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Design: Summer of Love – The de Young’s Exhibit of Unity, Activism and Change

Summer of Love

Summer of Love exhibit/PHoto: deYoung Museum

Photo: de Young Museum

By Wendy Verlaine/May 5, 2017
Photos by Wendy Verlaine

We can never go back, but San Francisco’s de Young Museum’s current “Summer of Love” exhibit (April 8 – August 20, 2017) allows us to do just that. For a couple of hours fashion, art, photography and music from the 1960’s thrusts us into a noisy and voluminous trip back to the counterculture revolution.

Summer of Love poster from deYoung Museum exhibit/We tend to import our prejudices into any art event, but this show is an exception. There is no mistaking the purpose and message of this circus of cultural and artistic eccentricity. At times it seems to pit the serious Vietnam anti-war movement against the flower child’s personal, internal rebellion. In many ways the two fueled one another’s revolution, and drew them together in a common cause.

The initiation into this arena of protest and social change was psychedelic experimentation, a new music sound and a fierce energy for a new world message. This defined San Francisco, and the Haight-Ashbury and North Beach districts were the hub of change. It proved to be far-reaching.

Rebellion became a visual language. The de Young’s display of counterculture fashion refreshes our memory of how a ferocious demonstration of color, design and craft was a major participant in the political narrative.

Bohemian chic, invented and crafted by Haight–Ashbury’s Linda Gravenites, became the fashion mode of the day. Jeanne Rose’s elaborate designs popularized the peasant dress, maxi skirts and vintage clothing. Janis Joplin’s 1968 quote to Vogue magazine sums up the serious workmanship on many of the pieces worn by the musicians:  “Gravenites turns them out slowly and turns them out well and only turns them out for those she likes.”

DetailJacky Sarti customized landlubber jeans...denim with cotton patches, ribbons. Made for Peter Kaukomen of Black Kangaroo

Jacky Sarti customized landlubber jeans of denim with appliquéd cotton patches, ribbons, cotton molas. Made for Peter Kaukonen of Black Kangaroo.

The detailed craftsmanship and lively mix of colors, patterns, textiles and heavy embroidery influenced Yves Saint Laurent, who elevated it to chic wear in the 1970’s.

Summer of Love exhibit deYoung Museum-Girgita Bjerke: Crochet wool wedding dress 1972

Girgita Bjerke: Crochet wool wedding dress/1972

Elaborately embroidered and appliquéd textiles and political buttons were found on everything from jeans to shoes to accessories. The primary cannon of fashion was to be individual, free, natural and optimistic.

Men's shirt: 1970 cottton denim with p;lastic and metal buttons, patches appliqué and embroidered at deYoung Museum Summer of Love exhibit/Photo provided by Wendy Verlaine

Men’s shirt: 1970 cotton denim with plastic and metal buttons; patches of appliqué and embroidery

Sgoes from Summer of Love exhibit, deYoung Museum, San Fran/Photo provided by Wendy Verlaine

Mickey McGowan appliquéd Chinese silk shoes with complex weaves, silk velvet and rubber soles.

Ideas borrowed from Art Nouveau, Eastern religion, and Native American traditions became icons of the era. These associations with history and philosophy suppressed conventional design and led to a world-wide fashion revolution.

Today the relevance of fashion from this period continues to be the language of mainstream designers under the trope of “bohemian chic.” The full version of rebellion went beyond fashion, and extended to art, music, poetry and prose. The draft loomed before all young men, and fueled an urgent need for change.

Summer of Love Jerry Garcia hat at deYoung Summer of Love exhibit/Photo provided by Wendy Verlaine

Jerry Garcia’s “Captain Trips” hat. Hand-painted silk with ribbon and flag. Original Dunlap & Co. (est. 1883)

“The Trips Festival” of 1966 was the spring board of the revolution. This pivotal gathering unified political activists from Berkeley and the bohemians of Haight-Ashbury.

Leather coat at Summer of Love exhibit, deYoung Museum-SF/Photo Provided by Wendy Verlaine

Leather coat part of deYoung Summer of Love exhibit

“A gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In”, organized by activist Stewart Brand, promoter Bill Graham and author Ken Kesey and his cohorts – the merry pranksters – and composer and artist Ramon Sender, took place at the Longshoremen’s Hall on January 21 to 23, 1966.

