The Violet Hour Fashion Show – An Ode to Summer Style

The Violet Hour Fashion Show on April 26, 2010 at Manor West in San Francisco was an amazing showcase of fashion industry talent.  It’s sometimes challenging to host a fashion show in a club, due to bad lighting, limited catwalk space and logistical delays.  However, the organizers of the Violet Hour Fashion Show did an impeccable job of working with the venue to transform it into a beautiful fashion showcase.  Their artistic creativity was evident in the use of beautiful floral arrangements to break up empty space and the use of petals to create the outline of a mock stage.  The models gracefully walked down the runway and did an interactive turn at the top of the catwalk, displaying the clothes elegantly.  The best part was that fashion photographer Damien Miller did a photo shoot of all the models right afterwards in front of everyone.  This gave people a glimpse of what a fashion shoot editorial looks like and allowed people the additional opportunity to see the movement of the clothing on the model.  The models also socialized with the people at the event, allowing people to see detailing of the garments and of the hats, which are not so easily noticeable at a distance from the runway.

The fashion show was a project by students from the Fashion Coordination class at City College of San Francisco.  The students involved in the event are Allie Kwok, Brandi Moore, Kim Turner, Maiko Tsunemine, Maria Choung, Michelle Musial and Rykk Martinez.  The overall show was inspired by a quote the team found by writer Bernard DeVoto in his 1949 ode to the martini “The Hour”, “This is the violet hour, the hour of hush and wonder, when the affection glow again and valor is reborn…”  After they decided to name the show “The Violet Hour”, they felt it matched well with the aesthetic of the event and the designers’ collections.  The team leader, Michelle Musial organized the majority of the show by finding the local designers Eel & Ermine (Evelyn Aikman and Elinor JD Diamond) and Kitty Andrews Millinery (Melissa Bolin).  As a group, they delegated the different roles and relied on each other to follow through. 

The impressive part is that they students were on a tight budget, so they couldn’t have done as much as they did without the help of people donating their time and skills, from the venue to the makeup artists and designers.  They effectively networked and used their passion to engage people in their event.  The volunteer hairstylists for the fashion show were Ratrice Mathis, Liana Martinez, Clarisse Norwood and Kimberly Turner (Head stylist).  The volunteer makeup artists were La’loni Jiles, Rykk Martinez and Danielle Turner.  There was a lot of pressure put on the students because the show was the debut of the two local designers.  Since some of the students work and go to school full time, they sacrificed a lot of their free time to put their efforts into the show.  Their effort clearly paid off.  They did their best in putting on a great show for the designers.  It became more than a project, as they were representing their brands and designs.

The debut of the fashion collections were impressive.  The fashion show introduced two designer groups that have launched their collections this past year.  Designers from Eel & Ermine (Evelyn Aikman and Elinor JD Diamond) and Kitty Andrews Millinery (Melissa Bolin) displayed their exciting Spring/Summer 2010 collection.  Eel & Ermine was started in 2009 with a focus to produce custom-made cocktail and casual clothing for women. Evelyn and Elinor met while working in an artisanal cake shop in SF and they discovered they shared a love for unique handmade fashions.  They developed a concept for a new kind of custom clothier, a line of elegantly simple and affordable designs that could be partially assembled in advance and then finished to suit the buyer perfectly.  They use vintage prints and airy cottons to create clean lines and structured silhouettes.  

