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North Bay Scene Setters

Local fashion takes root

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COUTURE CULTURE Fashion designer Andrea Kenner cultivates North Bay fashion at her shop Tamarind. - MICHAEL AMSLER
  • Michael Amsler
  • COUTURE CULTURE Fashion designer Andrea Kenner cultivates North Bay fashion at her shop Tamarind.

While it doesn't have the size or support of the local food movement, the North Bay's local fashion scene is home to a growing coterie of designers.

"They're hiding, they're very scattered," says Andrea Kenner, a radiant fashionista herself.

Kenner, a Sonoma County native, is the owner of Tamarind, a new boutique at the Barlow in Sebastopol. After 10 years of designing ever-changing trends for fashion brands in New York City, Kenner needed to make a change.

"There was a feeling of pumping down so many things, like flipping hamburgers," she recalls. "Now I'm focusing on curating timeless pieces with a story behind them that are created in a slower process and are going to last forever."

Among Tamarind's selection of well-known luxury brands is a small selection of local accessory designers. The store carries leather bags by Chantel Garayalde, jewelry by Becky Kelso and Padé Vavra, and handcrafted scarves by A Curious Beast, all from Sonoma County.

Garayalde came back to Sonoma County in 2009 after stints in L.A and New York.

"Lately, I see more curiosity and sophistication in the local market," Garayalde says.

As a local designer, she feels less pressure compared to fast-paced Los Angeles. "There's so much talent here, even if we don't mold ourselves around trends," she says.

Kenner is determined to turn this miniature representation into a movement. To expand the local fashion community, Kenner and Santa Rosa designer Hilary Heaviside are creating a fashion "think tank" to exchange ideas and help grow the local scene.

When Kenner talks about her plans for Tamarind and the North Bay, a wishful question arises: While L.A is slowly becoming the cool, understated alternative to New York, could Northern California be next in line? Anything is possible, as the local fashion community currently leaves a lot to the imagination.

If lifestyle blogger Adrienne Shubin can't name a local fashion designer off the top of her head, what are the chances you can? Shubin, the vibrant woman behind therichlifeonabudget.com, a Kenwood-based blog, loves shopping—online and, alas, at Macy's.

"I feel badly that my go-to places are Macy's or Goodwill, as I miss out on handcrafted, special goods," she admits. "I'd love to help the community and shop local, be exposed to more designers."

Kenner is hoping to give local fashion that exposure at an all-local fashion event at the Sonoma County Museum. The event is being imagined as part fashion show and part exhibition.

"Innovative clothing and accessories design are a natural extension of the creative culture of this region, so it's a natural fit for the museum," says Diane Evans, the museum's executive director.

Meanwhile, Kenner is putting together her own fashion line.

"We'll see what comes out of the woodwork," she concludes with shy optimism.

Better fashionably late than never.

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