Dazzling, theatrical effects with liquid light (a chemical mix allowing photographic printing on any surface using standard darkroom procedures) and slide shows, film projections, electronic sounds, rock groups, experimental theater and dance was the beginning of a firm platform for change. More than 3,000 people attended. It was a grand collaboration that forced everyone to question, reflect and be moved.

Ken Kesey, Allen Ginsberg, Lenore Kandel, Timothy Leary, Gary Snyder, and Alan Watts were a few of the luminaries who formed the philosophy of protest, peace and tolerance, ultimately shaping the tide of history. For many the message was the mantra — “Tune in, turn on, drop out” along with Ginsberg’s “We are all one, we are all one.”

Photographs throughout the show of Ginsberg, Kandel, Leary, Snyder, Watts and the city’s rock bands and concerts pull together a consecutive history of this era of change.

“The Summer of Love” exhibit does its best to resurrect this spectacle for us. There are two light shows to wander through, one of which encourages us to linger in a flashing room of colored lights with bean bag seating.

Moving from the light show one finds oneself in floor to ceiling replicas of 1960’s posters, with a large collection of original first editions under glass. These mass-produced posters were displayed everywhere in Haight-Ashbury and North Beach. Most famous were Print Mint and Friedman Enterprises, underground comic and poster publishers and retailers, where they were papered from floor to ceiling.

Summer of Love posters at deYoung Museum, San Francisco/Photo provided by Wendy Verlaine

Close to 25,000 posters sold every month . Many were commissioned by Bill Graham and Chet Helms, major music promoters.

Messages of social and political demands targeted military personnel, and concerts benefited environment issues and civil and women’s rights. The bright neon colors and patterns of rock posters were often meant as a visual representation of an LSD trip. They drew inspiration from the Art Nouveau period, but because they borrowed from Surrealism to Pop and Op art, this movement is defined as postmodern.

Bonnie Maclean Poster: Yardbirds, The Doors, James Cotton Blues Band, Richie Havens 1967

Bonnie Maclean poster: Yardbirds, The Doors, James Cotton Blues Band, Richie Havens/1967

An added stimulation in this expansive exhibit is sound. One can hear a mix of “echoes” from Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Grateful Dead, Santana and Sons of Champlin among others.

The Summer of Love was far more than a riotous, playful upheaval. The de Young Museum’s exhibit reminds us that the government policies we value today resulted from the interventions of fifty years ago. We still have the power to resist and promote social justice and inclusiveness, and to exercise our first amendment rights.

This message resonates profoundly today, as seen in the massive women’s march and our current activist activities, such as “Resist”, “Indivisible” and “Sister District.” It is a hard-won wisdom that can easily be swept away.

“The Summer of Love” runs from April 8 – August 20, 2017 at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco


Wendy Verlaine photo

Wendy Verlaine is a San Francisco Bay Area freelance writer, jewelry designer and owner of Wendy Verlaine Design. Formally a San Francisco gallerist, she continues to stay closely connected to the art world.





TWE DESIGN: Linda Hamilton’s Nomad Chic Boutique Discovers Artisans Worldwide

Linda Hamilton, founder Nomad Chic/Photo from Linda

Linda Hamilton

By Wendy Verlaine (@Verlainechirps)/May 19, 2016

Fashion and design are at the center of art and culture in today’s world. Just ask Linda Hamilton, owner of Nomad Chic located in both Sonoma, California and in Todos Santos, Baja California. Her search for beautifully imagined and handmade clothing, accessories and home items from around the world keeps her continuously interested in how fashion and design evolve, and how they are a reflection of cultural, social and aesthetic values.

“It all starts with the artist. I believe in helping artisans, especially young designers. I also strive to support women in business.” –Linda Hamilton

When I first happened upon Hamilton’s boutique, I was compelled to enter. This special shop, just in the heart of the vineyard landscape, fit seamlessly into its lush setting. It is not unlike an artisan’s gallery. The clothing, accessories, textiles and items for the home all spoke of intention.