Kitty Andrews Millinery is devoted to an area of fashion, rich in history with a striking presence.  Kitty Andrews designer Melissa Bolin combines traditional knowledge, techniques, and design precedents with a fresh, youthful approach drawing on modern materials and tastes, resulting in unique pieces that elevate the wearer’s character and style.  Melissa uses only the highest quality fabrics, felts and trimmings, with every piece crafted by hand.
This is the “Seaside Derby Dress” ($250). It’s linen with a blue velveteen coral pattern.  The under skirt is a soft semi-sheer cotton voile.  The dress is two pieces.  The bodice and split skirt are one piece that zips up the front of the bodice and the underskirt is it’s own entity.  Evelyn and Elinor loved the juxtaposition between the softness of the cotton and the textures of the linen and velveteen.  They re-enforced the bodice with interfacing to turn the bodice into a contoured shell while the skirt stays soft and flowing.  They describe it as “a little surf and turf.”  The top part can even be paired with skinny pants or jeans.  The dress is matched with the Kitty Andrews “Westthorpe Derby” ($375).  This large derby hat is blocked out of sinamay with a tulle band and turkey half arrowhead stripped quills.
This is the “Pencil Skirt” ($80) in one of Eel & Ermine’s popular summer fabrications.  They wanted their skirt to be sleek and sexy on a number of figure types, so the skirt is a little longer than the average pencil skirt on the market, with a higher waist and a hem that touches down just below the knee.  To keep it from looking matronly, they tapered the skirt to follow a woman’s natural leg contour and accentuate the butt and hips.  They even added a little slit in the back to allow for a easy walking stride without compromising its tailored fit.  It is matched with the “Boyfriend Shirt” ($40) and “Adam Jr. Tie” ($35). The Boyfriend Shirt is one of Eel & Ermine’s key pieces where they reconstruct and soften men’s shirts.  Each shirt is specifically custom made and sized for their customer.  The skinny tie is made out of a vintage fabric Evelyne found in Montreal a few years back.  The tie was part of a plan to launch into men’s wear, but it works well with their women’s collection.  The tie is named after Evelyne’s husband Adam, which seems fitting to be the first name chosen for their men’s item.  

The outfit is matched with the “Dauphine” hat ($220).  The headpiece is a blocked whimsy fascinator constructed of sinamay and ribbon.  The design was inspired the bows that Melissa used to wear in her hair when she was living in Japan.

