criticism towards too-skinny models in high fashion? What, if anything, is being done to change this image?
JC: I agree with the criticism. I believe a model can be thin and still look healthy. Europe has started to weigh the models to make sure they meet weight requirements and the latest winner from “America’s Next Top Model” is considered to be plus-size and she looks amazing. There is a great influence on younger girls. All these girls see models and celebrities all striving to be thin and girls feel like they need to look that way because that’s what society has told them. All a girl should strive for is to be healthy and not trying to be a size zero.
GLT: What are you most looking forward to at Fashion Week?
JC: To be able to show all of San Diego my passion and my work and standing alongside all the great designers this city has to offer. I also look forward to meeting with buyers and getting my pieces into stores and made available to fashion enthusiasts who appreciate my designs.
Petra O.
Designer, Fashion Week San Diego
Designer of Watch Me But Don’t Stop, Petra O. is in a class all herself. After moving to San Diego from her native Austria in 2002, Petra began her professional career designing business and evening wear by developing hand-painted designs, which are truly pieces of art once draped over the female form. Her contributions to the San Diego fashion scene have been great these past few years, offering us a glimpse into the stunningly beautiful and gently masculine alluringly erotic contrasts in artistic fashion.
Gay & Lesbian Times: What is Fashion Week San Diego?
Petra O.: The world’s first bi-curious … I mean bi-national fashion week.
GLT: What do you enjoy most about fashion and the fashion industry?
PO: The fashion industry is all about style – either you got it or you don’t. For me, as a designer, I am here for you, to bring out the best in you. That’s what fashion is supposed to do. Express yourself, as Madonna would say.
GLT: Are there any recent fashion trends that have caught your eye?
PO: It’s all about leather – hard, soft, stiff, thick, thin … wait, are we still talking about the same thing?
GLT: How does fashion reflect our personalities?
PO: You are what you wear. People’s first impression of your personality is based upon your outfit. Don’t like it? Blacks Beach, baby!
GLT: What is your personal style? How would you describe it?
PO: Bold and daring; feminine with a masculine touch; hard but soft at the same time; very controversial. I like to play with contrasts and combine them. My designs are like the rough edges of a diamond – you wouldn’t wear one in its rough state, but the more you shape it, the more beautiful it becomes.
GLT: Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
PO: I dress women; the female body is my inspiration. Where else do you get a pear, an hourglass and apple bottoms all in one?
Left - Petra O., Fashion Week San Diego designer
GLT: San Diego is not regarded as a fashion capital. Why, and what is being done to change that?
PO: It’s a beach town that is slowly becoming more sophisticated-fun. Look at Miami – we can do that!
GLT: Do you have any favorite local designers?
PO: I do like myself a lot.
GLT: In general, would you say fashion makes a positive impact upon a person’s self-esteem?
PO: Yes, you can dress up or down no matter how big your budget is. I’d rather be caught wearing nothing but a smile, than in a pair of denim overalls with flats, and a polyester turtle neck walking the streets of Hillcrest.

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