Her selections emphasize why fashion and interior design, even though they occupy a major position in our culture’s economy – and due to this are often looked down upon as an important area of the world of art – cannot be thought of as trivial.

Linda Hamilton's Nomad Chic boutique, Sonoma

Nomad Chic opens to gardens and cafe./Photo: Wendy Verlaine

Hamilton explains, “It all starts with the artist. I believe in helping artisans, especially young designers. I also strive to support women in business. For example, my Tanzania friend, who is one of my accessory sources, offers abused women the skills and training needed to survive and thrive.She collaborates with Maasai women to produce and market high-end beaded jewelry using traditional techniques. By bringing these products to international markets, the beading traditions are preserved. This process also helps to sustain the women and their families economically…”

Interior Linda Hamilton Nomad Chic boutique

Interior of Nomad Chic./Photo: Linda Hamilton

Hamilton also promotes designers from Australia, Bali and Mexico. “I have put on runway shows not just to show fashion, but to also introduce customers to the artist and vice versa. The artist becomes part of the exchange. All of this is complicit in the designer’s success story. These artists extend their success to those in their own communities.”

The majority of her designers are single mothers or artists in need of the first helping hand. Her customers learn about the stories behind the artists, and join in her spirit of women helping women.

Cultural influences from around the world, along with her love of travel, led to Linda’s study of art, design and architecture at the California College of the Arts.

She began her working career as an incentive trip planner for major corporations. She has lived in Bali, Mexico and London. It is easy to see how Linda’s past has influenced her fashion and design choices. Travel challenges us to think about what is beautiful and to abandon prejudices. We widen our scope of acceptability which, in turn, changes us.

Linda does not define travel as escapism, but as inspiration. Time spent in Bali encouraged her love of …“minimalism, free form and the spirit of Zen. I wanted to share my discoveries, and that is why I created Nomad Chic.”

I love bringing interesting designers from various cultures to those of us who may not be able to travel, or may just not know where to find them. I also work with local California artists.

Aside from fashion, her mix of home accessories and furniture pieces – often designed by Hamilton and made by artisans – encourages personal creativity when designing a living space.

Linda Hamilton's home in Todos

Linda’s home in Todos Santos/Photo: Linda Hamilton

Her home in Todos Santos is an example of her love of architecture, the comfort and beauty nature offers and her preference for minimalism. When I asked about balancing trends with style, Hamilton believes that allowing her customers to choose “from all over the world” supports individualism. Trends employ quick change, but the artisan supports a deliberate, slow fashion mindset.

My interest in Hamilton’s support of the artisan reminded me that it is the artist who is often first to spark a trend. They are inspired by what is happening everywhere–in the streets, small neighborhoods and boroughs. Current fashion modifies and exploits the street artist’s ideas.

Linda Hamilton designed chair at Nomad Chic

Handmade chair discovered by Linda Hamilton

As a result, dressing is responsible for reflections of social change, and an awareness of cultures outside of our own. Trends make these ideas available.

They are a commentary on our time, just as other forms of art are. They can be revolutionary, controversial, liberating or entertainment.

Hamilton’s choices allow us to play with the first edition of an artisan’s idea, often before it becomes a trend. She happily admits her fifteen-year-old daughter keeps her up on what is current, and she combines the best of trends with the unexpected.

When selecting clothing and accessories, we become artists with the act of choosing from our own closets. Selecting a handmade necklace, bracelet or ring and mixing it with a t-shirt and jeans is an artistic decision. The art of what we wear is as revealing a portrait of who we are as what we say or do.

I asked Hamilton what is next for her. “There are so many possibilities. I would love to expand my business in pop-up locations around the world. It might be in a hotel in Mexico City, or a resort town that reaches many international travelers.”

I can see putting together travel excursions for vacationers who want to explore places they never could find on their own.There may be buying trips with groups, too.

Her Nomad Chic location in Sonoma is a world-renowned destination for fine food and wine. Promoting a new chef with a ‘chef’s night’ dinner at Nomad Chic is another exciting Linda idea.

She adds, “Perhaps my boutique can be used as a space for an artist salon, a place to discover a writer or painter.” When I asked Linda Hamilton what her greatest challenge is, she laughed. “Time. I need more time!”

