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If you are interested in fashion, you’ve probably heard of the New York Fashion Week, Paris Fashion Week, and maybe even other high-profile events in Milan, London, and L.A. But did you know that Redding has its very own Fashion Week? Yes, it’s a bit smaller in scale but there is a group of fashionistas who are trying to bring attention to the local scene.
Launched by the Redding Fashion Alliance in 2018, the event has been attracting more participants each year. The week begins with workshops for designers, models, hair stylists, and make-up artists, all in preparation for the fashion show. There are also receptions and shopping events with local merchants and organizations.
This year, the week culminated in a reception for the Iconic Fashion Exhibit at the Turtle Bay Museum. The exhibit showcased some of the gorgeous items from the closet of Redding’s own Aleta Carpenter. She has spent years filling her closet with designer clothing, shoes, handbags, and jewelry some of which are on display until the end of the year.
Aleta graciously agreed to an interview with anewscafe to talk about her passion for clothes and her goal of encouraging women in the workplace.
Aleta, welcome to ANC.
I know you grew up in Redding and graduated from Anderson High School. After achieving your B.A. and M.A. in Communications, you went on to work for the San Francisco Board of Education’s legislative office. Your career included working for Assemblyman Stan Statham, former State Senator (and husband) Dennis Carpenter, and teaching public speaking at Sacramento State. Where did the interest in fashion come into play?
“I’ve always been interested in fashion. My maternal grandmother was a seamstress for the film industry and my Aunt Reima was a professional seamstress in Southern California. We learned to sew at an early age and grew up making our own clothes. Living in Newport Beach provided exposure to shops that carried designer clothing, and my profession provided the means of acquisition, as well as the opportunities to wear them.”
You sewed as a child; do you still sew for yourself?
“My sister and I grew up sewing; I made doll clothes for years and my own after I got older. Each summer we would take a suitcase full of fabrics to Southern California to my aunt’s house, where we would make our school clothes for the upcoming year.
No, I seldom sew these days, but it has been very helpful to have a knowledge about how things are constructed because I could try on an ill-fitting dress and know exactly where and how alterations could be made to make it fit. I mend or hem things from time to time; it’s a helpful skill. My husband loves to sew, so I hand simple repairs or projects off to him now!”
Good for him! My dad sewed as well, my mom did not. I’m glad you mentioned understanding construction and good fit. These are so important for young designers to know.
You entered the workplace at a time when women were just breaking into male dominated professions. Fashion was a way to change perceptions about working women. And you did your part!
“During my early years, pants were NOT worn to work. I wore them on “Women’s Liberation Day” in the1970’s as both a protest and a declaration that I was not happy with the status quo. Subsequently, I don’t know that I was trying to communicate something with my wardrobe but based on input from my peers in the political arena, I would say that my wardrobe communicated elegance and class (words not generally used to describe a lobbyist). As a woman in what was then a male-dominated profession, it was important to be taken seriously, and I believe the clothes helped.”
Why do you think it’s important to allow your wardrobe to be displayed and have you exhibited anywhere else?
“It was not my idea to display my wardrobe. I am on the Cabinet of The Women’s Fund, which provided a grant to the Redding Fashion Alliance. In taking off a designer suit (Emmanuel Ungaro) I’d worn to a local fund-raising event for Girls, Inc., I was admiring the beautiful construction and contacted Robin (Fator) with the idea that her students learning to sew might like to see the workmanship of a designer garment to help them understand why the price difference.
Robin -entrepreneurial as always- was putting together Redding Fashion Week and asked if I would consent to displaying my “Iconic Fashion Collection” (which I just thought of as “my closet”). Because my main goal in retirement- as with the majority of my life- is to support, encourage, and better the lives of women, I agreed, since this would serve as a fund-raiser for the Fashion Alliance. And no, I have never exhibited before; as I explained, in my mind, these are just “my clothes” and I still wear them. It’s not a serious collection.”
I get that but you do have some pieces that wouldn’t be normally seen by most people. The Chanel suit. My favorite, the Oscar de la Renta velvet evening gown with the mesh neckline and sleeves. I have seen these labels in my profession as a tailor but they are not generally worn in Redding.
“Oh, yes! The James Galanos evening suit, which I got for 75% off and it was still $3000, and a gorgeous emerald green Ungaro are two other favorites. “
Maybe you can display those next year!
I believe you mentioned in your talk at the reception that you are retired and don’t really need the wardrobe that you used when you were working, but what do you think of current fashion?
“Current fashion doesn’t interest me much; most of the new designers are too “out there” for me. I like tailored, more traditional styles. Chanel and Valentino still deliver, and I like Tom Ford. I wear a lot of Polo/Ralph Lauren and have several Diane von Furstenberg pieces and a couple of Roberto Cavalli’s.”
Ooh, I would love to see a Roberto Cavalli gown up close and personal …next year, perhaps? Here I am, planning your next exhibit…sorry! But seriously, do you plan on exhibiting your clothes again?
“If utilized to bring funding to a nonprofit, I would consider it. That was the impetus for this; it would never have occurred to me that someone would want to look at my clothes.”
Aleta, thank you so much for participating in my series of articles for Fashion Week. Even though Fashion Week is over for this year, I hope I can inspire young designers to start thinking ahead to next year!
“Iconic Fashion Exhibit” will be on display at Turtle Bay Museum until the end of the year.