This is the “Picnic Dress” ($80) paired with “The Von Trapp Skirt” ($65) in Coco Coloniale print.  The ultra soft, striped cotton of the picnic dress dictated the design of the picnic dress.  According to Elinor, “Its soft coloring and texture begged to be worn outside on a warm breezy day… while having a picnic!”  They paired it with one of Eel & Ermine’s first staple designs, The Von Trapp Skirt.  “Pair the dress with the skirt and voila!  Pair it with ankle booties and boom!  Killer look!  It’s everything; sweet, sexy, unique, fashion forward and totally wearable,” says Elinor.  The outfit is matched with the “Emma” hat ($325).  This large hat has a vintage bow and a peacock feather specifically dyed to match the dress by her supplier in France.
The “Geo Resort Short” ($75) with matching “Geo Hooded Capelette” ($95) and “Boyfriend Shirt” ($40).  Normally the Eel & Ermine collection is not so “matchy-matchy”, but they were inspired with this outfit.  The Resort Short was inspired by men’s shorts from the 50’s and 60’s.  The high waist and straight leg are flattering and sexy without being butt-cheek short.  The length of the hooded caplet makes it both flirty and sporty.  Elinor says “Imagine peeking out at your crush, from under the hood on a romantic, rainy day…”  They matched it with a window box print Boyfriend Shirt to complete the geometric theme.  The model, Avery, knew instinctively to throw on a pair of cute boots.
The “One Hour Dress” ($100) in pistachio nouvea with matching hat “Cho No Yume”.  Eel & Ermine specifically selected the soft pistachio green with nouveaesque floral print for the Spring/Summer collection.  The simple cut of the One Hour Dress is a great shape for showcasing the fabric and pattern in a casual way that compliments the body.  This hat is made out of sinamay.  The pouf is a maribou pouf that Melissa made and the spiky feathers are goose biots.  A pheasant quill extends up and holds a painted feather butterfly.
“Sultana” fascinator ($1800).  This hat is composed of silk vintage ribbon, tulle illusion, coque feathers, stripped coque, pheasant hackle and pheasant feathers.  The dress is not part of the collection.
“Great Shakes Dress” with velveteen bustle in print boardwalk coral ($250).  This dress is super sleek.  The wiggle dress shape really shows off the wearer’s body and print of the fabric nicely.  Eel & Ermine lined it with green linen and created a green velveteen belt with a modern square bustle on the back.  The bodice is lightly boned to add structure and support, while the sharply angled bust line adds a little drama.  Elinor says “The complete look is reminiscent of early 20th-century Coney Island…Give this girl some cotton candy!”  The outfit is paired with the “Fontaine” boater ($325).  This is a classic boater with vintage ribbon and curled pheasant feathers.
On the left is the “Picnic Dress” ($80) in Zig-Zag print paired with the “Von Trapp” skirt ($65) in Dandy Pockets print.  Evelyne Aikman on the right is wearing the “Orcas Island Dress” ($170).
Boyfriend Shirt ($40) with Von Trapp Skirt ($65) in La Mer print.
“Danae” fascinator headpiece ($460).  This fascinator is composed of sinamay loops and duck and guinea fowl feather brooches.
The “Cowboy” dress ($160) in Big Top Blue print, paired with the “Cygne” fascinator ($200).  The Cowboy Dress cut is really flattering.  It’s super feminine, very supportive and comfortable, yet sporty.  Elinor says, “The deep v-neck provides just enough sexy while the ultra suede fabric provides durability and warmth for those San Francisco sumer days.  The dress also has roomy pockets, so you can leave your purse at home!”  This fascinator has a sinamay base, arrowhead quill and maribou pouf.
The “Tulip Wedding Dress”, starting at $700, is paired with the “Cressida” bridal fascinator ($260).  When getting ready for the fashion show, Eel & Ermine wanted a full length gown for their final look.  They created a dress that would be perfect for an outdoor summer wedding.  This version is fairly casual, but they are able to change fabrics, add skirt layers, embellishments, etc.  They can also create bridesmaid dresses to match.  According to Elinor “We’ll actually set up an appointment and brainstorming/sketching session for those wanting wedding gear.  We’ll also serve champagne and snacks.”  
The fascinator is made out of maribou feathers, duck feathers, tulle illusion netting, and sinamay loops.
“Orcas Island Dress” ($170) in Pistachio Nouveau print.   The dress is one of Eel & Ermine’s favorite designs.  Evelyne bought scrap fabric while on Orcas Island and used it to make the original Orcas Dress.  It’s a great party dress that can be dressed up or down with ease.  Elinor says “Throw on heels and earrings for a more formal vibe, or a cardigan, belt and boots for a museum date!”  
The hat is “Rose” fascinator.  The flower detailing are silk dyed roses.  The feathers are coque and hackle feathers.  The red feathers are sheared ducks.
Melissa (left) is wearing the “Empress Regnant” ($215), Elinor (middle) is wearing “The Boyfriend Dress” ($80) and Evelyne (right) is wearing the “Orcas Island Dress” ($170).  According to Elinor “An Empress Regnant is a female monarch who possesses and exercises all of the powers of ruler, either solo or along side her man!  The woman who wears this is definitely a force to be reckoned with.  I found this fabric and loved it immediately.  It’s so lush and regal and makes the wearer feel instantly confident and collected.”  The shoulder line is strong without looking masculine and the extra deep v-neck, though plunging, keeps everything in check, exposing the lesser seen breast bone instead of cleavage.  Melissa is wearing the “Isabella” fascinator for $750.  This fascinator has a blocked fur felt base, coque and curled pheasant feathers, and is finished with gathered tulle.

The designers did a great job in celebrating Spring/Summer through their use of light weight fabrics and soft color scheme.  The clothes were well constructed, yet tailored for comfort.  The hats and headpieces were a hit, bringing a final look to each outfit.  Overall, Eel & Ermine and Kitty Andrews Millinery are expert in construction, fabric detailing and color matching.

There will be another fashion show, Belle Epoque, by City College of San Francisco, this Tuesday, May 25th at the CCSF Wellness Center located at Ocean Avenue and Howth Street in San Francisco.  The reception starts at 7:00 PM and the fashion show starts at 8:00 PM.  Ticket price is $10 for students and $15 regular.  

The Violet Hour was a well executed fashion event featuring several of the top designers within San Francisco.  When asked how she felt about the show, student Maria Choung said “After months of preparation as a group, it was definitely a big relief.  I’m sure we’re sad that it’s over, but this is hopefully just the beginning for all of us.”  Indeed it is.

All photography in this article is courtesy of fashion photographer Damien Miller:
The Eel & Ermine collection can be seen at their store at 514 Presidio Avenue, San Francisco.
The Kitty Andrews Millinery collection is available at the Eel & Ermine store and also online at
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