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Bad Fashion, Bad Politics

But there's nothing like a little bathtub party to make everything all right.

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I woke up on Sunday morning with one hairless armpit, the result of a lost wager made the night before in a drunken haze. And that wasn't even the low point of the weekend. That honor goes to the fashion and art show I attended Saturday night at Acme Art Works, the Near Northwest Arts Council's gallery. The event inaugurated Fusion Projects, a group whose PR calls it "an organization of many artists and fashion designers drawn together into a tight-knit community."

Cofounder Sandra Yau, who's 21, quit her three-year job as a salesperson at Nordstrom to focus on Fusion Projects. She thinks she should be in school for fashion, but she can't afford it; for now she's winging it. After attending a few fashion shows she thought, "Who better to showcase my own designs than myself?" But coordinating a runway show isn't a one-person job, she says, so she enlisted the help of her 20-year-old friend Jen Nordhem, who's organized events that Yau says inspired her.

Nordhem threw three art/fashion shows with her friends Joe Suta and Morgan Thoryk under the name Brite Tiger. At the first one, which I attended at Buddy last May, insanely loud, shit-stupid punk bands attracted an unsavory crowd of intensely tattooed people in their early 20s, and cute girls traipsed down the catwalk in slutty goth outfits. The party ended with the cops' second visit. But Nordhem says she's since matured; she's now "more aware of designers and their dignity and taking respect to the space."

At Saturday's event fresh-faced kids with expensive-looking haircuts mingled relatively quietly, sipping wine and munching on snacks from Acme's in-house cafe, Blackwater. There was professional lighting courtesy of CollaborAction and sound design by Inca studios, and business cards had been printed for everyone involved. I saw countless combinations of denim and pointy-toed stilettos; many of the young women looked like it was the first time their dads let them out of the house wearing makeup.

The innocence was endearing, but the art sucked. Overexposed Polaroids by recent Art Institute graduate Dave 48 looked like soft, pretty watercolor paintings, but don't ask me what they were of or what they were trying to say. Adam Conway's skateboarding photos were crisp and the colors were nice, but he relied predictably on the fish-eye lens. Eric Barker's photos of the Eiffel Tower, a baby romping in the grass, couples in love, a sunset, and a flower reeked of high school art class.

The fashion portion of the evening was just as unfocused, but at least the awkwardness--hastily thrown-on clothing, unintentionally exposed undies, and shoes two sizes too big on nervous models who walked like they had corncobs up their butts--was kind of cute. I wasn't so ready to forgive the shoddy craftsmanship though. Garments visibly employed pins of all sorts to aid in fitting and seams puckered where they shouldn't have. Most of the clothing that did fit was premade--designers Audrey L. and David Jones appliqued, painted, and screen-printed store-bought T-shirts and tank tops with hearts, flowers, and human silhouettes.

The exception was Art Institute fashion graduate Yoohyun Lim, whose "insane asylum in the Far East" line (also her senior project) followed the contours of her models' bodies--an impressive feat considering she was working with burlap, rough linen, and tulle.

Midway through the show breakdancer Daze 1 made a grand entrance. I was standing so close to the stage I thought he'd kick me in the face, but he was totally under control, torquing his body like you wouldn't believe, executing impressive one-armed sideways handstands that seemed to last forever. Though I saw genuine awe on a lot of faces throughout the night, this was the first time it showed up on mine.

Now that the election's over, the outcome has become, at least among my friends, the Thing We Do Not Mention. In the days immediately afterward, there were plenty of ways I could've vented my sadness and frustration. On November 3 there was a rally at Federal Plaza; for the two following days protests against the annual Bankers Association for Finance and Trade conference were held in front of the Hotel InterContinental. But all I could bring myself to do was sit and watch bad TV, gorging on Korean dumplings and chocolate, cultivating some sweet chin zits and hairline acne.

Late Thursday night I got my act in gear enough to go to some friends' place for comfort food--homemade lasagna and apple pie--and when I got home around 1:30 AM I found eight other friends shooting a scene for a movie. "We're gonna get in the bathtub," they told me. "Wanna join us?"

We started the water, dropped in a bath bomb from Lush--which stunk up the place like roses--lit up a joint, and dialed in the Loop. Magically, all the right tunes came on--Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," then Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters," and just before we got out U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)"--and we sang along, drinking cheap sake and trying, unsuccessfully, not to ash in the water.

My friend hopped out of the tub to scour the place for more booze; he returned with a half-empty bottle of wine and started guzzling. "Don't drink that!" my housemate gasped. "It's two weeks old!"

"Hey," he replied, "I'm in the bathtub with two other people--do I look like I care?" Laughing, I tilted my head back and my hair landed in a candle, which made us all giggle even more.

"At this point," my housemate said, "we're so depressed and apathetic all we have left is our hedonism."

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Andrea Beno.

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