Nomad Chic logo





TWE DESIGN: A Grand Salute to Fashion Icon Oscar de la Renta

Oscar de la Renta de Young exhibit/Photo: Wendy Verlailne

By Wendy Verlaine/March 23, 2016

Oscar de la Renta! Just saying the name elevates my vision of the art of dressing well. He is fashion royalty, and I was not going to miss a “runway show” of fashion history that celebrates creativity, craftsmanship, individuality and the working life of a celebrated artist.

Is a fashion designer an artist? This question is a constant debate among curators, art dealers, collectors and artists, some of whom scoff at a “fashion show in a museum.”

San Francisco’s de Young Museum’s Oscar de la Renta retrospective supports a convincing “YES”! De la Renta is a genius at observing, absorbing and interpreting, and these tools define an artist. This show celebrates his craftsmanship, invention and love of beauty.

Yellow wool dress by Oscar de la Renta with plastic and crystal covered coat/Photo: Wendy Verlaine

Yellow wool dress enhanced with plastic and crystal covered coat.

Murals, lighting, running wall videos, mirrors and clever themes brought ohs and ahs from visitors. The exhibition design is by Kevin Daly Architects in collaboration with the House of de la Renta and the designer’s family.

Room after room increased my appetite for the exotic. It is not unlike a walk through a beautiful dream as one drifts from one theme to another of spectacular surprise. The visual stories follow his early career—Spanish, Eastern, Russian and his garden interpretations. It ends with ball gowns and red carpet celebrity wear.

Dresses by Oscar de la Renta/Photo: Wendy Verlaine

Beaded silks, sculptured taffeta and silk velvet are de la Renta’s trademark.

Oscar de la Renta culled from diverse cultures, art and a wide knowledge of world history. This resulted in designs heavily embellished with Chinese embroideries, ikat patterns, Russian fur, Spanish brocades and jewels.

Oscar de la Renta dress at de Young Museum/Photo: Wendy Verlaine

Jagged black mirrors are a stark backdrop to these finely crafted gowns.

El Greco, Diego Velazquez, court costumes and royal armor influences show up early in his career in the 1960s at the couture house of Balenciaga in Madrid.

Travel to Russia and the film Dr. Zhivago erupted into de la Renta’s heavily beaded brocades and exotic fur trims. A bullfight in Andalusia would give birth to contrasting reds, chartreuse, heavily beaded brocades, inventive accessories and bolero jackets worn over the unexpected.

Oscar de la Renta polero jacket worn over costume/Photo; Wendy Verlaine

Brocade and dangling elements embellish a fitted evening jacket.

This extravagance earned him the Coty Award in 1967, which, in turn, led to his influential folkloric designs which trickled down to flower children, revolutionaries and the Beatles.

De la Renta was a lifelong gardener, and his gardens at his homes in the Dominican Republic and Kent, Connecticut are known worldwide. A looping video of his garden in Connecticut is a glorious backdrop in the garden room to his floral-printed silk taffetas and appliquéd flowers.

Oscar de la Renta dresses from retrospective at de Young/Photo: Wendy Verlaine

Dresses in the garden room are a mix of Marie Antoinette and fresh blooms.

The colors, textures and scents from his garden bloomed into a collection of 18th Century Marie Antoinette-like elegance. His fabrics are flowing, brilliantly colored canvasses. He defined romanticism.

He uprooted traditional ideas of beauty in his 2011 collection. His playful nod to the irreverent juxtaposed formal evening dress with punk hairstyles.

Oscar de la Renta designs at de Young retrospective/Photo;: Wendy Verlaine

Punk hair styles are a nod to mixing trends with glamour.

Abreast of changing trends, he was not afraid to embrace movements by paring shocking, exaggerated trends with an unexpected twist of elegance.  A looping video of his runway-themed shows illustrates his attention to street fashion and how he transforms current statements into his de la Renta signature style.

I entered this show with one raised, slightly skeptical eyebrow. Was I reviewing an exhibit that highlighted the division between me and the world of celebrities, presidential wives and the upper one percent? I exited the show with wide-eye pleasure. I can’t believe what I just saw!

The Oscar de la Renta retrospective will run from March 12th – May 30th at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.


Photos: Wendy Verlaine